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Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Pittsburgh, 1 June 2007

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UPDATE: Bumped. Check out the post below on the Pirates' change at closer. Here's the box.

7:05 PM, FSNP, WPGB

Randy Wolf (6-3, 3.41) vs. Zach Duke (2-4, 5.55). Zach Duke has been, and I'm sorry to say this, one of the worst full-time starters in the big leagues this year. He's got the third-fewest strikeouts of any pitcher with more than 40 innings, ahead of only Jeremy Sowers and Horacio Ramirez, and he has the seventh-worst ERA of any qualified starter. If the Pirates were a competitive team, he'd probably be on the verge of losing his job. Maybe he can learn something tonight from Wolf, a lefty who doesn't have devastating stuff but has been effective this season.

Here are some links while you wait for the game to start.

-P- The Post-Gazette documents the Pirates' struggles to find a reliable third righty out of the 'pen. From where I sit, the Bucs' approach so far seems to be this:

  1. Call up the best reliever at Indianapolis.
  2. Put him into game situations randomly.
  3. Get mad and send him down when he implodes.
  4. Repeat.
Other than the whole random-reliever-usage thing, I have no qualms about the way the Bucs have handled this problem. A team like the Pirates can't afford to spend much on a third bullpen righty, and they've had a number of arms to try out. But since nothing's working, I have a suggestion: why not tell Tony Armas that he's only going to pitch one inning at a time, tell him to throw accordingly, and see what happens?

Obviously, I don't want Armas pitching in the eighth inning of a tie game. But putting him in a one-inning role could be a move that has some upside. It's not that uncommon for failed starters to suddenly add velocity and become unhittable once they're moved to the bullpen, and many of the best big-league relievers, like Francisco Rodriguez and pre-injury Eric Gagne, are failed starters. And yet Armas has a total of three professional relief appearances.

If you use Armas as a long reliever, the message you're sending is that Armas stinks and you don't know what else to do with him. As a long reliever, he basically has the same responsibilities as a starter, except he doesn't have scheduled starts. He still has  to pitch as many innings as possible so that the bullpen doesn't wear itself out. A one-inning role is completely different - there, he can fire away and not worry about preserving his arm. Why not give it a shot?

-P- The Pirates are psyched to be in second! Yeah man, 23-30, awesome! I'm totally going to take a champagne bath after we win number 63! If we do win 63!

"It was the greatest feeling in the world today watching (the Braves) come back to win that game," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "I've never been in a situation where I've been like that, watching another team that's in our division, and us being in second place, and watching them and being real excited about the fact they lost and we're a game closer.

"I was sitting next to (Shawn) Chacon, and I was like, 'Well, is this what it was like when you were in New York watching Boston?' It's just a really good feeling."

That's just the most pathetic thing I've ever read.

Comedy Central, right?

"I don't think so," Bay said. "I think it's just that's how competitive it is. Before, there were some teams down at the bottom and other teams could come in and get some free wins (against them) and move on."

No, the difference now is that every team except the Brewers is giving up the free wins. It's not just the Pirates anymore.

-P- The Giants have traded struggling reliever Armando Benitez back to the Marlins. The Giants get pitcher Randy Messenger, who isn't going anywhere, and they pay nearly all of Benitez's salary, so this is basically a dump. The Giants win this deal; Benitez just isn't very good anymore. He walks far too many batters. It's sad to see, too - he really was a lights-out reliever for the Orioles and Mets from 1997 to 2002 or so.

-P- Just a funny bit of site news, so feel free to skip this paragraph if you're so inclined, but: over the past three years, Bucs Dugout has received links from the Post-Gazette, Deadspin, Sports Illustrated, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Primer, the Denver Post... and yet Mets Blog posted a link to ILLZ's diary on Oliver Perez earlier today, and it generated more visits in an hour - probably about 140 - than any other link Bucs Dugout has ever gotten. Anyway, there's discussion of that Perez diary here.