Off-Day Hockey Talk

No Pirates news thanks to yesterday’s off-day, but there’s good news from the Penguins.

Matt Cooke has been re-signed to a three year, $5.4M deal prior to becoming an unrestricted free agent. Cooke is a great asset as a third liner and penalty killer – the classic (cliche alert) player you love to have on your team but hate to play against.

Yesterday the Pens signed defenseman Ben Lovejoy to a very cap friendly three year deal, giving them four D-men under contract for next season (Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski). Talks are ongoing with Sergei Gonchar. If they are unable to come to terms with Gonch then I expect Jordan Leopold to be the fallback option – they won’t sign both. The sixth defenseman with be a physical type acquired through either free agency or a trade.

Yesterday it was confirmed that Penguins will open the Consol Energy Center on Thursday October 7 vs the Flyers. The full NHL schedule come out later today.

Delusions of Grandeur

Did I pick a crazy weekend to go out of town or what?  The Pirates extend their losing streak to 12, fire a pierogi, then win twice in a row. Pedro Alvarez gets his first hit too. To quote Han Solo, “I’m out of it for a little while and everyone gets delusions of grandeur.”A wrap up of things I missed this weekend:

The Pirates broke their twelve game losing streak by beating Cleveland Saturday and Sunday. Lastings Milledge and Andrew McCutchen had big games, but the moment that everyone was waiting for finally happened in the 5th inning when #Pedropalooza broke out a ground rule double for his first hit and RBI. After three games I was getting worried that he might reach Aramis Ramirez territory so this is great news.

The team also celebrated the 50th anniversary of their 1960 World Series win over the Yankees. Lots of giveaways and old players on hand. Really wish I could have made it to the ‘Burgh for this.

On Sunday John Russell was ejected for only the fourth time in his three two-plus years of managing the Pirates. Call him the anti-Bobby Cox.

Zach Duke has a mild elbow strain and will miss his scheduled start on Tuesday. Monday’s off day means no spot starter will be needed. Duke is expected to be fine for his next turn on Saturday, but that could change later in the week.

Up Next: Interleague play wraps up with a six game road trip to Texas and Oakland.

Pedropalooza!

Pedro hits vs Zach Duke at Pirate City

The day has finally arrived – Pedro Alvarez has been called up to the Pirates. He’ll start at third base as I detailed in my previous post. I expect him to hit 5th between Jones and Doumit, but it wouldn’t surprise me for Russell to put him lower in the lineup as JR like to “ease guys in.”  (Note to JR: Not everyone needs to be eased in. Some guys will do better it you just throw them in the deep end and see if they can swim.) No word yet on who’ll be sent out to make room on the roster but the candidates include every player on the bench.

OTHER BITS: Lastings Milledge is getting squeezed for playing time since Jose Tabata was recalled last week. Not that I mind this, but its Ryan Church that he’s getting squeezed for and neither of them have been hitting lately. I can’t wait for Steve Pearce to get healthy and start playing first again so Garrett Jones can slide back to RF.

Tim at BUCCO FANS has a great redux on last year’s trade with Seattle. Well worth the read. I mentioned last week on Twitter that it is amazing how Ronny Cedeno is the best player to come out of this deal. If any of the three pitchers the Pirates received reaches the majors then it will be an even better trade.

But we can worry about all of that another day. Happy #Pedropalooza everyone!

UPDATE: To make room on the roster for Pedro, Akinori Iwamura was Designated for Assignment. The club has said they hope to trade him in the next 10 days. Good luck with that.

Pedro is batting 6th and playing 3rd base.

Pedro Alvarez news and lineup chaos.

Big news from last night’s post-game show with Rocco DeMaro: GM Neal Huntington confirmed that when Pedro Alvarez is called up he will play third base and Andy LaRoche will go to a bench/utility role. This is not entirely surprising as NH has always said that he didn’t want to devalue Pedro by moving him to another position unless he had to but this is the first confirmation I’ve heard or read.

I fully expect Alvarez to be recalled for the next home stand starting Tuesday.  The everyday lineup should then look like this:

Behold my awesome MS paint skills

Not too bad. One more power hitter at 1B/RF and it would look a lot better. Now given that lineup potential, why would John Russell do this tonight:

McCutchen CF
Walker 3B
Doumit 1B
Jones RF
Church DH
Milledge LF
Iwamura 2B
Cedeno SS
Jaramillo C

No Tabata? Church DHing? Doumit NOT DHing? Iwamura playing? Let’s tackle these individually.

Jose Tabata is a 21 and has been in the bigs for three days. Word from the Pirates (via Rocco) is that Tabata is just getting a day off. He’s played two games! More truthful would be saying “Justin Verlander is starting and we don’t think Jose’s ready to face someone that nasty.”

Ryan Church doesn’t need to be in the game at DH. He had one week last month where he was the only one who was hitting and now JR is in love with him. My guess is that he’s still regaining his strength after a nasty stomach flu and this is JR’s way to get his bat in there while taking it easy on him. But there’s no excuse for that when…

…You have your good bat/no glove catcher playing out of position at first base. If Doumit’s not going to catch he should be DHing. Barring that, Delwyn Young – who is as mobile as a road cone – who be a better choice at DH.

Finally there is Iwamura. I posted about his struggles last month and nothing improved after that. Luckily Walker was promoted and has hit well and been very athletic at second. I expect Aki is in because he’s more familiar with Verlander. Also, Andy LaRoche’s back has been a problem and he hasn’t hit at all lately either.

That’s the end of my lineup rant. If you’re still with me then thanks for reading. For all I know these guys could go hit six homeruns tonight and run away with the game. It isn’t likely but anything is possible in a single game.

The rookies are coming

There was much hype around Stephen Strasburg’s debut last night and he pretty well lived up to it. Of much more interest to me as a Pirates fan are tonight’s debuts of Brad Lincoln and Jose “I’ll break your finger” Tabata. With Tabata in the lineup and the promotion and success of Neil Walker at second I feel that the Pirates are that much closer to fielding a big league caliber lineup every day.

Here’s my stab at what I expect tonight’s lineup to be:

LF Jose Tabata
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Garrett Jones
RF Lastings Milledge
3B Andy LaRoche
C Jason Jaramillo
SS Ronny Cedeno
P Brad Lincoln

No too shabby. When Ryan Doumit is recovered from his concussion he should slot in at #5 moving down Milledge and LaRoche. Some more shuffling will have to happen when Steve Pearce is activated from the DL, but the real fun will start when Pedro Alvarez is called up. Expect major position changes or a trade then.

LINKS: In the meantime, there are tons of articles around the web today that sum up all of the possibilities better than I could.

Bucs Dugout

Bucco Fans

Raise the Jolly Roger

WHYGAVS

North Side Notch

Rocco DeMarro’s Unnamed Blog

Pirates.MLB.com

Baseball Prospectus (may require subscription)

Post-Gazette

Trib Bucco Blog

Hardball Talk

Rotographs

Origin of the term “Tater”

Not all of my friends are into baseball as much as I am. As such, I sometimes find myself explaining strategies, decisions and sometimes just terminology. At Saturday’s GT/Alabama game I was telling my Wonderful Girlfriend about Wezen-ball’s Tater Trot Tracker when just such a question arose:

WG:  “What’s a tater?”

Me:  “A homerun.”

WG:  “Why is a homerun called a tater?”

I’ll admit, I was stumped.

I began my search where all research starts these days: Google. There we get the basic information. Tater is slang for potato, and also for homerun. “Tater People” was also a medieval term for the Norwegian and Swedish Travelers. Wikipedia says the term started in the 1970′s as “long tater.” An Oct 1969 issue of Ebony tributes the term to a young Reggie Jackson. (Its worth scanning down further in the article for a sweet pic of Joe Dimaggio in an A’s uniform. He was Reggie’s hitting coach.) Reggie was quoted in People as saying, “Taters—that’s where the money is.” In 1987 Minor Leaguer Dave Bresnahan peeled a potato to look like a baseball and used it in a game to fool a baserunner. A tater tot is a young prospect who projects to hit for power in the majors. There’s even a line of MLB licensed Mr. Potato Heads. Still no real answer though.

Asked for her novice opinion, the WG responded with the following:

“Nothing about this baseball term makes sense. First, and now that I know it is tater and not potato, I see no connection between a ground grown tuber and a baseball flying out of the park! After this my mind goes to tater tots but this seems to be another dead end. I know my co-workers love tater tots and will often take them instead of fries….huh, calling them fries would make more sense as it could be the result of some early misunderstanding “a high fry ball to center…”
Secondly, a tater is oddly shaped, full of eyes and inconsistent from tater to tater. A baseball is round with stitches and all baseballs have to meet precise requirements for uniformity. Tater tots are all exactly the same.
To this end, I can only conclude that home runs are called taters because, like tater tots, they are good and you’ll always want more.”

Hard to argue with logic like that. But the best link I found was a 2006 SI article by Pete McEntegart. McEntegart references Paul Dickson’s The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary as noting that the “long potato” and “potato” terms may have come from the Negro Leagues. McEntegart credits Boston first baseman George Scott for popularizing the term between 1966 to 1979. However, I think the real answer is in the wording of this article which states “he was mashing homers and calling them taters.” Of course! Mashed potatoes. Taters in their best and most delicious form. I can definitely picture guys standing around the batting cage, saying, “Wow, Joe. You really mashed that one.” “Yep. Just like a tater.”

yummy

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