Bucs’ bats still cold; tough pitching awaits in LA

The Pirates head out to the west coast this weekend, carrying a 1-2 record. They’ve hit just .144 (13 for 90) as a team with six runs scored, and have yet to put a ball over the fence. Andrew McCutchen leads the team with a .300 batting average, while Russell Martin, Jose Tabata, and Travis Snider are a combined 0 for 16 to start the season. It won’t get any easier for the Bucs, as they’ll face some of the Dodgers’ top pitchers this weekend. Here’s a look…

Zack Greinke

On Friday night, Zack Greinke will make his Dodgers debut. The 29 year old right-hander admitted that he went to the Dodgers for the money:

[quote_center]”I could play for the worst team if they paid the most. If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go for the $200 million no matter what team it was.”[/quote_center]

Greinke was arguably the top free agent on the market this winter. His signing with Los Angeles easily increased their payroll and chances of winning. He can throw six different pitches (fastball, sinker, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup), and is 4-1 in his career vs. Pittsburgh. The Bucs cracked Greinke for six runs (five earned) on seven hits in Milwaukee last season.

Jonathan Sanchez will face off against Greinke and make his Pirates debut. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against Matt Kemp & Co.

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Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw, two-time All-Star and 2011 Cy Young Award winner, gets the nod for LA on Saturday. Kershaw’s performance on Opening Day was unbelievable; not only did he throw a complete game shut-out against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, he also hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning.

Nearly unhittable when he’s on, Kershaw is arguably the top left-handed pitcher in the game today. Plus, he’s only 25 years old (born March 19, 1988); to put that in perspective, he’s only seven months older than Starling Marte and a year and a half younger than Andrew McCutchen. Despite his young age, he’s appeared in 152 big league games and holds a 2.77 career ERA. Kershaw needs to pitch just 47 more innings to reach 1,000 in his career.

A.J. Burnett will go on Saturday, as he’ll be pitching on regular rest. Hopefully A.J. brings his “A” game to match up with Kershaw.

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Hyun-Jin Ryu

LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, who made his MLB debut on Tuesday night, gets the ball on Sunday. He allowed three runs (one earned) on 10 hits vs. San Francisco, escaping trouble with a trio of double plays. The 26 year old southpaw hails from Incheon, South Korea and received a six-year, $36 million deal to pitch for Los Angeles.

Jeff Locke, the youngest pitcher in the starting rotation, will start for the Pirates. He posted a 2.63 ERA and surrendered just one home run in 27.1 innings this spring; hopefully he can carry that performance over into the regular season.

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After their off-day on Thursday, the Dodger bullpen should be well-rested for this series as well. The Bucs got nice outings from the first three starters of the year, although Burnett is the only one who will pitch in Los Angeles.

Starting Friday, the Buccos will face clubs that finished .500 or better in their next 29 games.

Here’s to hoping the Pirates’ offense can explode and win a few ballgames in LA.

Go Bucs

Greinke Signs with LAD; Dominoes to Fall?

The Pirates are in dire need of a starting pitcher. In fact, the depth chart on the team website only lists four pitchers in the starting rotation. Those hurlers are A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, and Jeff Locke. Burnett and Rodriguez are the leaders of the staff; two reliable veterans who should bring a lot to the table. McDonald, despite his tremendous first half, was demoted to the bullpen down the stretch; who knows which J-Mac we’ll see in 2013. Jeff Locke hasn’t done much to prove he’s worthy of a starting spot; he’s just 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 12 career MLB games.

It was reported Saturday night that Zack Greinke would be signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who apparently have an unlimited supply of cash. The deal is reportedly worth $147 million over six seasons, which would make him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher ever. Greinke, 29, entered the offseason as the most prized pitcher on the free agent market. Typically, players wait until the top free agent inks a deal before deciding where to sign, hence why there weren’t many big moves at the Winter Meetings.

With Greinke off the market, is it time for the dominoes to fall?

Here’s a look at some of the remaining free agent starters:

Anibal Sanchez – Out of price range; Dodgers interested in him, too.

Edwin Jackson – #EJaxToBucs failed last year; worthy of a second attempt?

Ryan Dempster – Mitch Williams suggested he’d be a fit for the Bucco rotation.

Kyle Lohse – Beyond the Box Score makes a case not to sign him.

Shaun Marcum – Seems like a decent add; drawing plenty of interest from other teams.

Francisco Liriano – His name has popped up multiple times as a fit for the Pirates.

Joe Saunders – Orioles still looking to re-sign the veteran southpaw.

Kevin Correia – Doubtful that Correia and/or the Bucs want a deal.

Carl Pavano – Wouldn’t be surprised to see NH take a flyer on him.

Jeff Karstens – Should not have been non-tendered by the Pirates; unlikely to return.

Mike Pelfrey – Non-tendered by Mets; appeared in just three games in 2012 (elbow).

Jair Jurrjens – Braves non-tendered him; 2011 All-Star said to have a dead arm.

Manny Parra – Non-tendered by Brewers; no thanks.

Tom Gorzelanny – Ex-Buc non-tendered by Nats; possible long-reliever/mop-up man.

John Lannan – Another Washington non-tender; no space for him in Nats rotation.

Who knows which route Neal Huntington will take. Keep in mind that a starting pitcher could be acquired via trade – closer Joel Hanrahan may be on the move (especially if Jason Grilli re-signs in Pittsburgh).

The starting rotation let the team down at the end of both 2011 and 2012, so it’s important to bolster the staff. There is a bit of help on the way (see: Cole, Gerrit) but that won’t be until mid-season at the earliest. The rotation is up in the air at the moment, but hopefully that changes in the coming weeks with some acquisitions.

Go Bucs