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Thread: Spring Training Preview: Part III - The Bullpen

      
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    Default Spring Training Preview: Part III - The Bullpen

    Coming off a season where they ranked 10th in the league in bullpen ERA, the Pirates relieving group will see some major changes in 2013. Of the top four pitchers on the staff in relief innings, only Jared Hughes returns. The biggest subtraction obviously will be Joel Hanrahan who had been the team's closer for 2+ years.

    The Closer:

    Jason Grilli (R) - Grilli steps in as the team's new closer at a bargain price as he signed a 2 year $6.75 million deal while Hanrahan was still on the team and didn't have any incentives put in based on games finished. Grilli comes off a monster year where he struck out 90 batters in only 58.2 innings. Grilli has really only had two successful full seasons in the majors, one in 2012 and one in 2008. He did show the same often dominating stuff in the second half of 2011, though. Several questions linger here, however. Beyond whether he can keep up his performance, there's always the issue of whether a guy can close. There is also a question about Grilli's durability. In 2012 Hurdle seemed hesitant to use Grilli too many back to back days. It will be interesting to watch it play out.

    The Late Inning Guys:

    Jared Hughes (R) - Hughes had a bit of a surprise season in 2012 as he led Pirates relievers in innings pitched while sporting a 2.85 ERA for the season. He relies primarily on the ground ball as he doesn't have overpowering stuff that he can throw right by you. Plenty of relievers have had seasons like this and fallen off completely, while a select few have been able to keep it up. How Hughes fares in 2013 will go a long way in determining the quality of this bullpen.

    Tony Watson (L) - Watson really stepped up in 2012 as he developed into a guy who can completely shut down lefties (.554 OPS against) while not being a liability against right handers (.691 OPS against). More of the same in 2013 would be very welcome for the Pirates.

    Mark Melancon (R) - Melancon had a disastrous start to the season for the Red Sox in 2012 and found himself back in the minor leagues. When he made his return he had his ups and downs, but primarily ups. In 2011 he saved 20 games and posted a 2.78 ERA for the Astros. A return to the comfort of the NL Central could help Melancon regain his confidence and develop into a very strong late inning option again. It's also worth noting that his strikeout rate actually increased and his walk rate decreased in the AL East in 2012. There is potential for big things here.

    Battle for the Middle:

    Bryan Morris (R) – Morris got off to a fantastic start at AAA last year as he spent his first year as a full time reliever. For some reason the Pirates preferred using a host of random pitchers over Morris on the major league side (including Chad Qualls) and he ended up struggling a bit around this same time. He finally got to come up for real at the end of the season and pitched fairly well over a few innings. Morris is out of options so this is a make or break spring for him. The fastball and slider combo looks like it could translate into a great relief package, but he still isn’t quite a finished product.

    Chris Leroux (R) – Leroux is also out of options. He tried his hand at starting in AAA last year with some decent results, but has always looked like a guy whose future was in the pen. He had some MLB success in 2011, but has struggled every other time he’s been called up, including a brief stint in 2012.

    Jeanmar Gomez (R) – Gomez is an option as a long man who you can also bring in when you need a ground ball. The Pirates had some early success with Mike Crotta in that type of role a couple years back before he completely exploded. Gomez doesn’t have anything close to the stuff of the guys previously listed here.

    Justin Wilson (L) – Wilson’s story is one that has been told hundreds of times. Lefty with great stuff who can’t keep it in the zone. That has likely ruined his starting career, but he still has the potential to dominate out of the bullpen. If he can harness it just a bit over short bursts Wilson can be a dominant reliever from the left side.

    Andy Oliver (L) – Oliver had just reached the point where the Tigers had given up on his future as a starter when he was traded to the Pirates. Does this mean the Pirates want to give him one more shot in the rotation? Maybe. But there is a good chance Oliver ultimately winds up in the bullpen. He could be used in long spots to start out before settling in as a guy with late inning stuff.

    Vin Mazzaro (R) – The Pirates slipped Mazzaro through waivers after picking him up from the Royals this offseason. Mazzaro has bounced between the rotation and a swing role the last few years. Again the stuff isn’t great, but there’s still some hope Mazzaro turns his career around and can be a solid long man (or even 5th starter).

    Mike Zagurski (L) – Another lefty who has struggled to keep it in the zone, and has struggled mightily against right handed hitters over his career. Zagurski is another option if the Pirates look to go with two lefties in the pen.

    Jonathan Sanchez (L) – Although he’s mostly started in the majors, Sanchez has the potential to turn into a great left handed reliever. He’ll really have to bounce back a long way from last season’s disaster, but if Oliver Perez can have success in relief there’s no reason to think Sanchez doesn’t have a chance.

    In the Wings:

    Victor Black (R) – Black was taken in the supplemental round back in 2009. He struggled to stay on the field his first couple years, but showed flashes of dominance as he stayed healthy in 2012. He should start the year at AAA and has the potential to make a late impact this season.

    Duke Welker (R) – Long held as a prime example of Littlefield’s terrible drafts, the 2007 second rounder busted badly as a starter, and somehow looked even worse when he was first moved to the pen. In Welker’s first year of full time relief in 2010 he walked more than a batter an inning. He continued to light up radar guns and got to hang around a little longer and some things started to click. He pitched okay enough at Bradenton in 2011 that he got a late call to AA. He posted very strong peripherals there and was a bit of a surprise addition to the 40 man that offseason. He came back and pitched very well at AA again in the first half of 2012 before struggling a bit at AAA. Welker looks like he should at least make the majors, with a chance that he really turns it on at some point. A far cry from where he was a few years ago.

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    Default Re: Spring Training Preview: Part III - The Bullpen

    The Pirates Bullpen was middle of the pack in the NL last year - 7th out of 16 teams. Gone from that group are weak links Chris Resop, Cruz, and Evan Meek. Also gone is Joel Hanrahan who had two very good years as the Closer. Back are Jason Grilli, Jared Hughes, and Tony Watson - three of the best we had last year. I like our chances to be better than last year, but it will take some effort on the part of some newcomers. Mark Melancon was a Closer through college and had an excellent year in 2011 for the Astro's. He earned a trade to the Red Sox and fell on his face. They sent him back to AAA where he earned his way back to the majors. His last two months of 2012 were very good, but he is out of 2nd chances. Bryan Morris is around the mid-90's and has an excellent Slider. He is someone we need in 2013. The last two will be Justin Wilson, and Chris Leroux, both with big arms, and Leroux did very well for the Pirates in 2011. That's my picks for the BP in 2013 - raw talent, but they are going to have to come together very quickly.

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    Default Re: Spring Training Preview: Part III - The Bullpen

    Quote Originally Posted by emjayinTN View Post
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    The Pirates Bullpen was middle of the pack in the NL last year - 7th out of 16 teams. Gone from that group are weak links Chris Resop, Cruz, and Evan Meek. Also gone is Joel Hanrahan who had two very good years as the Closer. Back are Jason Grilli, Jared Hughes, and Tony Watson - three of the best we had last year. I like our chances to be better than last year, but it will take some effort on the part of some newcomers. Mark Melancon was a Closer through college and had an excellent year in 2011 for the Astro's. He earned a trade to the Red Sox and fell on his face. They sent him back to AAA where he earned his way back to the majors. His last two months of 2012 were very good, but he is out of 2nd chances. Bryan Morris is around the mid-90's and has an excellent Slider. He is someone we need in 2013. The last two will be Justin Wilson, and Chris Leroux, both with big arms, and Leroux did very well for the Pirates in 2011. That's my picks for the BP in 2013 - raw talent, but they are going to have to come together very quickly.
    If they play to their potential, that sounds like a very good pen to me emjay.

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    Default Re: Spring Training Preview: Part III - The Bullpen

    By Rob Biertempfel

    Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 7:27 p.m.
    Updated 21 hours ago

    BRADENTON, Fla. — Vic Black's fastball touches 100 mph and has enough movement to make batters step lightly at the plate. When he doffs his cap, it reveals a mohawk haircut. He describes his approach to pitching as “an aggression” — and smiles as he says it.

    But this nasty-boy reliever who hopes to someday land a job in the back end of the Pirates' bullpen doesn't get his power from lifting weights. The difference-maker, Black said, is yoga.

    “The only time I sweat is when I do yoga,” Black said. “Some people say yoga is too girly. Well, a lot of the stuff I used to think was weird, I'm fully sold on now — breathing and stretching.”

    Black practices yoga four days a week in the offseason and fits in occasional workouts in-season. His routines include one called Metal, which focuses on core strength, and another called Fire, which is held in a room heated to 98 degrees with 60 percent humidity.

    “It's like working out in a jungle,” Black said.

    After being on a consistent yoga program for more than a year, Black said his flexibility has never been greater. The payoff is evident in his fastball, which is about 4 mph faster than it was when he was a supplemental first-round pick in 2009 out of Dallas Baptist University.

    “If I don't do the yoga, I feel the difference in my body immediately,” he said. “And yoga has given me a chance to work on the breathing. If you don't breathe right, your performance is lessened, I believe. With yoga, you allow your body to work in one motion.”

    Black made two starts for low-A West Virginia in 2010 then missed the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury. When he returned a year later, Black was converted to a reliever.

    In 51 outings last year for Double-A Altoona, Black went 2-3 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.150 WHIP. He had 13 saves and averaged 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

    Black, 24, likely will begin this season at Triple-A Indianapolis. If he can master his control problems — he averages 4.7 walks per nine innings in his career — Black could project as a set-up man in the majors.

    For much of last season, Black's out pitch was his slider. He has an over-the-top delivery, which gives the pitch so much sharp downward break that it's almost a hard curveball. He'll also mix in what he refers to as an “accidental cutter” that can catch batters off guard.

    “I cut the ball sometimes, but it's by accident. I don't know why I do it. It happens about every third pitch.”

    During a game last season, Black faced his friend Tommy Joseph, who plays in the San Francisco Giants' system. Catcher Tony Sanchez called for a fastball, and it morphed into a cutter. As the ball veered way off the plate, Joseph swung through it and Sanchez lunged as it sailed to the backstop.

    “Vic keeps you on your toes,” Sanchez said, laughing at the memory.

    Black's delivery has even more quirky motions than his cutter. He pitches exclusively out of the stretch. As he begins his motion toward the plate, he taps the ball back into his glove — like an outfielder before making a long throw — and finishes his delivery with a small hop.

    “The glove tap is kind of unheard of, but it's a timing issue,” Black said. “Every pitcher has a timing trigger and that just happens to be mine. It also ends up screwing up the hitter's timing, so I'll take it.”

    Black's unorthodox delivery, upper-90s fastball, darting slurve and hit-the-deck cutter make for a pretty tough package.

    “It's not that tough to catch him, but I wouldn't want to be a hitter,” Sanchez said. “He has a lot of movement on the mound, so I can see how a hitter would be a little intimidated. It works. It gets guys out. They don't want to dig in and get comfortable.”

    Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/3...#ixzz2LY3ylTuw
    Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook
    Black has always been a pitcher that is intriguing. I wonder if he has the potential to soon be our closer for a number of years. Sounds like all he has to do is cut down on his walks. The arm is certainly there.

    POLITICIANS AND DIAPERS SHOULD BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASON!

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