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.500 mark: Pirates young core getting small taste of winning baseball

Morning Pirates Buzz

*.500 baseball at the 34 game mark is meaningless with 128 games left to play but for the Pirates, an organization that has endured 18 straight losing seasons, it is something to be acknowledged.
The Pirates who are off to their best start since 2002 (18-16), have had management and even manager Clint Hurdle downplay any importance of being .500 at this time of the year. Hurdle at least warmed up to the idea yesterday.
“We’re on the road to where we want to go and that would be one of the mile markers {.500} that you need to get by,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “And now we need to work on the shelf life and on pushing forward from here.”
The importance of playing competitive baseball right now is that the Pirates young core is finally getting a small taste of winning baseball.
“This is a great thing for the city, ” second baseman Neil Walker said on Sunday.
As the Pirates begin a four game home stand against the LA Dodgers, for the first time in years, there is actually a feeling inside the clubhouse that they can compete on a daily basis.
“We know what we are capable of, and as far as we are all concerned, we haven’t been hitting on all cylinders quite yet,” Ryan Doumit said, whose 3-run homer against Houston pushed the Pirates to a series win and 17-17 mark on the season “There’s plenty more left in the tank. Back to .500 right now and we have a big series coming with the Dodgers. This one feels good.”
Pirates record at the 34 game mark since 2002:
2002: 18-16
2003: 14-20
2004: 16-18
2005: 15-19
2006: 10-24
2007: 15-19
2008: 15-19
2009: 14-20
2010: 14-20
2011: 17-17
More Tidbits
*The Pirates made it clear this off-season that they wanted to get rid of Ryan Doumit and his $5.1 million salary in the worst way. There was even some minor discussions of releasing him before the season but that idea was squashed once Chris Snyder’s back injury flared up.
While Doumit’s spot on the roster is far from secure, by keeping Doumit it has made the Pirates better at the MLB level and they have a pretty good catcher combo right now with Snyder and Doumit.
*According to the Elias Sports Bureau, “Doumit’s three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Astros. It was the fourth time in the last two seasons that Doumit hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later. Over that span (2010-2011), only three major-leaguers have more such homers than Doumit: Nelson Cruz, Paul Konerko and Carlos Lee (five each).”
Through the first month of the season and change, the story of the Pirates season so far is clearly Charlie Morton who is developing into an impact pitcher.
However, James McDonald’s progression over his last three starts has also been extremely encouraging.
McDonald’s Line:
Sun 5/7 HOU: | 6.0 IP, 8 K, 3 H, 2 BB |
Mon 5/2 @SD: | 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, 5 H |
Wed 4/27 SF: |6.0 IP, 3 K, 4 H, 4 BB |
McDonald and Morton are the two pitchers on this staff where each players ceiling is not yet reached. That’s why it makes both of these pitchers very intriguing to watch in regards to their development this year.
*GM Neal Huntington made it clear on Sunday during a media scrum that it’s unfortunate 2010 1st round pick Jameson Taillon and 2010 2nd round pick Stetson Allie are being linked.
The pitching position is somewhat new to Allie and he’s going to be brought along very slowly. There’s even talk in the organization that his likely timetable is around the year 2015-2016. When the Pirates drafted him the feeling was 4-to-5 years.
Meanwhile, Taillon’s timetable to the majors will be much faster because he’s more developed.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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