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Milwaukee vs. Pittsburgh, 3 July 2007

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4:05 PM, FSNP, WPGB (Note the weird start time for this one.) Here's the box. I'll be in the comments.

Chris Capuano (5-5, 4.35) vs. Shane Youman (0-0). Capuano is returning from a stint on the DL with a strained groin. Youman, meanwhile, is returning to the majors for the first time this year, starting in place of the injured Zach Duke. Youman didn't exactly blow away the competition in the International League, putting up a 4.70 ERA in 82.1 innings, but he's back anyway because Tony Armas and B.P. Chacon flopped in the rotation, Bryan Bullington got hurt, and Sean Burnett has been even worse than Youman.

Beyond all that, it's been a bad 24 hours for the Pirates. Not only did Masumi Kuwata get smoked in a 10-3 loss last night, but now Salomon Torres has demanded a trade. This development completely took me by surprise; you kind of have to read the article to understand it.

Basically, Torres says that Dave Littlefield promised to consider renting one of Torres' Dominican baseball academies and, in exchange, Torres agreed to sign a "hometown discount" contract. Then, after Torres agreed to a $6.5 million deal that carried him through 2008, he claims that Littlefield didn't seriously consider renting the academy. Then when Torres complained, he says that the Pirates responded by giving him an artificially long rehab schedule that could keep him out of the majors until the end of this month.

Who knows what's actually happening here, but Torres has a reputation as a good guy. This seems like some pretty shady business by the Pirates - they're taking advantage / 'taking advantage' of a guy who trusted his team and didn't use an agent when negotiating his contract.

The reason that second "taking advantage" is in scare quotes is that the Torres contract wasn't a very good one! Assuming Torres' story is on the level - and I bet it is - Littlefield just lied to Torres in order to get him to take a discounted contract, and then wound up signing Torres to a contract that didn't even really help the team.

Look at what I wrote about the contract at the time. Even though the deal was signed before the 2006 season, 2007 is effectively its first year, because the Pirates already had Torres signed for 2006. So the market value of Torres' contract wasn't really the issue - Torres wasn't on the market at the time. Relievers are notoriously unreliable, and Torres was well into his 30s. The chances at the time that he would be a good player in 2007 and 2008 were relatively small. And look what's happened - the Pirates have received very little for their investment so far, as Torres been ineffective or hurt the entire season. How perfectly Pirates is it to scam a player into signing a deal that isn't even very good for the team?

More bad news for the Bucs: Zach Duke doesn't trust the Pirates' doctors' opinion that there's no ligament damage in his left elbow, and he's getting a second opinion from James Andrews. Ouch. It's hard to not suspect that this is related to the Torres story - it might be yet another tale of Pirates officials bumbling, lying and cutting corners. Obviously, though, we'll know more once Duke gets his diagnosis back from Andrews. Here's hoping the Pirates were right for once. By the way, anyone remember this preseason article (registration required) at Baseball Prospectus, which ranked Duke and the recently-injured Capuano as among the healthiest starters in the game? Just goes to show...

A couple other notes:

-P- Oliver Perez has hit the DL with a sore back. It doesn't sound terribly serious. Perez has a 3.14 ERA this year.

-P- Roger Clemens won his 350th game last night against the Twins.