In 19 Days…

Michael McKenry (19) days until Opening Day.

The Fort, who was number 55 until new catcher Russell Martin joined the team, will be back with the Bucs as backup catcher in 2013.

Two questions about number 19…

1. How much will he play? Entering the offseason, one option was to give McKenry the starting job with Tony Sanchez backing him up. However, the club pursued and signed Russell Martin, so he’ll be seeing the bulk of playing time behind the dish. That being said, how much will McKenry play? We expect the $17 million Martin to catch some of the Bucs’ big guns, especially A.J. Burnett. Martin should be catching plenty, but McKenry will still have some opportunities.

2. Can he build off his offensive improvements? McKenry, now 28, was an extremely light-hitting catcher when the Pirates acquired him in June of 2011. He hit just .222 with two home runs in the final months of the ’11 season, but worked hard last offseason to improve his bat. It paid off for the scrappy backstop, as he increased his batting average by 11 points and belted 12 home runs in 88 games. He hit .405 with a 1.266 OPS in 11 games between June 24th and July 7th, including a seven-game hitting streak. While he’s still a light-hitter, he’s suitable for the backup role. McKenry will have to make the most of his opportunities in 2013, so it’ll be interesting if he can provide a decent bat off the bench.

Go Bucs

Pirates Playback 2/4/13

Tonight will be the fifth installment of Pirates Playback. The weekly series highlighting classic Bucco games of yesteryear is flying by, and it’ll be halfway over after tonight’s episode.

The game featured will be from May 8th, when Rod Barajas hit a dramatic walk-off homer to beat the Nationals, 5-4. It was easily one of the best games of the year; here’s what we said in our recap:

[quote_center]A great start by Burnett was capped off by an unlikely (but much appreciated) walk-off blast from Barajas… Maybe this will be the push that Barajas needs to pick up his offense and the Bucs need to start stringing some wins together.[/quote_center]

The “Zoltan” shenanigans really took off after this ballgame, as the team awaited Rod at home plate with a sea of Z’s.

56 days until Opening Day.

Go Bucs

Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Pirates acquire three; Russell Martin on radar?

Neal Huntington and his staff shuffled the roster a bit today by acquiring three players.

First, they picked up RHP Zach Stewart from the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later. Stewart, 26, has a career 6.82 ERA in 33 games.

Next, the Bucs got 1B Clint Robinson and RHP Vin Mazzaro from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Luis Rico and Luis Santos (both minor league pitchers). Robinson, who will turn 28 in February, hit .292 with 13 HR last season for Triple-A Omaha. He’s been blocked in the Royals’ system, mostly by young first baseman Eric Hosmer. Robinson seems to be a decent pickup; his name was brought into discussion last spring when the Bucs lacked offense. The 26 year old Mazzaro had a 5.73 ERA in 44 innings last year for KC. He pitched against the Pirates on June 9th, lasting just three innings and surrendering four runs.

To clear room on the 40 man roster, they designated “The Hit Collector” Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro for assignment.

Rob Biertempfel of the Trib brought up some good points about these pickups. He writes, “Pirates today made two trades that could figure into plans for who is tendered/non-tendered Friday… Vin Mazzaro could be either back-end starter or long reliever, just like arbitration-eligible Jeff Karstens. Clint Robinson makes it 3’s a crowd at first base with arbitration-eligible Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez.” It’ll be interesting to see how the Bucs handle this. Both Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez should betendered contracts, but you never know. If Jones and Sanchez are on the Opening Day roster, Clint Robinson would most likely be replacing Matt Hague and Jeff Clement as the first baseman at Indianapolis.

In other news, it looks like the club is aggressively pursuing catcher Russell Martin. Jon Heyman wrote that the Bucs are trying to pry him away from the Yankees. Heyman says that the Pirates may be offering around 3 years/$25 million. Many of the people who have weighed in on the situation are not too excited about this deal. Martin hit just .211 last season and his power numbers will most likely decline at PNC Park. Is he an upgrade over Rod Barajas? Yes. Is he worth the money he’s asking for? Probably not.

Biertempfel had this to say – “There’s a sense among some in industry that Pirates will overpay if necessary for a FA this year. Will it be C Russell Martin? Management must show it’s serious about avoiding another second-half breakdown. And the club desperately needs a catcher.”

Ken Rosenthal with a few thoughts:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/273892378060926976]

[tweet https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/273892380908863488]

[tweet https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/273894393163964416]

Go Bucs