Bsizzle: Is there a reason Tony Watson has to run the count up to a full count on every batter?
Bill Brink: I'm sure he'd rather not do so. If it continues, then it might be something to worry about.
Jim: Any sense of the Pirates making a move soon?
Bill Brink: Yes. I would imagine you see them shuffle the bullpen at or around the next off-day, next Thursday. In talking with Neal Huntington Sunday, they will send Jeff Locke down to get him a few more starts. Justin Wilson will probably join the bullpen. Kevin Correia may go back to the bullpen. You may also see Jared Hughes return.
Adam in Boulder: To what do you attribute the decline of McCutchen, whose OPS in August is lower than Barmes'? Opponents' strategy of pitching him low and away, fatigue, proverbial weight on his shoulders of carrying team? I feel like media is afraid to mention how his suddenly human play is hurting club's playoff chances.
Bill Brink: Part of it is teams have a better idea of how to pitch to him now. They are pitching him away, and at times you see him trying to pull everything. You cannot make the argument, though, that he is hurting their playoff chances because he is the sole reason, offensively, that they hung around through April and May and had a chance to make this playoff run.
Hunter: Barajas has been downright bad at the plate in June, July, and August. Somehow he seems to be getting worse each month. Obviously there has also been the struggles of stopping anyone on base when he's behind the plate. Fryer doesn't look like much of an option to contribute in June so is there any chance Sanchez gets added to the 40 man roster and is in Pittsburgh this year? Or are we pretty much stuck with Barajas the rest of the year?
Bill Brink: I would be surprised, but not shocked, if Sanchez made the 40-man. He has hit for a little power in Indy, but I think the Pirates want to take their time with his development. That 40-man spot may go to Chris Leroux as well, or a waiver claim if someone falls to them. Fryer looks like the guy at this point.
Guest: I am struggling to understand the Wandy Rodriquez trade. We had/have 3 pitchers at Indy who have the potentially to produce his numbers or better (all lefties I think as well). We gave up something we desperately need in Grossman, a true lead off bat for someone who we are only guaranteed to have next year (he has the option for 2014). His numbers are slightly better than average for his career (era 4.05 and a WHIP of 1.34). What am I missing?
Bill Brink: It wasn't a sexy trade. It was a trade for a known commodity. The Pirates know he has durability and can count on him avoiding blow-up starts. There are differing opinions in the industry about what Grossman is and/or could be. It's not like that one season in Bradenton ticketed him for major league stardom.
PhillyJake: Who is back in the majors first - Presley or Tabata ?
Bill Brink: Presley. There are fewer concerns about Presley's defense and effort.
Guest: I love Hurdle and the standards he has instilled in this team. However, I do not understand his approach to filling out a lineup card. There seems to be too much tinkering at this late stage in the game. Marte, Walker, McCutchen Jones Snider Alverez McHenry should be in the lineup 6 out of 7 games.
Bill Brink: The main point of contention there is McKenry (The Snider/Jones situation will sort itself out more clearly once Snider is healthy and Jones is hitting so well he'll play somewhere anyway). Hurdle still likes what Barajas can do behind the plate -- not throwing out runners, but calling the games. At the same time, he is easing McKenry into more playing time to A) see if he's legit and B) to make sure not to over-expose him. If he keeps hitting and walking, he'll play more.
Guest: Is it possible that the 6 man rotation is a result of necessity because of pitch counts for McDonald, Correia and Bedard?
Bill Brink: I don't think they are on specific "pitch counts," but the Pirates track pitches thrown, and in Bedard's case I'm sure it's more of a concern. The six-man rotation will lower pitch counts as well as innings pitched and, the Pirates think, keep their rotation fresh for September.
Gillen4: Do you agree with Bob Walk that the DH should be banned?
Bill Brink: I go back and forth on this. I love the strategy behind the double switch, walking the guy to get to the pitcher, etc., and think the economics of DHs would be tough for small-market teams to contend with. I also grew up in an AL city watching the DH for years and don't mind seeing people hit the ball hard instead of watching pitchers flail away.
Jeff: I think realistically Bucs battling for wild card. Do you agree?
Bill Brink: The way the Reds are playing right now (without Votto), yes. Ryan Ludwick is raking, they have a better rotation than you think and their bullpen is dangerous. The Cardinals showed us last year that anyone can catch anyone else, but the Reds will be tough to catch.
Scott: I know AJ struggled in his last outing, but who is your team MVP.....Cutch or AJ?
Bill Brink: McCutchen. Burnett has made a great case, being that ace that the Pirates need and influencing the rest of the team. But what McCutchen has done is unreal.
Hunter: Of the possible September call ups in a couple weeks who do you think has the greatest chance to make a real positive impact?
Bill Brink: Justin Wilson. He could be a dominant lefty matchup guy and free Watson, who has been solid against both lefties and righties, up for other situations.
Gillen4: Is it blasphemy to think the Primanti sandwiches are in actuality pretty nasty? What's your favorite ballgame concession, if you were a paying member of the public for a game?
Bill Brink: I went to Primantis with Sanserino and Werner and we got into it when I wanted to take the slaw off mine because I don't like it. The server took their side, it was a whole thing.
I like the buried treasure ice cream. I have way too much of a sweet tooth.
Jeff: Even with Garrett Jones enjoying a career year I still believe he's best suited as a platoon player. Do you think the Pirates should consider going after a first baseman to help protect McCutchen in the lineup next season?
Bill Brink: I think Jones has now shown twice, in 2009 and this season, that he has the capability to be an everyday player. The fact remains that he struggles against lefties, and it's tough to throw him out there against lefties to find out when you're in a playoff race. I think between Jones and Sanchez, they feel good about first base and will focus elsewhere, but if an opportunity presents itself they won't hesitate.
PhillyJake: When was Pedro's last HR?
Bill Brink: Believe it was July 22. You want another crazy stat? Andrew McCutchen hasn't stolen a base in about two months.
Hunter: Do you think the six man rotation is in place for the rest of the season?
Bill Brink: It could be. Hurdle talked last year about not being a huge fan of the six-man rotation, but they have different personnel now so that may have changed. They have a lot more freedom to do so once rosters expand. I do think you see Burnett kept on four days rest, bumping Bedard/McDonald back, if they can make that work.
Adam in Boulder: Do you consider yourself a fan of the Bucs? When was the first game you attended? Is it hard not to get emotionally wrapped up in this, their first real playoff race in 20 years? (97 was only a race because the division stunk)
Bill Brink: I'm not a Pirates fan. Can't be a fan of the team you cover, though I wasn't a Pirates fan even before going on the beat. First game at PNC Park was Pedro's debut, June 16, 2010. Talked to a hilarious Ozzie Guillen afterward, who said of Pedro, "Good at-bats. I stood out in the right-field seats over the Clemente Wall to watch Alvarez's batting practice home runs land to help one of our other writers out. It was a good first game.
It is interesting to cover a playoff race, especially after the past 19 years.
joe: As respects to Grossman, he had a great year at Bradenton then when on to tear up the fall league before he had hamate bone removed from his wrist. Since June he seems to have regained his form and looks more and more like the player we saw last year.
Bill Brink: Hamate surgery does sap your power, so the fact that he struggled to start the year in Altoona isn't a surprise. The concerns about his game, from everything that I heard and read, were that he did several things pretty well but was not excellent at one particular thing. There's value there, but it's not like the Pirates gave up a sure-fire major leaguer.
Bill Brink: Copy and paste that, then e-mail me in 10 years when he makes his eighth consecutive All-Star team!
joe: Do you think the Pirates are working on an extension for Walker or is that something that happens in the offseason?
Bill Brink: They don't seem to be in a rush. Walker is older than McCutchen and will not be a free agent until the tail end of his prime years. He has said he is prepared to go into this offseason as a Super 2 player. The Pirates also will not lock him up just because he is from Pittsburgh and the fans would like it.
This stuff changes continually, though, and his offense this year may speed up the process.
Bill Brink: Lightning round time. Fire away.
PhillyJake: Can Usain Bolt play right field and/or hit the curve ball ?
Bill Brink: I've never seen him run not in a straight line (curves during the 200m don't count) so I don't know, but if he could read the ball off the bat he could be good.
Jeff: Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals all finish with better record than Bucs?
Bill Brink: Braves have the best shot of the bunch, but entirely possible.
pghfaninstl: With this 3-5 homestand currently, which could have been 5-3 without the implosions of Grilli and JMAC, from the clubhouse, what is the general feel? Do you still sense a level of confidence?
Bill Brink: Yes. They are much more confident in their ability to come from behind, should they fall behind, and many of them went through that 10-game losing streak, including seven to the Cubs and Padres at home, so this doesn't faze them as much.
Ronen: Who would win in a race you or Sansypants?
Bill Brink: If there was buried treasure ice cream at the end of the race I'd wipe the floor with him.
PhillyJake: But you couldn't eat the prize in your own car!
Bill Brink: That's right. I'd eat it in Sanserino's :)
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