August 24 vs. Houston Astros
The Bucs win again with every member of the starting lineup contributing offensively and thanks to another crooked number on the scoreboard–last night, we did our damage in the sixth inning–despite more mediocre starting pitching. I don’t want to get greedy, but it’d be awesome if Paul Maholm would start improving his accuracy, and I’d love to see our mound men get back to their dominant-every-game ways. Tonight doesn’t look like the time to start that, though, as Victor Santos squares off against Roger Clemens at 7:05. The winning streak was nice while it lasted.
I’m kind of in a 40-man roster mood as September is approaching. How about some more talk of next year?
Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Xavier Nady, and Ronny Paulino are locks in the lineup, in my opinion. Everyone knows I’d like to see Adam LaRoche fill our LHB/1B void, and I’m beginning to covet Eric Byrnes as a leadoff guy. Pipe dreams, I’m sure, but both guys would make sense if DL feels like making a few trades. But what about help from within our own organization?
Adam Boeve, Andrew McCutcheon, and Brian Bixler will be with the Bucs before you know it (and most likely will appear in that order). Boeve could make the team out of Bradenton if Ryan Doumit doesn’t turn into a Craig Wilson-like 1B/OF; Boeve’s not a starting outfielder yet, but he could turn into a serivceable backup at the corner spots. If Doumit progresses and stays healthy, Boeve could be subject to further grooming at AAA. McCutcheon could see time as early as July if he continues to rocket through the system–all he’s done since his promotion to Altoona is hit over .350 with power and speed. Bixler will start at AAA next year as Indianapolis’ shortstop after beginning 2006 in Lynchburg playing for the A-ball Hillcats. He could make Jack Wilson expendable by the July 31 trade deadline if he too maintains his torrent pace of promotion. Think of Matt Capps, but as an everyday player.
As far as pitching is concerned, the Pirates have the opportunity to build a solid, young bullpen from their farm system. Gonzo, Capps, and John Grabow will work the late innings. Youngsters Josh Sharpless and Jonah Bayliss should make the team, as could Brian Rogers, who was acquired at this year’s deadline and has yet to give up a run for Indy. The Bucs could use another lefty (assuming they don’t retain Damaso Marte) but C.J. Nitkowski and Mike Johnston, the AAA southpaws, aren’t up to par. Free agency or trades will answer that question in addition to finding a fifth starter as Shawn Chacon and Victor Santos prove that they’re not good fits for a young, talented rotation.
Minor league depth isn’t a strong suit of the Pirates organization, but there are a few diamonds in the rough that should turn into shining superstars with a little more polishing. Even players like Rajai Davis, Nyler Morgan, and Vic Buttler could prove to be valuable trade bait if they fail to fit into the big club’s plans. It could be the three-game win streak talking, but I’m feeling good about the Pirates chances in the not too distant future.
It’s A New Pirates Generation, everybody shout "Let’s Go Bucs!"