Wednesday, March 25, 2009

3/5 of Pirates' rotation having stellar spring

One huge bright spot this spring has been the outings from three of the Pirates' starting pitchers. The first and obvious one being Paul Maholm, who was basically tabbed as the ace and opening day starter in September. Secondly, the play of Zach Duke has been extraordinary this spring which solidifies his spot as the #3 pitcher in the rotation. And lastly, the biggest surprise and one of the best signs of the spring has been the pitching of Ross Ohlendorf.

Paul Maholm emerged last year as the ace of the Pirates' staff. He went 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA, which was easily the best season out of any of the starters last year. He's looking to build on that and if his performance this spring is a preview of what is to come, then there is a lot to be excited about. Maholm has started 5 games this spring and is 2-0 with a 0.46 ERA in 19.2 innings. What's equally impressive is the fact he has only one walk compared to 12 strikeouts. I was in attendance in Maholm's last start against Cincinnati (where I took that picture) in which he threw 6 shutout innings and it looked like he was simply having his way with them. Hopefully, this bodes well on improving from his good 2008 performance.

Zach Duke is coming into this season after a dissapointing 2008 where he posted a 5-14 record. I don't know if we'll ever see the Zach Duke of 2005 again where he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA, but if this spring is any indication of the year to come, well, you never know. In 6 games this spring, Duke is 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings. Duke's given up 3 long balls in those 19.2 innings but he has still been able to minimize the damage by not allowing too many baserunners (18). In order for the Pirates to have a chance of competing this year, Duke must pitch well. Hopefully this spring will springboard him into a good year.

Last is Ross Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf was acquired last year in the Nady/Marte deal from the Yankees and was 0-3 with a 6.02 ERA in 5 starts with the Bucs. He was a candidate for a starting spot this year, due to his high upsie. He was chosen by Baseball America as the Yankees' 8th best prospect prior to 2008. He's 26 years old and does not yet have a full season of ML experience under his belt. This spring, however, he has taken advantage of one of those vacant spots in the rotation and he has locked up his spot to start the year. After throwing 6 scoreless innings tomorrow he is now 1-0 with a 0.59 ERA in 4 games and 15.1 innings. He has 10 strikeouts and has yet to walk a batter. That ratio is definitely better than his 13/12 K/BB ratio from last season in his 5 starts with the Bucs. Ohlendorf performing at a high level this year would be a huge bonus for this club and would definitely make the trade last summer a huge success.
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