Freddy Sanchez went 6-for-6 with a homer and a double in a rollercoaster win against the slumping Cubs on Monday, and Andy LaRoche and Jason Jaramillo both added three hits apiece. Matt Capps left the game after being struck by a line drive, however, and Sean Burnett got the save.
With Capps presumably on the shelf, the closer duties might go to... Jesse Chavez? Evan Meek might be the Pirates' closer at some point in the future, but right now his walk totals are awful. Chavez has been the Bucs' best reliever so far this year, and he has good stuff. If Capps misses a substantial amount of time and the PIrates actually pick a closer (and I'm not sure they will), Chavez probably should get the first shot at the job.
A few other notes:
-P- Virgil Vasquez had a great start for Indianapolis against Gwinnett County today, with six strikeouts, one run and no walks and six innings. His overall numbers are now downright decent, with 42 strikeouts against only six walks so far. Unfortunately, he has allowed a ton of homers, and he'd probably get lit up like a Christmas tree if he were called up.
-P- Vasquez was pitching against Todd Redmond, who pretty much is Vasquez but three years younger. Redmond has solid control, but he's posting a 4.98 ERA against AAA hitters so far because he's allowed a bunch of homers. He's a pretty extreme flyball pitcher, so I think it's pretty likely that he ends up stuck at AAA for a few years, gets pretty good at pitching there, and then never really makes the leap to pitching successfully in the majors. I wasn't a big fan of the Tyler Yates trade, but I'm not sure losing Redmond will turn out to be a big deal.
-P- Robbie Grossman went 0-for-2 with four walks today for West Virginia against Class A Lake County. Grossman has had trouble making contact so far this year, with 54 strikeouts in 141 at bats, but at least the walks are there. He has a .388 OBP so far. Those are extremely interesting numbers for a 19-year-old, but I wonder if he'll have to make adjustments at higher levels, maybe by being a little more aggressive and looking for good pitches to hit earlier in the count. Anyway, Rudy Owens also played well for West Virginia today, striking out eight batters in five innings.
-P- Ronald Belisario gets a mention in some very preliminary Rookie of the Year talk (!!!). Belisario, you'll recall, was placed on the Pirates' 40-man roster in late 2007, which raised a number of eyebrows--Belisario had spent the previous season just keeping his head above water at Lynchburg and Altoona, and he was about 25. He was supposed to have good stuff, but that's true of tons of minor league relievers who never make it. Then in 2008, he pitched at Altoona again and didn't do any better, so the Pirates removed him from the roster after the season. Then the Dodgers picked him up, and--poof!--he became a good major league reliever, striking out 25 batters in 25.2 innings and posting a 2.45 ERA. I'd love to know what happened--Belisario credits the improvement to using his two-seam fastball inside against lefties, but he's actually been mediocre against lefties and downright lethal against righties so far.
This gets me to thinking. What's happening with Belisario--he's pitching very well in the majors despite no history of pitching well in the high minors--is pretty unusual. But until recently, the guy in the Pirates' system whose career most closely paralleled Belisario's was probably that of Romulo Sanchez, who was recently shipped to the Yankees. Both are hard-throwing righties who were developed by other organizations (the Marlins in Belisario's case, the Dodgers in Sanchez's), then added to the Pirates' 40-man roster even though nobody knew why. Both have histories of attitude issues. The Pirates dumped both of them after further frustrating minor league performances. I think the possibility that Sanchez will continue to follow Belisario's career path is an incredibly unlikely one, but he's worth keeping an eye on.