Pirates sharing their own all-star memories

| Friday, July 8, 2011

Joel Hanrahan didn't watch a lot of All-Star games as a kid.

He was more concerned with being outside playing baseball than inside watching it.

When he was in front of a TV during All-Star week, the Pirates' closer simply couldn't get excited about the home run derby.

"Everyone wanted to see all the homers, and I just didn't really want to watch it," said the Pirates' right-hander, who takes a perfect record in save opportunities (25 for 25) into this weekend's final series before the break.

As the Pirates' lone All-Star, Hanrahan won't have much choice but to watch the festivities this year, even if it does present him with a bit of a dilemma.

"I was actually looking at the list thinking, 'Who am I going to cheer for in the home run derby?' " Hanrahan said. "Brewer ... Brewer ... Cardinal ... I can't cheer for any of them. Fortunately I played with (the Dodgers') Matt Kemp before, so he's going to be my horse."

Much as Hanrahan, even as a kid, was disinclined to ooh and aah watching hitters blast the ball out of the park, his teammates often couldn't wait for the derby.

"I loved watching the home run derby. I loved watching those guys just hit the ball so far," right fielder Garrett Jones said. "The game• I would watch some of the game. But I loved watching the home run derby as a kid."

However, it was a recent derby — Josh Hamilton's performance in 2008, when he set a record with 28 home runs in the opening round — that most stands out in Jones' and catcher Michael McKenry's memories.

"The show he put on in New York and how far he was hitting the ball compared to everyone else, it was incredible," Jones said.

"I read his book right before that, and then watching him do that was just remarkable," McKenry said. "Hearing the whole story about turning his life around, then going out there and, what was it, 28 homers• I was just in awe the whole time."

— Karen Price

Rob Biertempfel's column

Eventually, the starting rotation will show signs of wear and tear. How the pitchers and management respond probably will determine the team's chase for a pennant in the season's final weeks.

All five starters are on track to set career highs for innings pitched. The biggest jump would come from James McDonald, who's on pace to finish with 171 innings — his previous high of 142 was set in 2006 when he was in Class A.

Kevin Correia could go 12 innings over his high of 198 innings in 2009. Charlie Morton is tracking to toss 174 innings, six more than his high from 2009.

Morton already has skipped a start to give him extra rest. McDonald, and even Correia, could be candidates for the same treatment in the second half of the season.

Even veteran Paul Maholm, who's trending for 212 innings, would eclipse his high from 2007.

Jeff Karstens is on pace to pitch 210 innings, nine more than he threw in Double-A in 2005. Two days ago, Karstens limped around the clubhouse, favoring a badly bruised and swollen knee that a week earlier was struck by a line drive.

General manager Neal Huntington said he doesn't expect Karstens to go on the disabled list. But Huntington also indicated the rotation will be reshuffled for the second half of the season with righty Brad Lincoln on stand-by at Triple-A if — or when — an injury pops up.

"We've got a couple guys we maybe want to get some extra rest," Huntington said. "We have five guys in our rotation who've done a good job so far, and those are the five guys in our picture right now."

MINOR-LEAGUE SPOTLIGHT: West Virginia pitcher Jameson Taillon

Twelve starts into his professional career, Jameson Taillon is developing as well as the Pirates hoped he would with Low-A West Virginia.

"The first full season is often times the most difficult," general manager Neal Huntington said of the right-hander, who was the organization's top prospect heading into this season. "That said, Jameson is getting acclimated well and is making quality adjustments. He has shown good stuff while performing and developing."

Taillon is 2-1 with a 2.74 ERA and has allowed just six walks while striking out 47 in 49.1 innings, earning a spot in the South Atlantic League All-Star team. He has given up 18 runs, 15 earned, and four home runs.

As to a possible promotion to High-A before the season is over, Huntington remained noncommittal.

"He continues to progress, but the best thing may be for him to spend his first season in West Virginia," Huntington said. "We will evaluate his progress and place him where we feel is best for him."

— Karen Price

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