With less than three days left until the start of the 2008 Pittsburgh Pirate season, Neal Huntington and John Russell officially cut Sean Burnett to narrow the roster to its final 25 guys. With that, I will begin a 3-part series running down the Pirates 25-man rotation.
The Everyday Guys:
1. Nate Mclouth-CF- He beat Nyjer Morgan for the center fielders job, and will give the Pirates the lead off guy that they need. He has the ability to get on base almost every at bat and he is able to steal. While he does not hit for power, his base running smarts make up for it.
2. Freddy Sanchez-2B- It is still up in the air if he will start Opening Day because of the discomfort in his shoulder, but it will be no surprise that once he is healthy he will have an impact. Like Mclouth, he does not hit for power, but his well placed bloopers and his ability to hit the opposite way will allow him to reach base often. Also, last year he showed that he is a solid defensive 2nd baseman, coming in 2nd for the NL Gold Glove Award. Maybe this is the year he takes another step, and adds a trophy next to that batting title.
3. Jason Bay-LF- Anything will be better than last year. Maybe with a healthy knee, he will make more of an effort defensively, especially in the large PNC Park left field.
4. Adam LaRoche-1B- Ready to not get off to the incredibly slow start he did last year, LaRoche will finally make the impact that was expected of him last year. With one season in Pittsburgh under the belt, get ready for him to make a splash.
5. Xavier Nady -RF- After and injury filled 2007, a healthy Nady will continue to do what he does best. Hit consistently. Out of every player on last year’s squad, Nady is the only one that was consistent every time he came up to the plate. Bad groin, concussion and all. If he stays healthy, don't be surprised to see his stock rise, and trade talks continue through the deadline.
6. Ronnie Paulino-C- After a dismal 2007, Paulino is also ready for a new start. With any luck, all of the work he did with this spring will improve not only his offensive skills, but his defensive skills as well.
7. Jose Bautista-3B- A solid third basemen, Bautista showed that third base is where he belongs. He field well, and he hits well. However he is a streaky hitter. If he can start to hot consistently and play like he did for his championship team in winter ball, don't be surprised if he is a major threat to other teams.
8. Jack Wilson-SS- 8th is where he likes to be. With Wilson in the eighth spot in the line up, it is possible that more runs will be scored. Usually consistent, and always a reliable short stop, Wilson is aging. So don't be surprised if you find him somewhere else at the end of July.
1. Ryan Doumit-C, RF- After dropping 15 pounds this off-season, Doumit came back ready to prove that he should be starting. Well, he's not, but that might not take long. He gave Paulino a run for his money, and could take the starting catchers job is Paulino fails. Doumit can hit for power, and also makes some decent plays out in right.
2. Doug Mientkiewicz-1B, 3B, RF, LF- So determined to make the squad, Mientkiewicz moved back into the outfield to make himself a more versatile player. He also brings a personality that the Pirates have not seen in a long time. He also knows what is like to win, winning a World Series ring with Boston in 2004. This could help the club stop losing if they hang around a winner.
3. Chris Gomez-1B, 2B, 3B, SS- The only free agent signing this off-season, Gomez was a lock to make the team. Not really much of a hitter, he is proven defensively and will make a great pick when someone on the infield needs a rest.
4. Nyjer Morgan-CF, LF, RF- After a spring long battle, he lost out to McClouth. However, he was rewarded a spot on the bench. Morgan brings speed and offensive pinch hitting ability. Much like McClouth did last year.
5. Luis Rivas-SS, 2B- He really made the team due to the concern of Sanchez's shoulder. However, Rivas is a veteran guy, played with the Twins, and can help the team coming off the bench. Overall, the every day and bench players weren’t much of a surprise.Tomorrow in Part 2, I will take a look at Ian Snell and the rest of the starting rotation.