Andrews to resume Duke tinkering, Phelps, & Webkinz

Since Jeff Andrews was anointed the Pirates pitching coach Wednesday, I’ve asked Vegas to consider running a book on how long it will be before the first Pirate arm breaks.

The early odds? 9-2 before the AS break. Now who will it be?

Andrews mentions in a Post-Gazette article he wants to begin his own tinkering parade with Zach Duke.. to be his savior, if you will.

Right.. when Duke can start finding a 94 mph heater to throw under batters chins to go along with his soft stuff away, maybe he’ll turn around his 13.5 H/9, 1.2 HR/9, 3.4 K/9 game.

Last year Duke would pitch from the middle of the rubber one game, the next time out he’d be over to the right side (looking from home plate).

Then he’ll speed up his arm motion one game while mixing in more 4-seamers upstairs, the next game it will be all 2-seamers low and in while slowing down his arm motion.

He’s a classic example of a pitcher who tips nearly every pitch he throws and Andrews can’t do a thing about that except watch him rack up another 5.25+ ERA in 2008, we’re guessing.

Pirate fans are livid Josh Phelps was designated for assignment. Coming over from the AL, Phelps felt pretty comfortable in the box and strung together some positive at bats, especially at PNC where he raked. On the road, well, it was a different story.

Phelps is a utility outfielder which the Pirates currently have McLouth, Morgan, and Pearce to fill the role. Some have argued that Phelps would have been a better keep than McLouth since speedy Duffy and Morgan are both on the roster, but I’m not so sure.

If there is playing time, the younger Pearce should get it until he proves he either can’t hit the ball anymore or he can’t cover the ball playing right field. And if Bay is dealt down the line, McLouth has to step up in left (I shutter as I say that) unless Huntington gets a veteran corner in return or simply gives up worrying about defense.

There just isn’t any at bats for Phelps so he was a logical drop it seems.

The Pirates picked up 34 year old Raul Chavez to fill a catching spot. The question is, where.

The Pirates signed free agent receiver Michel Hernandez last week who is sure to be assigned to Indy so I have to assume Chavez will be the starter there if Cota isn’t returning.

But wait a minute.. did the Pirates sign Brian Peterson again for Altoona or is Steven Lerud or Denny Nino going to be sent there? Neither are ready and Kristopher Watts is right on their tail. And what about Maldanado? Are the Pirates going to resign him? I assume not, unless he’s going back to Altoona.

Now Chavez will run circles around Paulino or Maldando in receiving, game management, and probably even throwing out baserunners with the staff we have in Pittsburgh, so there’s a teeny chance he could break the 25-man as the backup receiver despite no bat. Anybody but Doumit behind the plate would be an upgrade, IMO.

We’ll have to see where this goes. Perhaps Doumit is/will be shopped.. or dropped? Probably not, but..

Torii Hunter signed at 5/90 with the Angels. For a +3.2 win player, that’s a ton of money. Perhaps the value is on getting Gary Matthews Jr now? Ok.. I’ll stop dreaming like a GM from a club wanting to go somewhere.

Scott Linebrink, age 31, signed a 4/19 with the White Sox. Didn’t he have a 1.8 HR/9 at pitching safe haven Petco last year notching a 5.40 xERA over 45 innings? He then had a 4.31 xERA with the Brewers in limited innings. He’s two years removed from reasonable numbers and now headed to pitch at home run city U.S. Cellular Field. He’s going to get mauled for four years. Horrible signing.

Kendall 1/4 by the Brewers? For a -.5 win MLB backup receiver, that’s about right.

Charles Benoit, Blair Johnson, Jamie Romak, Brad Corley and Alexander Presley didn’t impress Baseball America one bit in Hawaii, as none of them broke BA’s top 20 Hawaii prospect list (subscription required).

I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree that Brad Corley didn’t do better with the bat than singles hitter Jonathan Lucroy, although I understand Lucroy has a better upside as a young receiver. Corley deserved to be on the list.

Bucco Blog was a top ten finalist in the 2007 Blogger’s Choice Awards we found out yesterday. Hundreds of sports blogs were submitted by the fans and we were the highest ranked Pirates and sports blog. Thanks to everyone who voted for us!

Speaking of awards, the fine folks at the Bloggy Award are in the process of reviewing our site to see how rank, er, um.. how we rank. We’re pretty limited in design capability with MLBlogs outdated Typepad software platform but we’re hoping they see through all that.

All the rumors not fit to print will start showing up in Bucco Blog’s new discussion forum.

I’m off to camp out at Penny’s with a friend since they have the only complete Webkinz collection AND Bumblebee Transformer’s in town. Ah Christmas.. the things we do for our kids. Oh, for those of you who thought by the title of the post Webkinz might be a new player the Pirates signed, sorry. Instead, it’s one of the hottest new toys for kids.