- Neal Huntington indicated that he expects the Pirates starting rotation to be Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke and Matt Morris. This is not much of a surprise. Snell, Gorzelanny and Maholm were locks, assuming none were involved in a trade. Morris, despite being vastly overpaid, could potentially be a solid fifth starter. Although Duke struggled tremendously last season and was inconsistent at best in 2006, it is still way too early to give up on him. He needs to go to the mound every five days until he figures things out.
The biggest issue could be starting depth, and Huntington acknowledges this. Shawn Chacon, Shane Youman and Tony Armas are gone. John Van Benschoten, Sean Burnett and Bryan Bullington showed little promise during their time in Pittsburgh in 2007. Phil Dumatrait and Ty Taubenheim are nothing special. With something as unpredictable as a Major League starting rotation, the Pirates could use a few more decent pitchers in the upper levels of the organization. Last season, Gorzelanny exceeded his career high in innings pitched by more than 40 innings. Snell pitched 22 more innings than any previous season. Duke and Maholm both had injury problems in 2007. Matt Morris is 33 years old. Assuming each pitcher will make it through the entire season injury-free is unreasonable.
It appears that Huntington has had difficulty signing minor league pitchers due to his commitment to his starting five. Most would rather sign with a team that may provide an opportunity to crack the rotation.
- The Pirates will have 25 players participate in the team’s voluntary minicamp next week in Bradenton. Each pitcher on the 40-man roster except Matt Morris, Damaso Marte, Franquelis Osoria and Juan Perez will attend. In addition, non-roster pitchers Adam Bernero and Marino Salas and catchers Ronny Paulino, Ryan Doumit and Michel Hernandez will be there. EDIT: Chris Duffy and Kevin Thompson will also attend.
- Johnny Estrada is still on the Pirates’ radar. However, the team may be wary of his health…The Bucs apparently did not have any interest in Matt Clement. His agent said that Huntington had not contacted him since early December. On Thursday, Clement signed a one-year deal with St. Louis.