Greinke Signs with LAD; Dominoes to Fall?

The Pirates are in dire need of a starting pitcher. In fact, the depth chart on the team website only lists four pitchers in the starting rotation. Those hurlers are A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, and Jeff Locke. Burnett and Rodriguez are the leaders of the staff; two reliable veterans who should bring a lot to the table. McDonald, despite his tremendous first half, was demoted to the bullpen down the stretch; who knows which J-Mac we’ll see in 2013. Jeff Locke hasn’t done much to prove he’s worthy of a starting spot; he’s just 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 12 career MLB games.

It was reported Saturday night that Zack Greinke would be signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who apparently have an unlimited supply of cash. The deal is reportedly worth $147 million over six seasons, which would make him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher ever. Greinke, 29, entered the offseason as the most prized pitcher on the free agent market. Typically, players wait until the top free agent inks a deal before deciding where to sign, hence why there weren’t many big moves at the Winter Meetings.

With Greinke off the market, is it time for the dominoes to fall?

Here’s a look at some of the remaining free agent starters:

Anibal Sanchez – Out of price range; Dodgers interested in him, too.

Edwin Jackson – #EJaxToBucs failed last year; worthy of a second attempt?

Ryan Dempster – Mitch Williams suggested he’d be a fit for the Bucco rotation.

Kyle Lohse – Beyond the Box Score makes a case not to sign him.

Shaun Marcum – Seems like a decent add; drawing plenty of interest from other teams.

Francisco Liriano – His name has popped up multiple times as a fit for the Pirates.

Joe Saunders – Orioles still looking to re-sign the veteran southpaw.

Kevin Correia – Doubtful that Correia and/or the Bucs want a deal.

Carl Pavano – Wouldn’t be surprised to see NH take a flyer on him.

Jeff Karstens – Should not have been non-tendered by the Pirates; unlikely to return.

Mike Pelfrey – Non-tendered by Mets; appeared in just three games in 2012 (elbow).

Jair Jurrjens – Braves non-tendered him; 2011 All-Star said to have a dead arm.

Manny Parra – Non-tendered by Brewers; no thanks.

Tom Gorzelanny – Ex-Buc non-tendered by Nats; possible long-reliever/mop-up man.

John Lannan – Another Washington non-tender; no space for him in Nats rotation.

Who knows which route Neal Huntington will take. Keep in mind that a starting pitcher could be acquired via trade – closer Joel Hanrahan may be on the move (especially if Jason Grilli re-signs in Pittsburgh).

The starting rotation let the team down at the end of both 2011 and 2012, so it’s important to bolster the staff. There is a bit of help on the way (see: Cole, Gerrit) but that won’t be until mid-season at the earliest. The rotation is up in the air at the moment, but hopefully that changes in the coming weeks with some acquisitions.

Go Bucs

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Locke, Wilson among September call-ups

The Pirates have recalled their first batch of September call-ups. Of the five players brought up, three have seen action this season (Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson, and Eric Fryer). Chris Leroux saw time in the big leagues in 2011, while Brock Holt will be making his MLB debut sometime soon. Here’s a look at the five players:

Jeff Locke
– 10-5 with a 2.48 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 24 starts for Indianapolis.
– No runs allowed in 4.1 innings for the Pirates.

Justin Wilson
– 9-6 with a 3.78 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 29 appearances for Indy.
– One scoreless inning of relief for the Bucs.

Chris Leroux
– 4-0 with a 3.11 ERA in 21 games for the Indians.
– 2.88 ERA, including 24 strikeouts, in 25 innings for Pittsburgh in 2011.

Eric Fryer
– .204 average with 10 RBI in 65 games for Indy.
– One hit in three at-bats for the Pirates this year.

Brock Holt
– .432 average and a 1.013 OPS in 24 games for Indianapolis.
– Definitely a surprise that Holt was recalled, but very deserving with how he was raking at Triple-A.

Go Bucs

Hughes, Navarro return to Bucs

The Pirates shuffled the roster a bit today. Jared Hughes is back, as well as Yamaico Navarro. Chad Qualls was placed on the bereavement list due to an illness in his family. Jeff Locke is heading back to Triple-A.

In 60 games for Indianapolis, Navarro hit .275/.359/.490 with 8 HR and 32 RBI. He was sent down at the end of May when Jordy Mercer was called up. Navarro hit just .178 in 25 games at the ML level.

Jeff Locke, who was sent down to make room for Navarro, looked good in two appearances this week. He pitched 2.1 perfect innings on Thursday vs. Arizona. He surrendered just one hit vs. Los Angeles on Tuesday in two innings. Dejan Kovacevic’s thoughts on sending Locke to the minors can be seen HERE.

This move helps bench, especially with Travis Snider‘s tight hamstring and Neil Walker‘s dislocated finger. It’s a good sign that Walker didn’t go on the disabled list (yet). They’ve been using a short bench/extra pitcher, so this brings the club back to 13 position players and 12 pitchers.

Jared Hughes is back in the bullpen with the absence of Chad Qualls. Hughes is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 47 games this season.

Locke promoted, Presley optioned

Late last night/early this morning, Kristy Robinson of Pirates Prospects broke the news that Jeff Locke would be joining the big league club. It was made official today, with Alex Presley heading back to Triple-A.

Locke, who is 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 21 starts this season and leads Indianapolis with 125 innings pitched, was slated to start for the Indians on this afternoon. Kyle McPherson made his Indy debut in place of Locke.

The 24 year old Locke was a September call-up last season, but was rocked in four starts. He went 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA. He allowed 12 runs on 21 hits, and averaged just over four innings per start.

In the corresponding move, Alex Presley was optioned. He spent some time in Indianapolis earlier this season, hitting .301 in 20 games.

This seems to be a temporary move. The Pirates are being cautious with their pitchers during this long stretch of games without an off day. Presley should be back soon.

Farm Report: Indianapolis Indians

Indianapolis Indians, Triple-A Affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Indianapolis Indians are enjoying a hot start to the 2012 season, as they possess the best record in the International League at 47-30 (.610 winning percentage). They are 8-2 in their last ten games, and lead the IL West division by 9.5 games. The Columbus Clippers, who are the Cleveland Indians’ AAA team, are in second place with a record of 38-40. The Indians are just 20-20 on the road this season, but have been phenomenal at home in 2012; they are 27-10 at Victory Field.

Batting Leaders
Jordy Mercer: .303 average, 3 HR, 22 RBI in 47 games
Jose Morales: .295 average, 0 HR, 19 RBI in 35 games
Jeff Clement: .292 average, 8 HR, 32 RBI in 62 games
Yamaico Navarro: .268 average, 2 HR, 12 RBI in 20 games
Starling Marte: .264 average, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 70 games

Pitching Leaders
Jo-Jo Reyes: 5-1, 2.05 ERA
Daniel McCutchen: 3-2, 2.10 ERA
Tim Wood: 3-3, 2.11 ERA
Evan Meek: 2-2, 2.13 ERA
Rick VandenHurk: 6-0, 2.27 ERA

Prospect Watch
Jordy Mercer – After a few weeks in Pittsburgh that featured limited playing time, Mercer returned to Indy on Sunday. In his first game back with the Indians on Monday night, he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Mercer will get the chance to play everyday in Indianapolis instead of sitting the bench for the Pirates. Hopefully he will continue to improve in triple-A ball, and we could see him later this season in Pittsburgh, especially when the roster expands in September. Mercer turns 26 on August 27th.

Starling Marte – After a great season for double-A Altoona in which he won the Eastern League batting title, Marte hasn’t produced quite as much in Indy. He’s hitting .264/.326/.439 so far in 2012. On Monday night, he went 2 for 4 with a double, triple, and 3 RBI. At the earliest, we could see Marte make his debut a month or two down the road, but he still needs some more time at triple-A. Like Mercer, there’s a strong possibility that he’s in Pittsburgh when the roster expands. Marte turns 24 on October 9th.

Rudy Owens – Along with Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson, Owens is part of the trio of southpaw prospects in Indianapolis. Rudy is 6-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 90.2 innings pitched. In 14 games, he’s struck out 62 while walking 14. Owens was named the Pirates’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and 2010. He was selected by the Pirates in the 28th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Chandler-Gilbert Community College.He turns 25 on December 18th.

Jeff Locke – Locke appeared in four September games for Pittsburgh last season, but went 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA. He finished second among all Pittsburgh Pirates farmhands with 139 strikeouts in 2011. Locke was called up on May 20th but didn’t appear in any games. The 6’1″, 180 lbs. left-hander is 5-4 with a 3.27 ERA this year for Indianapolis. He has struck out 72 while walking 18 in his 14 starts thus far. Locke was acquired by the Pirates along with pitcher Charlie Morton and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Nate McLouth on June 3, 2009. He will turn 25 on November 20th.

Justin Wilson – Wilson threw 7.1 scoreless innings on April 29th and led Indy to a combined no-hitter with the help of Jose Diaz and Doug Slaten. Wilson is 5-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 2012. In 15 games, he has struck out 81 while walking 39 walks. His 39 walks are the most of any Indy pitcher; Locke’s 18 are the second-most. Wilson was selected by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Fresno State, where he won the College World Series. He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week on June 18th. Wilson will turn 25 on August 18th.

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