Rounding the bases…
FIRST BASE: On May 10, 2013, no one in Pittsburgh knew that Francisco Liriano (16-8), Gerrit Cole (10-7), and Charlie Morton (7-4) would combine for a 33-19 record or that Marlon Byrd would fill the huge gap in the middle of the Clint Hurdle’s lineup, or that Justin Morneau would answer the Pirates’ first base problem.
The starting rotation that opened the season included A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jonathan Sanchez, and Jeff Locke.
The Bucs upgraded their roster as the season progressed: Liriano came off the DL on May 11, followed by Morton on June 13. Cole first pitched in the majors on June 11, and Byrd and Morneau were added in late August.
These are good points to remember as spring training opens.
It is true that there are many questions the Pirates must try to answer before March 31 arrives. That’s the date we should be worried about the roster, not on February 12.
SECOND BASE: The Burnett saga continues to perplex everyone.
The last official comment we heard from the right-hander came last fall when he said he would play for the Pirates in 2014 or retire.
Throughout the off-season, nothing official has happened. Actually until two weeks ago, nothing at all had happened. Even so, all we’ve heard has been “reports” that Burnett wanted to pitch in 2014 after all.
Again “reports” have suggested where he might end up, if not with the Pirates. But again, nothing has come from either Burnett or his agent.
Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington has replayed the same answer any time the subject arises. He simply indicates that the Pirates are interested, but are respecting Burnett as he works through the process.
Burnett made $16.5 million in each of his two seasons with the Pirates, with the Yankees picking up $11.5 million in 2012 and $8.5 million last year. “Reports” have indicated the Pirates offered their pitching leader an $8.5 million contract this year.
Seeing what money various other pitchers got this winter, the Bucs’ best offer is insulting—asking one of the game’s best pitchers to have a 50 percent cut. That offer is just $3.5 million more than the Bucs gave Edinson Volquez, whose major-league ERA was the worst in all of baseball last season.
In effect, if the Pirates signed Burnett for $13 million this season, the money from their pockets would total $26.5 million for his three years—an average of less than $9 million a year.
Experts have placed Burnett’s value in 2014 at $20 million, a figure that even the 37-year-old hurler knows is not going to happen. But to expect a pitcher who is given credit for transforming the Pirates from baseball’s outhouse to the playoffs should certainly be displeased with the way the Bucs have handled this situation.
THIRD BASE: Considering the mountains of snow and the many days of double-digit below zero wind chills and the number of school delays, today is a day that should warm the hearts of everyone, even those who don’t follow our national pastime.
Pirate pitchers and catchers have been trickling in for a week, scheduled to report to Bradenton’s training complex today in preparation for tomorrow’s first official workout.
The first full-squad workout is next Tuesday, with the first Grapefruit League game two weeks from today, when the Yankees visit Bradenton at 1:05 p.m.
HOME: The Pirates’ first spring game will be aired on 93.7 The Fan.
The first televised game on Root Sports from spring training will be at 1:05 p.m. Sunday, March 9 when the Bucs host the Red Sox.
Four additional pre-season games will be aired on Root Sports: 1:05 p.m. on Monday, March 17 against the Yankees; 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19 at Boston and Friday, March 21 at the Yankees; and 1:05 p.m. Saturday, March 29 at Philadelphia. ESPN will air the 1:05 p.m. game on Monday, March 24 against Detroit.
Rounding the bases…
THE CHECKERED FLAG: April should bring welcome return of local racing
MOTHER NATURE’S last stronghold on winter may slowly be releasing her grip as the calendar changes to April and racing begins to get under way throughout the region.
Locally, nothing has happened yet, but that may soon be changing. Mercer had to postpone their “Chiller Thriller” to this Saturday (April 5), weather permitting, featuring the NDRL Northeast Super Late Models, NDRL E-Mods, Crate Late Models, and Stock Cars. Mercer’s regular season opener featuring their weekly divisions of “410” Sprints, “358” Modifieds, “305” Sprints, Stock Cars, Mod Lites, and Mini Stocks has now been pushed back to April 12.
Mercer boys bow in Guerino finals
The Hickory girls and Farrell boys captured championships on Saturday night at the 17th annual Buddy Guerino Underclassmen Basketball Tournament at Sharpsville High School.
The Hickory girls beat Kennedy Catholic, 41-29, for the crown while the Farrell boys topped Mercer, 76-35, for the title.
In the consolation games, Sharpsville defeated Sharon, 35-15, in girls hoops while the Sharon boys beat Hickory, 57-33.
EXTRA INNINGS: Bonds ruined opening day for Pirates fans
As this column begins today its 47th year, longtime readers no doubt expected to find what they have found at the beginning of every baseball season — predictions for upcoming summer.
And as I sat down last week to start to put together some ideas for today’s entry, that is fully what I anticipated would fill this space.
Well, I’m as surprised as you are; 2014’s season prognostications must wait until next week.
I just can’t get past the fact that club president Frank Coonelly thought the celebration of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first winning season in 21 years should include Barry Bonds.
You gotta be kidding me!
NCAA Football: Rock 6-1 after 17-3 win over Cal U
Slippery Rock University rode a length-of-the-field scoring drive by its offense and a goal-line stand by its No. 1-ranked defense late in the first half of action Saturday to a 17-3 win over 14th-ranked visiting California (Pa.).
NFL: Steelers top Jags as Mendenhall makes return
Mike Tomlin isn’t ready to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are back. Not after watching his team sleepwalk through the second half against Jacksonville on Sunday.
IndyCar Racing: Crash takes Wheldon’s life
Every race car driver heads onto the track understanding this race could be the last and hoping it won’t be. On Sunday, IndyCar drivers got a harsh reminder when the worst happened to one of their own.
NHL: Sabres beat Penguins 3-2
The Buffalo Sabres have had trouble with the Pittsburgh Penguins whether Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play or not.
NHL Quick glance: Montreal at Pittsburgh
A breakdown of the National Hockey League game Thursday night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens.
High School Highlights: Oct. 19, 2011
A look at the last few days in local high school fall sports action.
Leading Off: Oct. 19, 2011
News and notes from the local, regional and national sports scene.
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- THE CHECKERED FLAG: April should bring welcome return of local racing