BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 The Fan) – After spending the week at Spring Training at LECOM Park with the Pirates as they ready to attempt to bounce back from an undeniable terrible season, there were a bunch of things that I observed.
With not many job battles on the line, here are five of the notable things I came away with:
+ Gerrit Cole seems different: In a good way, yeah, Cole seems different. He carries himself in a different way, he seems much more relaxed in the clubhouse and appears as if he’s definitely more composed dealing with the media.
Doing media stuff isn’t a chore to him anymore — he actually seems to kind of enjoy it. And, on the mound, even as he’s still at the point he’s working just largely on fastballs, he has been incredibly sharp.
In a game earlier this week against the Dominican national team, he located that fastball against a top-of-the-line batting order and placed his pitches exactly where he wanted them. Coming off a bad year, who knows what will happen with Cole — but if you are asking me, I’d bet on a big bounce back.
+ Some of the Josh Harrison talk is cryptic: At times this Spring, both manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington have mentioned — and pretty much unsolicited — that some guys have better numbers when they bounce around the diamond as opposed to play in the same place each day.
They have also talked about giving Josh Harrison “a little work” at other positions. I don’t know anything for certain, but this seems cryptic. This just feels to me like as the season progresses, we might see Harrison in a bit more of a utility role than expected.
+ This Kang stuff is full of uncertainty: What we do know is that Jung Ho Kang has been cleared by the South Korean government to leave that county. What we also know is that he hasn’t been cleared by the United States government to come back here and work as a result of his third DUI conviction.
When we spoke to Pirates president Frank Coonelly earlier this week, it was obvious there was no clear and defined timeline on this. This is a tenuous situation on the field as the Pirates must move forward with the plan of David Freese being the starting third baseman until they have some kind of news on Kang.
But the most tenuous part of all of this is that I get the feeling even Coonelly truly has absolutely no idea when Kang could be back in the states.
Will it be a few days? A week? A month? Months? It’s all rife with uncertainty. The only certainty is the Pirates have no idea when this will be resolved.
+ The World Baseball Classic is bad for the Pirates: This is a club that is trying to form some continuity with outfielders who are reconfiguring with all three playing new every day positions — and now they are off playing in an exhibition for the better part of a month. How silly.
Even sillier is that Starling Marte banged up his ankle in a game for the Dominican Republic — and keep in mind he’s a guy who ended last season on the disabled list. To me, the WBC is a proposition where the risk greatly outweighs any reward.
Same thing with catcher Francisco Cervelli. I will never understand what glory he can derive from playing in some exhibition tournament for Italy when the Pirates are the team that butters his bread. It will take a bad injury to a star in Major League Baseball during the WBC for all these guys to wise up to the notion that this thing isn’t worth it.
+ The back end of the rotation might not be good enough again: The Pirates needed to strike in free agency stronger — or they needed to make a trade. Yeah, maybe that was the way to go. A trade. They needed to land Jose Quintana from the White Sox, no matter the cost. Because, as it is right now they have Cole, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova and it appears most are excited with those top three.
But, after that?
A mixture of Chad Kuhl, Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault and Drew Hutchison?
Is that enough to catch the Cardinals and Cubs? I don’t know if that’s the case. Seems to be an incredibly uphill proposition. They don’t seem good enough on days four and five.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.