-P- The Pirates have demoted Jason Jaramillo and Justin Thomas to Indianapolis. Thomas's roster spot will probably go to Zach Duke, who should soon return from his rehab assignment. I can't imagine the Pirates will go without a second catcher behind Ryan Doumit, given how awful Doumit has been behind the plate, so I'm guessing the Jaramillo demotion is an excuse to call up Erik Kratz, who hit well in Indianapolis last year and has been downright excellent this year, hitting .296/.394/.554. At 30, Kratz obviously isn't a high-upside player, but there's no reason he can't be a good backup for the next few years.
-P- The Bucs headed into the All-Star break with yet another loss today, this one with Octavio Dotel blowing another save. You've probably seen this article by Dejan Kovacevic about the Pirates' first-half bests and worsts. I'm not really sure what the graphic is about, but I assume he had little to do with that, and the article is good.
I go through phases in most years that I suspect are pretty common. In April, I'm watching almost every game really intensely, and I worry about John Russell's tactical decisions and these sorts of things. By the time the draft rolls around, I'm still watching, but I'm not sweating the details of the games themselves nearly as much - it doesn't really seem helpful to do so. And so, while it annoys me to see Ryan Church's name in the lineup nine times a week, I'm probably more inclined to shrug my shoulders than to get all upset about it (even though it is, in fact, senseless, and even if Neal Huntington's explanation today about potentially retaining Church next year just makes things worse). For a team in the Pirates' position, your vision will probably be skewed if you look too carefully at the day-to-day results. The biggest stories this year have been the draft and the development of prospects.
Unfortunately, even those stories haven't come out well. The draft has a chance to be terrific if the Pirates sign their first two picks and a few others, but the news out of the minors has mostly been miserable, with one injury after another. There have been good stories, like the emergences of Bryan Morris and Neil Walker as players who can really help them, but, Tony Sanchez, Starling Marte, Quinton Miller, Victor Black, Brock Holt, Brett Lorin... the list of players who've been on the minor league DL has been enormous.
There's also the fact that the major league performance, while not nearly as important as most people probably think it is, does count for something. Not the record, which we knew was going to be bad, but the failures of Charlie Morton, Andy LaRoche and Jeff Clement to turn into real major leaguers. While these guys were unlikely to be star performers on the next good Pirates team, leaps forward really would have helped a lot, both now and in the future. Kovacevic's choice of Jeff Karstens as the Pirates' most valuable player is telling, not so much in that he's been the best player (and Kovacevic isn't arguing that anyway), but because, if the year had gone well, the Bucs wouldn't really have needed a no-upside guy like Karstens in the first place. The Pirates' front office actually has acquired several guys (Evan Meek, Ross Ohlendorf, Garrett Jones and Joel Hanrahan) through big-league transactions who have already contributed in the majors, and many fans had unreasonable expectations for the Pirates' trades to begin with, but obviously, as a group the Pirates' big-leaguers have been disappointing.
-P- John Perrotto at Baseball Prospectus writes (subscriber only) that he's heard the Pirates could deal Octavio Dotel to the Marlins straight up for Leo Nunez. I don't really know why the Marlins would do that, since Nunez is a decade younger and arguably might be better than Dotel anyway. It would be an interesting trade, though - Nunez, you'll recall, was once a Pirates prospect, but Dave Littlefield dealt him for a week's worth of Benito Santiago. Given that the Pirates effectively swapped out Matt Capps for Dotel, I guess going from Capps to Nunez would be a step forward - Nunez has an extra year of arbitration eligibility.
-P- Not Pirates-related, but: Jeff Bagwell has been named the Astros' new hitting coach, reminding us that, while the Bucs may be a disaster, at least we have Houston. Whenever the Astros have a problem, their solution is to call on a veteran. The hold Bagwell and Craig Biggio have had over the franchise is intense - remember Biggio's embarrassing 3,000-hit legacy tour at the end of his career, when he couldn't play anymore? Maybe Bagwell turns out to be a great coach - maybe Tommy Manzella starts doing the wide-legged Bagwell crouch stance until his thighs look like tree trunks, and suddenly starts hitting 30 homers a year - but I highly doubt it. This looks like a typical Astros decision - shortsighted and profoundly dull-minded. I'm sure the talk radio crowd will love it.