As Pirates.com beat reporter Jenifer Langosch noted in her off-day story on Monday, top Pirates prospect Andrew McCutchen was not one of the 10 players Pittsburgh called up for final month of the season.
As it turned out, the Pirates’ September callups are position players Brian Bixler, Luis Cruz, Robinzon Diaz, Ronny Paulino and Steve Pearce as well as pitchers T.J. Beam, Craig Hansen, Ross Ohlendorf, Marino Salas and Romulo Sanchez.
The Pirates have named Ohlendorf Wednesday’s starter when Pittsburgh takes on Cincinnati. The 6-4 right-hander will be the sixth man in the Pirates new six-man rotation for the remainder of the season. After being acquired from the Yankees in late July, Ohlendorf went 4-3 with a 3.47 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander has made 31 Major league relief appearances, but this will mark his first big league start.
Hansen, Beam, Salas and Sanchez will join the Pirates’ bullpen.
Robinzon Diaz and Ronny Paulino, who was optioned to Indianapolis on June 7 after hitting .218 with two HR and 18 RBI in 35 contests for the Pirates, will spend time as backups to current big-league catchers Ryan Doumit and Raul Chavez.
Final records of the Pirates five minor affiliates for the 2008 season: Triple-A Indianapolis 68-76, Double-A Altoona 65-77, Single-A Lynchburg 58-80, Single-A Hickory 53-87 and Single-A State College (five games remaining) 16-53.
– Todd Krise
The Gulf Coast League Pirates (37-19) clinched the best record in their league on Tuesday and play the GCL Phillies in a one-game playoff on Thursday. If the Baby Bucs win, they will host a best-of-three championships series, which will start on Friday.
Pirates Minor League pitcher Jimmy Barthmaier, Jared Hughes, Jeff Sues, Michael Crotta and positional players Steve Lerud and Shelby Ford have all been selected to participate in the 2008 Arizona Fall League. All six players and one to be named later will play for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
News and notes from around the Pirates organization…
Triple-A Indianapolis wraps up its season on Sept. 1 against Louisville. Top prospects Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker have combined for 25 home runs, 49 doubles and 124 RBIs this season.
Double-A Altoona also ends its year on Sept. 1 with a home game against the Reading Phillies. First baseman Jamie Romak continues to impress since his promotion from Class Lynchburg. Romak has seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 27 games.
Records of the Pirates four minor affiliates as of Aug. 28: Triple-A Indianapolis 65-74, Double-A Altoona 61-75, Single-A Lynchburg 54-80, Single-A Hickory 50-84 and Single-A State College 14-50.
– Todd Krise
A few notes from Double-A Altoona, which was scarce with talent at the beginning of the 2008 season, but is suddenly prospering with young bats…
First baseman Jamie Romak, who began the season in Single A Lynchburg, has nine hits – including four home runs – in his last five games heading into Thursday night. Romak homered twice last Friday against New Hampshire, which was part of a four-hit, six-RBIs night. On Tuesday, he blasted a go-ahead three-run home run in the Curve’s victory. He now has 24 home runs between Class A and Double-A this season.
Outfielder Jose Tabata, who came to the Pirates in the Yankees trade this season, is batting .370 (17-for-46) in 11 games with Altoona.
Third baseman Jim Negrych, who also was promoted from Single A Lynchburg earlier in the year, entered Thursday’s action with the fourth-highest batting average among all minor league hitters at .361. He also recorded the fourth most hits among all minor leaguers with 167. At Lynchburg, Negrych hit .370 with 36 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 62 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 104 games to open the season.
In rehab assignment: Pirates closer Matt Capps threw one scoreless inning of relief for Altoona on Wednesday. He walked one and struck out one. Pirates manager John Russell said he hopes Capps can join the Pirates on Saturday when the Bucs play the Brewers.
Records of the Pirates four minor affiliates as of Aug. 21: Triple-A Indianapolis 62-71, Double-A Altoona 60-72, Single-A Lynchburg 51-78, Single-A Hickory 48-82, Single-A State College 11-46 and Bradenton (34-17).
– Todd Krise
All three, who play for Triple-A Indianapolis, were listed in the magazine’s “Best Tools” issue. McCutchen was named “Most Exciting Player,” Walker the “Best Defensive Third Baseman” and Barthmaier was recognized as having the “Best Breaking Ball.”
McCutchen is batting .276 with 65 runs, 23 doubles and 44 RBIs in 118 Triple-A games this season. Walker, a converted catcher, has a .946 fielding percentage and leads the Indians with 14 home runs and 69 RBIs this season. In 12 starts at Triple-A this season, Barthmaier owns a 3-1 record and 3.63 ERA. He has a total of 93 strikeouts in 23 starts across three levels of the Pirates organization this season.
The Pirates also came to terms with their fifth- and sixth-round picks this week. Left-hander Justin Wilson, who pitched Fresno State to the 2008 College World Series championship, signed on Wednesday after the Pirates took him with their fifth pick. He will report to the Gulf Coast League.
The Bucs also signed outfielder Robbie Grossman. Grossman was named the 49th-best player in this year’s draft and fell into the Pirates’ lap when many teams bypassed on the switch-hitter because of his strong desire to play college baseball. Grossman will also report to the Gulf Coast League.
Records of the Pirates four minor affiliates as of Aug. 14: Triple-A Indianapolis 59-67, Double-A Altoona 55-71, Single-A Lynchburg 49-74, Single-A Hickory 46-77 and Single-A State College 11-42.
– Todd Krise
Making their second trade in three days, the White Sox acquired right-handed reliever Franklyn German from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named.
German was 1-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 24 relief appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He will begin his career in the White Sox organization with Triple-A Charlotte.
German spent four seasons with the Tigers from 2002-06 and also spent time with the Marlins and Rangers.
He was traded as part of a three-team trade by the Oakland A’s in 2002 along with Carlos Pena and a player to be named later to the Tigers. The Yankees sent Ted Lilly, John-Ford Griffin and Jason Arnold to the A’s. The Tigers sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. The Tigers sent cash to the A’s, and the A’s sent Jeremy Bonderman to the Tigers to complete the trade.
German owns a career 4.25 ERA in 158 2/3 innings of relief.
You’ve seen the play and success of Jeff Karstens, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche during their short time with the Pirates. But how are the Bucs’ four other newly acquired players doing? A look at it their recent success…
Players acquired from Xavier Nady-Damaso Marte trade to the Yankees:
Big right-handed pitcher Ross Ohlendorf has pitched 13 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on 13 hits. He’s also struck out 14 batters and walked only three in two starts with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Daniel McCutchen picked up his first win at Indianapolis on Wednesday. The 25-year-old threw seven innings and struck out five. He surrendered two runs on four hits.
Outfielder Jose Tabata blasted two home runs on Tuesday for the Gulf Coast League Pirates, picking up five RBIs. He’s hitting .455 since joining the Pirates organization.
From the Red Sox in the Jason Bay trade: Bryan Morris, 21, threw five scoreless innings for Single-A Hickory on Tuesday. He gave up only two hits and struck three.
Good news finally came from Single-A State College on Wednesday. The Spikes stopped their 10-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Williamsport Crosscutters. Jeremy Farrell, the Pirates’ eighth-round selection in this year’s June Draft, hit a three-run, two-out triple to lead the struggling Spikes (10-35).
Records of the Pirates four minor affiliates as of Aug. 7: Triple-A Indianapolis 55-63, Double-A Altoona 52-66, Single-A Lynchburg 48-68 and Single-A Hickory 45-70.
– Todd Krise
When the Dodgers acquired Casey Blake from the Indians on July 26, third baseman Andy LaRoche’s first thought was that he needed to book a flight to Cleveland.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he found out he had not been included in that deal being fearful of the city’s cold weather.
Rumors have swirled all season about LaRoche — a prospect Baseball America ranked second in the Dodgers’ system and No. 31 overall at the start of the season — particularly the week before the Blake trade when he got four straight starts at third, with the Dodgers possibly showcasing him for a trade.
LaRoche ended up being sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas the very next day so the Dodgers could activate pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney, but he did not stay there long, being traded to the Pirates on July 31 in the three-team Manny Ramirez swap.
He ended up playing just one game for the 51s this time around, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.
The day of the Blake trade, LaRoche said he would rather be in Los Angeles than anywhere else, but he would understand why if the Dodgers dealt him.
“This is my home now, my friends are on this team, everybody I came up with, a great group of guys,” LaRoche said at the time. “If there’s a better fit for me somewhere else, that obviously would be best for me, that would be probably a better situation, but as for right now the Dodgers are my team.
“If [general manager Ned] Colletti or anyone else thinks I’d be a better fit somewhere then I guess they’ll make that decision, or if it’s better if they need a closer or somebody or whatever to come over here and put me in there, that’s there decision, I just have to accept that and move on, but as for right now I’d like to stay here, and this is where I’d like to play.”
So LaRoche clearly understood he was a piece the Dodgers were willing to move, but he never could have guessed five days before it went down that he would be the key cog in a Manny Ramirez deal.
And if he was going to be dealt by the organization that drafted him, he was pleased to be traded to the Pirates for a family reunion with his older brother Adam LaRoche, a Pittsburgh first baseman.
Demoted Dodgers heating up in Vegas
Shortstop Chin-lung Hu has remained hot in Vegas, hitting in five straight games through July 31. He exploded for a 4-for-5 day with a double, two triples, four RBIs and four runs on July 26 before going 3-for-3 with three runs and a walk the next night.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Hu has been “doing pretty well” in Triple-A and would have been the probable move had Nomar Garciaparra needed to go on the disabled list with his sprained left knee before the Ramirez deal, after which Garciaparra went on the DL to make room for Ramirez.
Meanwhile, third baseman Blake DeWitt is hitting 8-for-16 with two homers, a triple, eight RBIs and three runs scored in his first four games since his demotion, flashing the power he was not showing in the Majors when he went 16 straight games without an extra-base hit late in his recent stint with the Dodgers.
Infielder Luis Maza is 8-for-19 (.421) with eight runs scored in five games since being designated for assignment on July 20. His biggest day came July 26 in his first game with the 51s when he went 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBIs.
Outfielder James Tomlin is hitting .526 (20-for-38) with six RBIs in his last 14 games entering Aug. 1 for Double-A Jacksonville.
Pitcher Scott Elbert, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2004, is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 16 games (one start) since joining the Suns in June. He missed nearly all of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 recovering from shoulder surgery.
Pitcher Danny Muegge tossed 20 consecutive innings without yielding an earned run before giving one up in the third inning of his July 28 start. Still, he’s posted a 0.41 ERA over 22 innings of his last eight appearances.
— Michael Schwartz