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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Aug. 30, 2012

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 3:07 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings, all. If I pause here at all in the next hour, it's only because I'm pursuing a report that Pedro Alvarez was seen at Pittsburgh International chasing the Cardinals' plane off the tarmac while waving a very large bat.Away we go ...

Adam S.: Do you think there is a chance the Pirates make any outside additions for the pennant race they are in? If so, who might be some targets? I know Minnesota's Joe Mauer is available. Would a guy like him make sense for us?

Dejan Kovacevic: Someone on that scale isn't going to happen, and I really got the impression the past few days that they're looking mostly to the inside, certainly for their pitching. Explained on the blog this morning why I think Jeff Locke will become that No. 5 starter rather than Kevin Correia. You should see Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson take bullpen roles, too.

DaveH: Do you think James Harrison will be much of an impact player this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: You'd think he had better be, Dave, for the Steelers to be able to get that takeaway number up. Chris Carter had a VERY nice game a couple weeks ago against the Colts, but he's one-dimensional. He's not nearly as effective against the run. If the Steelers aren't going to naturally pick off a lot of balls, they're going to need QB pressure and strips to get it done. When Harrison's healthy, few can disrupt an offense better. But he didn't sound all that convincing Tuesday when asked how he's faring, at least as it relates to Denver.

CW: Do you really see Sidney Crosby going to Russia to play hockey if there is a lockout? It's taking an awful big risk with his health issues.

Dejan Kovacevic: Crosby won't be playing in the KHL, as I understand it. And really, too much fuss is being kicked up about Evgeni Malkin signing up with Magnitogorsk. I've said it before, and I'll repeat: What we're seeing right now is a bunch of posturing, primarily from the owners' side. They CAN be stupid, but they're not nearly stupid enough to lose gate revenue, broadcast revenue, sponsorship confidence and, above all, the faith of their fans.Heard Gary Bettman this week almost bragging about how hockey fans will, essentially, absorb any amount of abuse and still come back.Wonderful business approach.

Guest: DK, do you think Cole is really deserving of the promotion to AAA? It seems his numbers have been pretty average since his promotion to AA.

Dejan Kovacevic: I wouldn't overread that. The Pirates always have preferred to move up prospects late in a season when there's a chance for postseason action. Indianapolis will offer not only playoffs but also a good brand of competition against other guys who mostly started the season in Class AA.Cole's on the fast track, no question. And getting him into these types of games is not something I'd pass up, either.

Guest: When do we see Marte back? Does Tabata go back down?

Dejan Kovacevic: Marte will be back this week. He's progressing fine, looked plenty upbeat in the clubhouse last night, no setbacks, etc.If you mean Tabata going back down to the bench, I'd think Tabata will at least get to work his way in an outfield rotation along with Marte and Travis Snider. But if you mean back to Indy, no need for that with roster expansion coming Saturday.

Guest: DK, do you think Qualls pitches again for the PBC in '12?

Dejan Kovacevic: Only if you or I do.

Guest: DK, do you see any surprise cuts being made by the Steelers?

Dejan Kovacevic: Impossible to completely rule out Charlie Batch or maybe even -- yeah, I'll say it -- Casey Hampton. There's a chance Hampton gets on the field tonight against Carolina, and it might be that he needs to show some semblance of health or progress. Make no mistake: Steve McLendon has been the real deal at nose tackle. He's done things since late July we haven't seen from Hampton in a long time.Plus, there are only so many injured guys you want to be lugging through the FIRST half of a season. It's supposed to be about PREPARING for attrition.

Chico Harlan: what potential FA's do you see the pirates targeting in the offseason?

Dejan Kovacevic: Judging by their five-year history , terrible ones.

Chico Harlan: If the Pirates secure the wild card, do you see the Pirates throwing AJ in that game, possibly on short rest, or would you think they would go with the hot hand at the time?

Dejan Kovacevic: All depends on how the final week-plus would play out. The final series -- at PNC, Oct. 1-3 -- is against the Braves, one of the teams the Pirates are chasing. Could be that every one of those is like a playoff game.If they had a preference, yeah, obviously, it's A.J.

Mike H: Why not put Bedard on waivers?

Dejan Kovacevic: I have no doubt the Pirates did exactly that, as well as offering him in trades. But we don't hear about those, far more often than not.

PirateApologist: In 1991, the Pirates brought up Randy Tomlin for a spot start. He remained in the rotation. In 1992, it was Wakefield who did the same thing. Are you surprised the 2012 Pirates didn't try something like this already this season?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean Cole or even Jameson Taillon, it's not going to happen. Not because of protecting the player or even over-protecting, but because neither is genuinely seen as being ready OR better than what they've got going now.I get that we'd all think it's a blast. I would, too. It was fun watching the Rays do it with David Price a handful of years back.But there are four starters in the rotation coming off good/very good starts, and another in Locke who's been their best pitcher in the minors all season. That's five right there.

Chris: What is your feel for Chris Rainey? Will he be primarily a returner this year, or will he be in with the offense on a regular basis?

Dejan Kovacevic: My feel for Rainey is that, if Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley use him right, he can be a dynamic, unpredictable, occasionally used weapon. But if they keep running him between the tackles in some sort of apparent test of his macho-ness, they're going to get him killed.He's a little guy. No amount of speed changes that. When he takes a hit, he's going to feel it more than the other guy.Move him in the flat. Set him in motion out of the backfield. But no Bus plays, please.

Mark: what is the benefit to your "sources" for providing you with inside information or giving you information first?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure why you'd have sources in quotation marks. At the Trib, we have a hard policy about sources in which the editors know the name of every single person you've talked to for a given piece, then examine whether that person might be credible. I and just about every other reporter have had stories rejected from being published because they weren't sourced strongly enough. Happens all the time, actually. Then we have to go back to work.What's the benefit on their end?Depends on the situation.If it's the many players and other Pirates employees who told me about the Seven Springs clay-shooting , I got the impression that it's something they wanted out, and they knew I've got a history of not hesitating to run with a story even if it ticks a few people off. I appreciate that.If it's the Erik Bedard release that I broke in the wee hours Thursday, it's a matter of having a long-established connection with someone in the baseball business who learns of such transactions as part of his work. Occasionally, that person will ask me for a lay of the land or some such thing to weigh a given situation in Pittsburgh. They know they have someone to call for informational purposes.Hope that explains it.

Guest: Any word if the Pens are interested in Bobby Ryan... always hear the rumors.

Dejan Kovacevic: My understanding from a league source -- just today, actually -- is that the Ducks are looking for a second-line center for Ryan. They don't want prospects. They want a player right now. That's not something I'd do.I'll say it again: The Penguins covet the NEXT James Neal. They want to find that under-utilized, under-appreciated guy who can blossom. And they're knocking down the weeds to find him.

VINCE: Do you expect Tangradi to have a breakout year after reading Josh's column last week?

Dejan Kovacevic: I want to see Eric Tangradi skate as well as he did at the developmental camp through a full training camp before I start believing. Sorry. Great kid. But just not seeing the speed he needs to accompany the game he plays.

Mj: Dejan, I like AJ but what was up with him in Mondays game noticeably getting ticked off at Travis Snider when he almost bobbled that catch. He still made the catch. Did I miss something?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you see A.J. getting ticked off on the mound, chances are about 99 in 100 he's ticked off at himself.

Mark: Have you heard any feedback on how the Pirates/Pittsburgh were talked about on the ESPN broadcast last night?

Dejan Kovacevic: Was at the ballpark. Didn't see it. Not particularly interested.The city of Pittsburgh is an extraordinary place, one that's getting better every day. I don't need anyone to tell me that.

Steve in OH: Pedro Alvarez will be the next: a) Willie Stargell b) Adam Dunn c) Joe Charbonneau?

Dejan Kovacevic: He has more of Willie in him than anything, but he'll obviously have to improve the average and consistency. Dramatically.It's been fun, though, seeing a couple comparisons in the past week between Alvarez's current line and Jose Bautista's with the Jays. Amazingly similar, albeit in the context of Jose missing a good amount of time to injury this summer.

dillonerd: Dejan, For the first time in a long time I am more worried about the Steelers safeties than their corners. Knowing how much importance the safeties have in this defense is it going to be a good year for opposing QBs, starting with Peyton Manning?

Dejan Kovacevic: We saw last year that Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both found ways to make intelligent football plays, even though they weren't getting -- or sparking -- takeaways. There's no reason that shouldn't continue.Look, if you put Troy in man coverage, it might not work out well. He's never been great at it, maybe even less so now. But if you use these two properly -- befitting the names of their positions, plus taking advantage of Troy's wild-card ability up front -- they'll be fine.I'd think Peyton Manning will be looking much more to Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen for soft spots.

OK, Tampa Bay Lightning 'n at ...

PirateApologist: Lightning Round Q - Who will be left alive when Breaking Bad finishes its run next year? Choices - Hank, Gomez (Hank's partner), Skylar, Walt, and JESSE. My pick is in all caps.

Dejan Kovacevic: I thought this WAS the last season. You mean I've been despondent over that possibility for nothing all these months?

Mark: thanks for answering the sources question, appreciate it, Always wondered that kind of stuff, I put sources in quotes just because thats the word you always see with stories.

Dejan Kovacevic: Cool.

Nick: How effective and involved in the offense do you expect Mike Wallace to be from week 1? Do you think he will start slowly?

Dejan Kovacevic: It'll be all go. When you see Heath Miller lining up as a wideout in the four-wide drills, you know the Steelers were saving space for 17 all along.

SA: DK who do you think will have the most impact down the stretch for the pirates?

Dejan Kovacevic: Andrew McCutchen. He's coming back.

Kevin Colbert: Now that the NFLPA agreed to allow one player to come off IR during the season, what are the chances that David DeCastro goes on IR immediately?

Dejan Kovacevic: Still haven't heard surgery results. The new IR is eight weeks, and the Steelers were speculating he might miss about that much. It would seem safe and smart to go ahead with that now.

John: Is Mike Adams the answer at LT?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not if the question is: Who's starting in Denver? That would be Max Starks. I'd much rather see Adams steal the job from Starks than have it handed to him.

jaxbuffet: Since the Pens can't find the next James Neal, is there anyone on your radar that fits the bill?

Dejan Kovacevic: There isn't a more perfect potential trading partner, in my eyes, than Edmonton. Tons of young forwards, possibly under-valued (eight-point freak Sam Gagner?) just as the Penguins have exactly what the Oilers need in young defensemen.Still, the next time I hear the Penguins and Oilers connected in talks will be the first.

Nick: This season split in 2 - 8 eps this year and like 7 in summer 2013

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, great news. Thanks!

Guest: Chris Cooley over Leonard Pope?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nope. Pope.

Guest: Was Bedard a jack#$! off the field? (His interviews were terrible and painful to watch him run out his at-bats)

Dejan Kovacevic: He was OK. Friendly enough sort. Just a little odd.

Guest: Travis Snider - where's the power?

Dejan Kovacevic: You sure don't see that elevation or backspin. Not sure it's there.Know what I was thinking last night over at the yard, watching him from two miles up in the air?Kind of reminds me of a rookie Warren Morris. Approach, swing path, the whole deal. Except that Morris could get under one once in a while. (Before utterly falling apart.)

Nick: Pirates prospect you think is underrated?

Dejan Kovacevic: Gregory Polanco. He's been almost as good as Alen Hanson in West Virginia, but without the attention.Both are Rene Gayo guys, by the way. If not for Gayo and the Latin American program, a LOT more people would be talking about these shallow drafts.

Brian-DC: The new IR rule could not be agreed upon. So DeCastro either misses whole season or takes up a roster spot.

Dejan Kovacevic: It was agreed upon just this morning.

dillonerd: Can you tell me when History Will Be Made so i can buy tickets for that game?

Dejan Kovacevic: My latest projection is that it will happen in Houston during the Sept. 21-23 series. Enjoy the flight!

Bmore Buc: Any chance Johnson makes the team as 3rd QB?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm sure the Steelers would love to get him through to the practice squad.

stan: Do you think the pirates have the makeup to make a deep run in the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Baseball isn't like other sports in that you have to brace for some deep run with overwhelming strength and depth. You need your pitching to get hot. That can be just two starters, as Arizona once pulled off, or a previously (and since) mediocre bullpen like with St. Louis last fall.

Guest: Grilli a Buc next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I get the impression that Jason would love to stay. But I also get the impression that Jason will want to be paid accordingly. Good for him. This season has been a LONG time in the making for him.Two more today ...

Nick: According to the standings on ESPN the Pirates have a 37.3% chance of making the playoffs. Sound about right?

Dejan Kovacevic: My standings show the Pirates one game back.

Patrick(RI): Don't you also need a Freese-type tpo get hot

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll take the hot version of Alvarez over the hot version of just about any player in baseball shy of Josh Hamilton, wouldn't you?But man, the cold version is the polar opposite.

SA: Prediction...starting running back on Sept 9?

Dejan Kovacevic: Probably Isaac Redman because they'll shove him out there, ready or not. Might not hurt the Steelers if Jonathan Dwyer does a thing or two tonight.

That's all for this week. I'll be with the Steelers tonight.Column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The chat runs Thursdays at noon. The blog is undying. And I'll soon be adding a couple other Trib ventures I hope to announce next week. Oh, and our Web people have built this nice new page that collects all of the above in one place: Thanks to one and all!

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