Archive for March, 2009

In Game Update – Karstens Sinks

March 31, 2009

A follow up to my earlier post regarding the battle for the #5 rotation spot of the Pirates pitching staff. Jeff Karstens took the mound earlier today against the Minnesota Twins in his final outing of the spring, hoping to claim the #5 spot, but things did not go well. Karstens pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up 5 runs on 10 hits, 2 walks, and 1 home run. Not a good showing at all, and nothing about it suggests he has earned or deserves a starting pitching job. Karstens ERA for the spring is 6.17.

Virgil Vasquez the other pitcher battling for the #5 spot, will receive one more start later this week. His spring training ERA is 7.62.

Neither option is too comforting.

The Pirates are currently losing to the Twins 12-7 in the top of the 9th.

TRADE RUMORS – I also want to pass along some strong trade rumor and/or free agent acquisition news. Gary Sheffield who is 1 home run shy of the 500 career home run mark was released by the Detroit Tigers today. Tim Dierkes of MLBTraderumors.com has mentioned twice in his daily chat that the Pirates could be possible suitors for Sheffield. He also thinks the Indians would be a good spot. The Philadelphia Phillies reportedly have already contacted Sheffield’s agent. Two other names to keep your ears perked for are minor league SS Robert Andino of the Florida Marlins. Andino is out of minor league options and is stuck behind All Star SS Hanley Ramirez. During the winter meetings, the Pirates showed interest in Andino. Another name floating is Jeff Baker, an infielder with the Rockies. The Rockies currently have no where in their lineup to play the young utility man and reportedly are seeking a prospect that is MLB ready within 2 years. The Pirates, Yankees, Astros, and Phillies are reported as interested. The Astros may now be out of the mix, as they have acquired Jeff Keppinger of the Reds earlier today.

Expect a move or two over the next 3-4 days.

Practice, Games, then Playoffs

March 31, 2009
I don’t know if everyone here gets to read about all the things that go on in practice nowadays, but I am loving it. It seems that Coach Bylsma has a serious fun side to his coaching. They have skills practices as well as tough, positioning practices. The skills practices sometimes turn into competitions, which in turn produces winners and losers. The losers have to get drinks for the team or has to grow a ridiculous mustache, amongst other things. This is the way a player want to practice. This is a good thing for this team.

I am going to dip into my Army past to explain why this is such a good thing. As a soldier just coming up in the ranks, I learned that I was willing to do more for my superiors if I wanted to, rather than if I had to. I know this sounds confusing, but stay with me here. If you want to rule with an iron fist (Michel Therrien) then expect to get exactly what you ask for, nothing more or less. If you rule by example and to the strengths of your people (Dan Bylsma) you get more out of them. They have the desire to make things better for you. They tend to try harder, which in turn, makes you look better. They succeed further than your expectations. What Bylsma is doing now is forming a re pore with the whole team as a unit. He is making them want to excel under his command. He is making them trust him no matter what. They really don’t realize this yet. What they had under Therrien was the fear factor. They had to fear him to respect him, but he was never going to get any more out of this group because he made them do what he wanted. Bylsma doesn’t have to use fear, he uses trust and desire to drive this team now.

We have a big game tomorrow night against the divisional leading New Jersey Devils. We faced a potential playoff opponent last week in Philadelphia, but failed to come through. We need to make a stand and show we are ready to take out the big guns. This is the final match up between these two teams this year and they lead us by a game. This is also another home game, one of the last this season. We need to prove that we won’t be pushed around. The Devils are looking at getting back into the win column. This is something they haven’t accomplished in five games. That’s right, five. That is not the way you go into the playoffs. They are also fighting for that all important second seed just in case they play the Washington Capitals at some point in the playoffs.

Just looking at the standings and where we currently sit, it is very disturbing. We went 10-1-2 in March, but you know what? If we didn’t, we would be out of the race altogether. That might clue you in on what a hole we dug ourselves into this year. We are in sixth place right now, one point behind Carolina for fifth and two points behind Philadelphia for fourth. If you look behind us, the New York Rangers are only one point and Montreal is four points behind. We lose one and Montreal and New York wins one, we drop to seventh and are a loss away from being out of it. This is an incredible race, I must say, and I liked it a lot better when we were pretty much a lock for the playoffs. The way we are playing now makes me confident that we will not only make the playoffs, but give serious challenge to the Flyers for the fourth spot and home ice advantage in the first round. Carolina has won six in a row now and will falter soon, it is inevitable.
With six games remaining against the Devils, at Carolina, at Florida, at Tampa Bay, against Islanders, and at Montreal, we have our work cut out for us. There is only one team right now that is out of it completely, that is the New York Islanders. None of these teams are going to be easy wins, without a doubt, but mark my words, we will be better prepared for the playoffs than anyone. I am excited!

Let’s Go Pens!