Now that we are a solid two weeks into the season, let’s take a gander at how some of our ex-Buccos are performing in their new baseball homes.
C/OF Ryan Doumit signed a one-year $3 million contract with the Minnesota Twins to be the primary back-up to catcher Joe Mauer and fill-in at 1B and RF. After a 4-8 start to the season, the Twins are toiling 5.0 games back in the A.L. Central and Doumit has played in eight games, five at catcher and three in right field. He is carrying a .219/.242/.219 line with no extra-base hits and one RBI, striking out eight times in 32 at-bats. The Twins are being careful about how they handle Doumit, as he is the only back-up on the roster for the injury-prone Mauer. Speedy outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere create a significant defensive advantage in the cavernous Target Field outfield, and former first baseman Justin Morneau is the primary DH due to doctor concerns over his ability to play the field. This greatly limits at-bats for Doumit, who has never had more than 431 plate appearances in any of his seven major league seasons.
Former Pirates SS Ronny Cedeno is also being used sparingly in his first season with the New York Mets (one-year, $1.25m). Cedeno has seen time at second base, shortstop, and also at third base in the absence of David Wright last week. He has hit .250/.438/.333 in 12 at-bats and has been used primarily as a defensive replacement. With SS Ruben Tejada and 2B Daniel Murphy getting most of the playing time in the middle of the diamond, Cedeno may have to tap into the super-utility role to get more than 300 at-bats in 2012. The Mets have been been a pleasant surprise thus far, at 7-5 and in second place behind the Washington Nationals in what shapes up to be a competitive N.L. East.
1B Lyle Overbay is hitting .222/.300/.500 in 18 at-bats for the Arizona Diamondbacks. As the backup to 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Overbay could see playing time against tough right-handers and could contribute solid power numbers in Chase Field. Overbay – who stroked 52 doubles with Milwaukee in 2004 – is a perfect fit for the wide open right-centerfield gap in the D-Backs stadium. He hit just .227 in 352 at-bats with the Bucs prior to being released in 2011.
OF Matt Diaz was signed to a two-year $4.25 million contract by the Pirates prior to 2011 and expected to provide some pop off the bench after 20 homers in just under 600 at-bats for the Atlanta Braves in 2009-2010. He failed to hit any longballs for the Bucs, and was traded back to Atlanta on August 31 last season. Back in his comfort zone with the Braves, Diaz already has one homerun and has drove in four runs as the forth outfielder. He is carrying a .278/.364/.500 line thus far in nine games.
OF Ryan Ludwick was one of the Pirates big trade deadline acquisitions last season, toiling to the finish line for the Bucs. Signed to a one-year $2.5 million deal with Cincinnati this winter, Ludwick has paid dividends for the Reds, leading them in RBI with nine through 10 games in 2012. He has for the time being earned the starting left field job over Chris Heisey and seems to have regained the power stroke he had with St. Louis during his 2007-2010 run with the Cardinals. Ludwick gave the Pirates a .232 average in 112 expensive at-bats after being acquired from the San Diego Padres last July 31.
Although he is now three years removed from his time in Pittsburgh, it is interesting to note that 1B Adam LaRoche – a notorious slow starter – has been a key cog in the 10-3 start for the surprising Washington Nationals in 2012. Through 13 games as the starting first baseman, LaRoche is hitting .314 and has drove in a team-leading 13 RBI in 51 at-bats. While his Pirates career never materialized as the team expected, LaRoche is a hard guy to cheer against. Seeing him get off to such a great start makes us all wonder what he could have accomplished had he put together a full season in Pittsburgh.
SP Paul Maholm spent his first seven major league seasons with the Pirates, accumulating 53 wins for some horrendous teams. Signed by the Chicago Cubs to a one-year $4.25 million contract in the offseason, Maholm has not had a great start to his Wrigley career. In two starts for the Cubs, he has a 13.50 ERA and has been tagged for the loss in both games. Maholm has started against the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals thus far, two of the better hitting teams in the National League, so it may just be a case of bad timing for the southpaw. Playing for the rebuilding Cubs and on a one-year deal, Maholm could be a prime trade deadline candidate for pitching hungry contenders. Similar to LaRoche, Bucs fans may find it hard to root against Maholm, who dedicated significant time to charity programs and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his time in Pittsburgh. Is there any doubt he will save his best game of the season for the first time he faces off against the Bucs?
Although certifiably nuts, RP Jose Veras gave the Pirates a solid season out of the bullpen in 2011. Traded to the Brewers for Casey McGehee this past December, Veras has inherited the setup role to closer John Axford with Milwaukee. In five games thus far, he has a 2.08 ERA and has averaged a strike out per inning. The Brewers are off to a slow start after their best season in the National League in 2011, but a Veras/Axford back of the bullpen could have some dominant moments this summer.
There are numerous ex-Pirates scattered throughout the minor leagues after spending spring training with their new clubs. Players such as INF Brandon Wood (Colorado), INF Steve Pearce (Yankees by way of the Twins), SS Pedro Ciriaco (Boston), C Jason Jaramillo (Milwaukee by way of the Cubs), and OF Xavier Paul (Washington) are all starting their 2012 seasons at AAA. Former OF John Bowker has found a home with the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball League after being released by the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason.
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