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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: May 31, 2012

| Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 2:55 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all. Enjoy that bright orb in the sky while you can. Arts Festival starts tomorrow.Away we go ...

AL: Dejan...thanks for talking to us every week and I really enjoy the column. I've heard that this years NHL draft is very deep on defensemen. Do you think the Pens will take yet another one in the first round this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Precedent would certainly suggest as much, but I can't say for sure. For one, the Penguins always pick so late in the first round that any kind of projection is an absolute crapshoot. For another, I'd imagine this year was the first in which Ray Shero and staff really felt the sting of having so few forward prospects in the minors.It's tough for any team to keep signing from the outside at one position.

Tom: Dejan - Out of the 4 major sports, in your opinion who does the best job of umpiring/refereeing? For me, it's baseball umps. In watching several games lately, it got me thinking about this and people may say baseball is a "slow sport", but there are some fast calls that need to be made.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's baseball, and it's not close. That might be the nature of the sport, and it might just be the nature of the personalities involved. You never wonder who's running things when you're watching a baseball game.That said, I'll note that Dan O'Halloran made a BRILLIANT no-goal call in Game 1 last night in New Jersey. For those who have been hockey refs, you know that moving quickly and being in position is a huge part of the job. O'Halloran flew behind the Los Angeles net, grabbed the top to stop himself and was in perfect position to see Zach Parise swipe the puck into the net with his arm.I'm not sure replay would have caught it.

JaMain Stephens: The buzz out of the South Side about Chris Rainey during OTA's has been considerable, do you see Haley using him like he did with Dexter McCluster in KC as a slot WR or will he be mostly coming out of the backfield?

Dejan Kovacevic: You might know that the Steelers' policy at OTAs is that the media can watch practice but without describing Xs and Os, formations and the like. So let it suffice here that I was duly impressed with Rainey enough that I made him the opening to a column about a linebacker on Monday.Do I think Rainey could be a scatback-type?Sure, but that presumes that he beats out Baron Batch for third-down duty or that Haley and Mike Tomlin carve out something unique. With a new offense, it's probably not safe to presume too much in the way of radical stuff.I'll tell you this, too, though: Speed guys ALWAYS stand out in settings like this. Remember, they're out there in shorts. It's not even two-hand touch.

Adam: Dejan, with all due respect, don't you feel you're being overly critical of Neil Huntington in your criticism of the lineup? I realize the offense has been putrid, and he certainly shoulders the blame for that, but at the same time he's acquired about 90% of the players who have given this city it's most exciting baseball for nearly two decades, outside of the 1997 freak show. That certainly doesn't mean his job is done or he/we should be satisfied, but I think he's bought himself some slack, especially when compared to the last two geniuses we had steering the ship. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm going to assume, Adam, that you missed this morning's blog item crediting Huntington -- again -- for the outstanding pitching.As for being critical of the offense ... wow, really?You don't even need to use adjectives to do it, Adam. You just need to cite little things like having one of the lowest on-base percentages of Major League Baseball's modern era. Or scoring the fewest runs of any team in professional baseball, including all 120 in the minors leagues.You want that sugar-coated?Sorry, I don't get that at all.

jolly roger: Who is your choice for the Pirates to pick in the first round this year? Please don't say a pitcher.

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't have a firm name yet. The only thing I can share that I've heard all week is that this shortstop everyone is assigning to be the Pirates' choice -- Deven Marrero -- it WON'T be him. If the Pirates are going to get a bat, they're going to get a bat-first prospect. Marrero isn't that.

Mark: I know making trades are difficult, but I am hoping the Pirates have looked at situations where a player is blocked (Anthony Rizzo of Chicago and Jurickson Profar of Texas come to mind) have you heard anything on this method of acquiring a bat? Also saw Carlos Quentib

Dejan Kovacevic: I know, unequivocally, that the Pirates are trying. No sarcasm there, either. They're pushing every button out there in an attempt to help the current team.As you guys might know, I'm not big on applauding effort. But you've got to have effort before results.

Brian: Does Ben not like throwing those swing passes or are they not a part of the offense? Seems like everyone uses them effectively except the Steelers.

Dejan Kovacevic: Ben's preference is to find his guys downfield. He illustrates that time and again, and he can't have made that position clearer than he has all through these OTAs. It's terribly transparent, as I wrote in the column last week, that he's grinning and bearing it right now with the playbook. And if you didn't believe me then, I'm guessing you might after seeing his quotes in Joe Starkey's column this morning. As I wrote last week , it's time for Ben to get over it. If the situation's going to change, it's going to be by having real man-to-man talks with Haley and Tomlin, showing actual faith in the coaching staff even as he shares his input.Not sure what he's hoping to get out of complaining openly.

Naterosboro: Who wins the NBA Finals assuming Miami and San Antonio get in (do you see it being any other matchup realistically)?

Dejan Kovacevic: NBA? Wow, Nate, you read my mind. I have an actual NBA column running tomorrow.No, really.(Well, kind of.)

Willy: Hi Dejan. Do you think it is possible to keep Staal, Crosby and Malkin in the Penguins team? And Letang? I think the only solution is to give them a long term contracts (for about 15 years) with cap hits 4 to 6 million dollars. But it is also very risky. What do you think about this three centers situation? How long will we see them in Penguins uniform? Sorry for my poor English, greetings from Czech Republic :-)

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, yes and yes, so long as the new labor agreement will make it workable. The Penguins have the money to go above the current cap, and they'd have every intention of doing so.But they need Staal to want to stay, too. I believe he does, but what matters infinitely more is what Staal tells the team. Oh, and your English is outstanding.

MickTD: Dejan, first time long time, I think if Correia and Morton have one more rough start each, Lincoln and Karstens need to move into the rotation. I know the pitching isn't broke but I believe this would help. What do you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: Correia's kind of a strange case. He's given up too much contact, and his control isn't what it was last year. But he's also not gotten more than two runs of support in ANY of his nine starts. This isn't an excuse, but that's a tough way to pitch.As for Morton ...

dillonerd: Would you start Charlie Morton another game?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on what he tells management about how he feels physically. Fact is, Charlie's velocity is down. Thus, so is the natural movement on his sinker. When you get down to what made him successful for much of last year, it was movement on the sinker. Without it, he starts leaning on the curve early and ... well, you've seen it.If there's even a trace of doubt about where he is physically, a week or two down wouldn't hurt him. Karstens is pitching tonight in Indy. Should be ready soon.

Albert: What are NBA Finals?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, thought that was coming.Again, it will be the column topic tomorrow.

Albert: Is this the last chat before the MLB draft? The experts are saying the Pirates have their eyes on a light-hitting SS. Are they really going to waste their 1st round pick on a player who, best case, will be "below league average"?

Dejan Kovacevic: See above, Albert. I don't think they'll take Marrero.

Mike H: Clint Hurdle has stated that Jordy Mercer isn't here to take over for Clint Barmes. If Jordy is able to produce offensively, shouldn't he be the everyday guy?

Dejan Kovacevic: He absolutely should.

E Smith: Will Pirates management ever get tired of seeing Jose Tabata swing at balls a foot outside the zone? His lack of discipline concerns me way more than Pedro's.

brodg88: How much longer can Hurdle keep running Tabata out there? He can not hit-his defensive is suspect and he does not hustle!

nyeer: Does Tabata annoy anyone else with his body language, let alone his batting average and lack of power?

Dejan Kovacevic: OK, anyone else?Tabata's been all of that and less. I don't know why. I've not heard from anyone that he's out of shape, though he certainly looks lumbering at times. I've not heard from anyone that he's unhappy, though he clearly doesn't play with much confidence or even joy.It's a strange case. But nothing stranger than seeing those one-handed swings at outside pitches. That's just NOT Tabata. He's always had a good command of his own strike zone.I don't bench him yet. The Pirates desperately need what he COULD provide. But the leash shouldn't be long.

We're here at Tampa Bay Lightning time. Short Qs, short As ...

Biz: With Cruz coming back tomorrow, who do you think gets sent to the minors? I think Slaten has an opt out in his contract, and am not sure that he has any options left anyways. Resop?

Dejan Kovacevic: Could be Jared Hughes. He's been good overall, but that last outing was an eruption and a half. Plus, he has the option.

pattonbb: Does anyone make a muzzle large enough to fit over Ben Roethlisberger's mouth?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's unnecessary. Roethlisberger has every right to speak his mind, and I'd always rather have anyone be honest than not. I just think he's better off right now changing the thought process behind what he's saying.

Brian: Is there any chance that "Hammer Time" signs an extension or has he already been told to pitch your heart out and we will get you to a contender in June or July?

Dejan Kovacevic: Good Lord. Do people actually think stuff like this?

nap: Odds Pitt will ever renew a WVU or PSU rivalry?

Dejan Kovacevic: Strangely, I'd say Penn State has a better chance, if only because of the strong remarks Bill O'Brien has made to that effect in State College. Remember, it was Penn State mostly responsible for quashing the rivalry in the first place. Steve Pederson wants it, for sure.

SteelersfanSLC: In your opinion who is the better reciever Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown? I go with Brown.

Dejan Kovacevic: The receiver in single coverage is always going to look better. Let's see how it goes if and when the roles are flipped this season.

Albert: Do you expect the CupfFinals to get any bump in TV ratings due to the NY-LA matchup?

Dejan Kovacevic: If they had a NY-LA matchup, yes. But they don't. The Devils are as much a part of the New York sports scene as is Pakistani cricket. When the Rangers went out, so did New York.

Tyler: Dejan, watching the Kings-Devils game last night, I couldn't help but notice how big both teams' wingers were which enabled them to win board battles in the neutral and offensive zones. Between Kennedy, Dupuis, Sullivan, Cooke and even Kunitz, the Pens wingers are small. Do they need to get bigger on the wings, especially given how obstruction has creeped back into the game?

Dejan Kovacevic: Great point. Huge difference between those teams and the Penguins. You might remember that was Jaromir Jagr's first impression of the Devils right after facing the Penguins, how much harder they were to beat on the boards.But who do the Penguins have to plug in there?Eric Tangradi?

tmk: Does anyone really think Tabata is 23?

Dejan Kovacevic: Probably not even his mom.

BigNick: Pirates to slow to promote high talent?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, you're looking at numbers rather than a checklist of results and specific areas they like to address before the next level. They've done just fine in drafting and developing pitchers. I'd give benefit of the doubt.

They'll both be in Altoona before long.

Jimmy D: Why doesn't Wallace just sign his tender offer and attend the OTA's?

Dejan Kovacevic: Why should he? If he does, he's locking himself into a $2.48 million salary rather than what he has to be certain he can get by waiting on a full-blown extension.

pattonbb: Tortorella said any member of the media that criticizes they're shot-blocking style of play is an idiot. Does that mean you're off his Christmas card list?

Dejan Kovacevic: That, plus an idiot, yes.

Let's check back with Torts and see if he can pull off that style of play a second consecutive year. Players hate it. And they hate the coaching that goes with it.

Brian: If the PIrates had a pinata at a birthday party, could they break it?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, they'd have Joel Hanrahan throw at it.

ZEB: I have to think the Bucs pitching depth makes them a desirable trade partner.

Dejan Kovacevic: So would I. But it's apparently not the case just yet.

BigPerm: Hi Dejan, enjoy all of your work! What is the word from camp on Dwyer, ive been saying for the past couple years he is going to end up being our starting RB and with mendenhal's injury and redman-who i like but had a penchant for fumbling, is he the guy?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, the guy is Isaac Redman, with absolute certainty. And check the blog later in the week for a bit about my conversation with him the other day. He's loving this.

More interesting will be the role of backup, whether that's Jonathan Dwyer or John Clay, or if Rainey and Batch can be utlitized in some way. It's a young group. Lots of open ends.

tmk: With the Brew Crew struggling this year, can the Bucs somehow take a series in Milwaukee since who knows when?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. The Brewers will win all three, barring some epic reversal on the part of the baseball gods, who really, really hate the Pirates in Milwaukee.

Polish Falcon: Dejan, what's your go to place for lunch downtown?

Dejan Kovacevic: Di Bella's Subs, Market Square.

Panner: Do you think Barmes could employ a Pakistani cricket bat; considering his propensity to swing at balls in the dirt?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well played.

BigNick: Lincoln over Corriea?

Dejan Kovacevic: There's a part of me that really would rather see what Lincoln could do stuff-wise in short relief. It's been so long we've been watching him without stuff that's it kind of neat now.

JamesinNYC: Ben says the same crap that we all say at work ... behind our bosses backs....basically he is lucky he doesn't have a normal job.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yep.

ZEB: The satellite radio feed went straight to the Dodger feed after the Pirate game. Listening to Vin Scully is pretty sweet. Have you interacted with him at all?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. Before every series at Dodger Stadium, Vin would come out and sit next to me in the press box to go over details about the Pirates, in particular to pronounce all their names just right.

Needless to say, it was an honor.

True pro. Giant of the game.

WVUFan: Just a comment on how the college football conference realignment helps fans in our area. Within an hour or so drive from the 'Burgh, we can see ACC, Big 10 and Big XII football. Not too many places, if any, in the country with that benefit!

Dejan Kovacevic: It's a little more than an hour to either Penn State or Ohio State for the Big 10, but I see your point. Good way of looking at it.

Two more ...

DC: Outside of sports, what columnist is your favortite read?

Dejan Kovacevic: I read all different kinds of stuff from all different political points of view, so don't read anything into this: I love the writing style of the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Very breezy. Her stuff moves well, as we say in the business. On the other end of the spectrum, George F. Will's authoritarian voice is a great lesson in delivering opinion.

IndySteeler: Pens will be quiet until after CBA is hammered out?

Dejan Kovacevic: I wouldn't say that. Shero has at least a feel for the landscape. Nothing would prevent him from making depth moves and the like. Or trading Paul Martin.

Thanks to one and all for the participation. The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The chat is each Thursday. And the blog is like Jamie Moyer, who will somehow -- and always -- bounce back. </

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