Neal Huntington Show Lacks Answers
By Tom Smith
The Neal Huntington Show
The Neal Huntington Show took place with Huntington on the telephone line. We heard from a source that he was at the Oakland Athletics game in Cleveland last night. Maybe just enjoying a game close to where Huntington lives, checking on the beauty that is Brandon Moss and other talented players, or perhaps a little bit of each. Greg Brown hosted the show and the resounding take away for me is that Huntington doesn’t have answers.
We learned nothing new and much like the Pirates, it seems the team is just waiting for the return to the mean. Huntington admitted the team isn’t playing well, but he had few answers outside of his frank statements. The team seems to be waiting for home run rates allowed by the pitching staff to even out, waiting for hitters to hit with runners in scoring positions, waiting for the defense to improve, the bullpen to not leave pitches up in the zone, blah, blah, blah. It’s tough times for the Bucs and the answers aren’t coming from the executive suite, they need to come from the players.
The Pirates GM spoke cautiously about closer Jason Grilli and said that the club still wants to see Grilli throw on back-to-back days before making a decision about bringing him off the disabled list. He didn’t comment on possible rehab starts.
Regarding catcher Russell Martin, all Huntington said was that Martin is ‘day-to-day.’
A discussion was held about the Tom Verducci story and roundtable which spoke about Tommy John surgery. A recommendation from Verducci surrounded lowering the pitching mound.
NH talked about youth travel teams etc….. The revelation for the Pirates Sr. VP and GM was that players need to “throw more and pitch less.”
The discussion continued which was a bit frustrating considering the numerous questions Brown could have directed the questioning. Instead of meat, we were given vegetable discussion about Little League fields having manicured mounds. The force that an elevated mound has on an arm. And of course all of the Tommy John talk around the league.
Huntington spoke about the real need is to determine counter to injury factors. But he also said there seems to be a lot of evidence showing injuries to pitchers seem to have been done before players get to the Major League Baseball level.
Huntington said that Tony Sanchez felt discomfort in his arm, played through it against the Yankees. The team did call Nevin Ashley to New York just in case but won’t need to use him. It would have been necessary for the team to get ‘creative’ Huntington said because a 40 man roster move and a 25 man roster move would have needed to happen if Sanchez couldn’t play today.
Brown asked about Ashley being a part of the Pirates future. Huntington said yes he could be and talked about how Ashley has done well with the staff at AAA and also is swinging the bat well for Indianapolis.
Brandon Cumpton was scheduled to pitch today was called up as the 26th man. Huntington mentioned that hopefully the Pirates won’t need him, but of course he would provide length should something happen in the double header against the Ynnkees.
Brown asked the question everyone wants to know–will Brandon Cumpton get a chance to get in the ML rotation?
Huntington said Cumpton has thrown the ball very well. He will be a great option if we have a need. Brandon is certainly in long term plans, and also the short term plans.
Regarding Jeff Locke. Velocity solid. Change up was in play. When’s he aggressive with it, he throws it like a fastball and its a good pitch for him. When he thinks or pauses, it’s not as good. Huntington spoke about the importance of the changeup for Locke.
‘The best change up is thrown like fastball. Its the same delivery and hand speed as the fastball.’ He added that Trevor Hoffman had a change up that looked exactly like his fastball. Huntington added that “Jeff is in our long term plans and like Cumpton, a very good short term option should a need arise.”
Apparently Wandy Rodriguez and Edison Volquez aren’t a big enough need. (Huntington added that the mistake pitches Volquez is throwing are getting hit hard.) Its just a shame that the team feels it necessary to trot out two starters that simply give the Bucs very little opportunity to climb out of the hole they have created for themselves in the NL Central.
Huntington mentioned that the team is near the top of the league in OPS since May but has failed to convert runs. (We call it the epidemic)
Some other filler topics that we had very little interest in and seemed to take time away from discussing more important topics such as right field:
AJ Morris. (We saw him in Altoona and were impressed) Is he beyond helping a big league club?
Morris does things we like a lot. Hes a ground ball machine something like a sixty percent ground ball rate. He won’t throw 95 mph sinker. He has a breaking ball and change up that works. Our scouts and metrics guys identified hjm. We will have to continue to see how he does.
Brown brought up lack of offense from a headline USA Today article. It discussed the lack of offense in MLB and the numerous shifts teams are utilizing. Brown asked the Pirates GM if offenses will counter punch?
Huntington added that there a number of factors in the reduced offense in MLB. Part of it is shifts, but no question, offense has regressed. There are a series of great young arms. Specialized bullpens that have two plus pitches. Starters can be more aggressive knowing they wont be asked to go nine innings….. Take steroids or minimize HGH. No ampethatmines. There are a number of reasons. Offenses will have to figure out how to score. Is it small ball? We always talk about pick in up free 90. Do we get back to just trying to be good hitters rather than to just launch? There will be a counter, but will it be in the short term or moderate term? We have to work to stay ahead of it.