Since spring training will never #($&@%!! get here, below are a couple news items about the Pirates:
Ron Cook notes that Ray Searage is in the final year of his contract. Cook adds, with considerable justification:
Every pitching move the Pirates made in the offseason had Searage’s name attached to it. The trade for Jon Niese? "Ray will make him better." The purchase of Kyle Lobstein? "Ray will make him better." The free-agent signings of Ryan Vogelsong, Neftali Feliz and Juan Nicasio? "Ray will make ’em all better."
It's obviously a scary topic, but a good read. Searage clearly has a very positive attitude and doesn't mind whatever pressure his role brings him. The prospect of a bidding war developing for his services isn't a pleasant one, but Searage says he wants to stay in Pittsburgh and the Pirates can forestall any competition for his services by reaching agreement on an extension before his contract expires after the playoffs.
Elsewhere, Travis Sawchik writes that Josh Bell remains the Pirates' anticipated long-term answer at first. Sawchik notes John Jaso's acquisition as well as the fact that 44 players have seen time at first for the Bucs since 2004. He also notes the issues that Bell still has, specifically the need to produce power, hit left-handed pitching and improve his glovework. It's interesting to speculate about Bell forcing his way onto the major league team, with Jaso possibly filling some sort of super-utility role. That would mean a huge upgrade to a bench that currently figures to get little or no offense from Sean Rodriguez, Chris Stewart and possibly Pedro Florimon.