The Underdogs Arrive: Pittsburgh Pirates Non-Roster Pitchers


In Pittsburgh, we love the underdog.  Today in Bradenton,

a list of underdogs arrive with big dreams….trying to make the roster of the worst team in Major League Baseball.  The whole thing kinda reminds me of a movie.

Starring in the make the Bucs roster movie the next few weeks are the following characters:

Brian Burres

It’s hard to imagine the Pittsburgh Pirates losing more games than they did in 2010.  Without Brian Burres, it would have been easy.  The lefty did some nice work in 2010, including 5 plus scoreless innings against the LA Dodgers, but for the year he was mainly hittable.   Mainly, well….Brian Burres. 

In 2011, it’s hard seeing Burres head North with the club and that’s probably a good thing.

Odds of making the opening day roster:  18-1, heh he’s a lefty

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Sean Gallagher

The Wild Thing of the NRI, it’s pretty simple for Gallagher.  Will he throw strikes?  In 2010 with the Bucs he walked 22 batters and struck out 22 batters.  The guy the Pirates picked up from a talented San Diego pitching staff has the stuff.  He pounds the zone with his 90-93 heat, then cuts off a curve ball for strikeouts.

This winter Gallagher made five starts.  He threw 29 innings, allowed 28 hits and struckout 25 batters.  He also allowed 17 walks and four bombs.

Odds on making the roster: 20-1

Fernando Nieve

Jerry Manuel used the hell out of Nieve in 2010.  In 2010 Nieve appeared in 28 games for the Mets before the month of June, throwing 470 pitches (remember when Evan Meek appeared in 24 games over that time span? Meek threw 477 pitches and we were screaming that his arm was going to fall off?)

Nieve had Tommy John surgery in 2007.  Right now his fromer high 90’s fastball, still sits in the 92-94 range.  The righty has an almost slurvy slider too, but his change needs to be consistent for him to be effective.  His curve could use some work also as it appears to be rather looping.

His winter ball stats got progressively worse, so if he can’t get a pitch to compliment his fastball, the story below will be quite comical.

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Nieve will need a great camp.  He has proven he has the ability to get major league hitters out.  But unless an unforseen injury occurs, Hurdle falls in love, or his heater returns it still won’t be enough.  It still is a nice pickup and Nieve provides the Bucs with a proven short term back up plan.

Odds of making the club:  10-1

Rudy Owens

The stud of the farm system.  Spring Training should provide Pirates fans a quick glimpse at what the lefty can do against big leaguers.

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Odds:  150-1.  Owens needs more time.

Justin Thomas 

He’s lefthanded and was stellar at AAA.  He threw 54 innings and struckout 51 batters.  In Pittsburgh, he struggled in 13 innings allowing 21 hits and nine earned runs.  He walked five and struckout five.

In winter ball he made four starts, nine appearances.  He pitched 19.1 innings giving up 22 hits with ten walks and 14 strikeouts.

Odds:  75-1

Cesar Valdez

He’s right handed.  The return for Zach Duke.  Bad fastball, good changeup.  AAA bound.

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We tracked Valdez during winter ball (the stats doubled strangely after 39 innings–could be error)  so by our last hard count, we had him at 41 innings pitched with 40 hits allowed, 19 earned runs, 24 strikeouts and 13 walks.  The opposition hit .252 off Valdez.

Odds: 80-1

Donnie Veal

Tommy John surgery will limit Veal in Spring Training.  He is a fierce competitor and has been spotted in Bradenton weeks ago working religiously in his rehab.  Keep an eye out for Veal mid-season as Neal Huntington told us the Pirates will be watching Veal very closely.

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I have really been working on my writing skills. I think I suck at it. If you have any advice (thats free) I would love to hear it, but anyway this story is one that people seem to really like and have complimented me on recently…hell, I have wrote thousands of stories, guess I finally got one right! Haha.

The story is short.  It’s about the first time I heard Donnie Veal pitching.

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You didn’t even read it did you?  That’s ok.

Odds:  NA out of Veals’ control

Jose Veras

Veras has a mid 90s heater and sharp breaking curve. He has consistently been able to put up nice strikeout numbers in his professional career, but also has been hittable and generates a high walks/hits/innings pitched ratio (WHIP.)

He finished the year with the Marlins pitching rather well, but the serious lack of control (5 plus walks per nine) will hurt his chances of making the club.  If he does make the roster, he will earn a cool million bucks.   Last year he threw 48 innings with Florida and struck out 54 batters while walking 29.

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It will be interesting to see if Veras can put up solid numbers in Spring Training with his split-finger that is swing miss.

Odds:  8-1

Justin Wilson

We don’t have visual proof, thankfully, but we were told by a high ranking Pirates staff member that Wilson has the biggest balls of the young Pirates pitchers.  He also told us, the kid doesn’t have the best stuff, but he isn’t afraid to throw any pitch at any time.

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With all that, how is he not going to be fun to cheer for in Bradenton?

After being a huge player for the Curve with 142IP-134K, 1.60 GO/AO, and holding the opposition to a .215 average, Wilson was a key part of the EL Championship run.  He then went to the Arizona Fall League.  His final totals in the AFL:  16.1 innings, 19 hits, 16 strikeouts and 8 walks.

It will be really enjoyable watching this big boy hurl against the big leaguers this spring, but we just don’t see the Bucs having him jump AAA.  It wouldn’t make sense.

Odds:  85-1

Tyler Yates

Huge talent.  Big fastball.  Arm trouble has given the 6’4″ Hawaiian more time on the shelf than on the pitchers mound in his career.  2011 could be his final shot at  his dream.

In the article below, we wrote just 200 words, but for some reason over 15,000 people have read this story about Yates, guess the guy has a lot of fans back on the islands.

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It will be fun to watch Yates.  I am pumped to get to Florida to see if he still has the 93-96 heat and that 88-90 slider, but the key for Yates will always be command.  He hasn’t found it yet. Maybe 2011 is the year.

Odds of coming North with the Bucs:  100-1

Bottom line:  Owens and Wilson will get a taste against big league bats.  Seeing how they react will be critical in their development.  We say there isn’t a shot in hell they make the club, having success at each level is simply too important.

For the rest of the non roster invitees, it’s a chance to show their is something left in the tank.

Buckle up.  It’s time to jump on the bandwagon of an underdog.  So who are you taking?

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Here is the updated non-roster invites [please click on it and it magically becomes readable…]