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Thursday, October 23 2014 @ 01:07 AM EDT
Minicamp - Day One   
By Jim Sullivan

Though the early morning began a little chilly, by the time practice started it was already up in the low sixties, and anyway the first day of baseball is always bright and shiny in my eyes.

Though there's not a lot to report on during Minicamp, it was an opportunity to renew my friendship with the General Manager. Neal Huntington is good enough to let me pick his brain on occasion, and I was perplexed on the Craig Monroe signing, and the GM's thinking on Steve Pearce.

Neal said they could have sent Pearce to the Dominican Winter League, which is a "fastball league", and Pearce could have put up some impressive numbers, which would would have made him more marketable, but not more productive for the Big League Club.

Instead he opted to send Pearce to the Mexican Winter League, which is known as a "junkball league", to work on Pearce's weakness at the plate. Neal said "after a few games the Mexican pitchers realized Steve Pearce's weakness, and fed him nothing but curve balls and sliders as a steady diet". Consequently, Steve Pearce's performance was very sub-par in Mexico.

The GM said that until Pearce can handle a steady diet of curve balls and sliders at the plate, that he really can't help the big league club.

The general manager also stated that Monroe is a much better defensive corner outfielder than Pearce. Another point that Neal Huntington made, which I was unaware of, was that just a couple years ago, Craig Monroe had sixty XBH in a season. I didn't bring all my stats with me, but BA showed Monroe knocking out thirty XBH in the 2007 season, so either Neal meant the 2006 season, or I just plain misunderstood (a common occurrence for a senior citizen).

Anyways, though Neal Huntington didn't say so in so many words, IMO, Steve Pearce doesn't have a snowball chance of beginning the season with the big league club, until and unless he starts hitting the off-speed pitches.

The other item that I brought up with the GM was another barrier put up between the pitchers bullpen area and the fan's ability to watch them warm up.

Neal said that scenario caused a heated discussion among the coaching staff, but the bottom line is that the coaches wanted the ability to work with pitchers on correcting flaws, without it being in public.

At today's sessions, even though the Pirates this year had installed new mesh screens between the fans and the bullpen area, the club chose to have the pitchers throw behind the second screen, which gave the fans absolutely no opportunity to witness anything.

Maybe the Pirates intent, at some point, is to simply lock the fans out of the practice facilities at Pirate City.

I spent a fair amount of time watching the new pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan, work with six pitchers, including Ian Snell, on one of the diamonds, strictly focusing on "keeping the runners close". There is no doubt that this pitching coach is "hands on" and wants it done his way.

At Minicamp, none of the ballplayers or coaches are in uniform, so it's not always easy to identify the pitchers.

I observed a couple sessions of Batting practice with the coaching staff throwing from 45 feet behind a screen. The only notables were Ryan Doumit, Andrew McCutchen, Brian Bixler and Nyjer Morgan, as minicamp is really intended for the pitching staff.

Though there is not a lot to report on in minicamp, I wanted to at least throw the avid fans a 'lifeline" due to the frigid conditions up North.

I'm not sure I'll continue this tomorrow unless there is something noteworthy.

Jim Sullivan

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