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Chat with Dejan Kovacevic: Aug. 9, 2013

| Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, 1:10 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all. Lots of intersecting ground to cover today, so ...

Comment From Nextyearhasarrived: What's the real reason the Pirates are not calling up Andrew Lambo? Will he be here before September call-ups?

Dejan Kovacevic: No better place to start than the hot topic. I didn't have the impression that Clint Hurdle wanted to stick by his current right fielders until he pretty much blurted it out the other day. And at the same time, in not so many words, he made clear he still feels Lambo has room to improve.

I've asked players in the clubhouse who've been with Lambo if he has any kind of fatal flaw — hole in the swing, certain pitch he can't hit — and they kind of hem and haw over it. Maybe that means he does. I don't know.

Whatever the case, you won't see it on this road trip. And if either Jose Tabata or Alex Presley gets hot, you might not see it until September.

Comment From Brian: Is the Plaxico injury really a big deal for the Steelers, it appeared he was getting out performed by the younger WR's anyway?

Dejan Kovacevic: He was being outperformed, per every account, and I think more to the point is that Jerricho Cotchery was going to beat him out as a vet. In addition to having a better camp, Cotchery also has been — and this is very secondary, but still there — a real mentor to fourth-rounder Markus Wheaton, who just might emerge as a real weapon in this offense, with his speed. Remember, Wheaton had to miss OTAs and minicamp to stay in Oregon, per collegiate rules, but he's caught up well in part because of Cotchery being a mentor.

There's really a good chance Plax wasn't going to make the cut of 53, and even if he had, he wasn't going to offer you anything else in the way of special teams so he might not have dressed if he did. So no, this was not some huge loss.

Comment From The Duke: Jacques Martin. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Love it. The Penguins today have added the most overqualified assistant coach in the game, one of the most overqualified in sports. Nothing bad in that. Martin has a great defensive mind, but he's always worked with his share of stars, especially in Ottawa, and knows how to parlay that into two-way play versus simply wiggling sticks in the neutral zone.

Potential replacement for Dan Bylsma?

We're obviously nowhere near a discussion like that, given Bylsma's postseason extension, but having all that experience on board ... that's almost always going to be a good thing.

Candidly, I think Bylsma could use someone around who isn't afraid to tell him when he's doing something wrong.

Comment From Adam: Regarding your column yesterday of Cutch *changing* things more than past Pirates. Isn't that really premature? The standard for this group is low, get over .500 and maybe make playoffs ONE season and you *changed* everything? Shouldn't we see how Cutch's next few years play out first.

Dejan Kovacevic: The entire premise of the column was future-based, not least of which was the notion that Cutch will win MVP this fall. Moreover, it was written for the newspaper of Aug. 8, 2013. Not every topic can wait for the definitive summation because, hey, we have a paper to put out every day, and I've got four columns to write a week. You go with the now in a lot of what you do in our business.

But yes, of course, you're right that we'll have a far better view of Cutch's impact in, say, seven or eight years.

Comment From Brian: Pirates are gaining more and more national attention, does that added attention trickle down to you or other local writers/reporters for tv shows?

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly, I wouldn't know. I turn down all out-of-town radio/TV requests that aren't from Winnipeg or from a truly national outlet. I'd always rather prioritize the local, such as later today when I'll be on with Mark Madden at 4 p.m. I'm a Pittsburgh writer working for Pittsburgh readers.

Comment From Semi- I was looking up the Pirates schedule to attend a game...Noticed the Steelers are playing Saturday, That has NOT happened in the last 21 years! Usually reversed!

Dejan Kovacevic: You know, I'm kind of glad this came up. There's more and more of this meme that somehow the Steelers have fallen off the sporting radar because the Pirates are doing well. And it sounds really neat.

Trouble is, it isn't true.

The crowds at camp have been outstanding, despite some lousy weather and at least two practices having to be moved or rescheduled. One practice at Saint Vincent drew 18,000. For a practice! All the way out in Latrobe! And this practice took place at the same time the Pirates were playing at PNC Park in a real game.

The Steelers are No. 1 in this town. Now and forever.

As for media coverage, that hasn't changed, either. I've seen the same number of reporters, same media outlets, same faces in Latrobe as in years past. And I see the same level of tangible coverage, too. Speaking just for the Trib, we've actually upped our Steelers coverage this summer, including in print space devoted and manpower.

This is one of those things that sounds dramatic when one or even a few people say it, but it has no basis in the real world.

Comment From Brian: According to the internet, The Candyman threw a no hitter on this date in 76. Is Liriano the best lefty since him?

Dejan Kovacevic: Liriano has been outstanding for three months. Take nothing away from that. But here again, there's drama and there's reality. The Pirates have had some terrific lefties between the two spans you cite, notably Zane Smith, John Smiley and Denny Neagle. And all three of those performed well for more than three months.

Go easy.

Comment From Rob: What aspect of tonight's Steelers game are you most interested in watching?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's easy: I want to see the draft picks in action. Le'Veon Bell being out there with the first team — and beyond, per Mike Tomlin's hints yesterday — will be the main attraction. He's been the talk of camp, and he's earned that through showing everything you'd want to see not only from a two-down back but also an outright feature back. Jarvis Jones hasn't gotten the same treatment, limited mostly to third-team duty, but he's dominated that test and looks ready for something new.

Actually looking forward to this preseason game as much as any I can recall, just because of these kids.

Comment From PeterBondra: Your column last week about what the Pirates have done for this town really hit home. I was as senior in high school ‘92 and cut out Barry Bonds images from the newspaper, now my kids (6 & 8) have fat heads of Walker/McCutchen. They ask me daily “what did the bucs do last night?” The generation gap may be closing...

Dejan Kovacevic: Winning cures all. Nothing more to it. The Pirates pretty much wiped away an entire generation of fans through 20 years of losing and, thus, lost out on all the revenue and everything else that comes with that in that time. But the bandwagon fills up faster with young people than any other kind because, hey, everything is new to them, right?

It's been amazing to see, in all seriousness, the way young people have embraced this team. Maybe more uplifting than any aspect of what's gone on this summer.

Comment From Napper: I was surprised to hear that Pitt has had more kids leave the football program over the past year than Penn State. Is this more of a reflection of the current coaching personalities or the kids that were recruited by the former staffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Two very different situations.

I've heard that number, too. But if you think about it, Paul Chryst's greatest challenge has been inheriting a roster from a goofy coach with a goofy system that has nothing to do with his own. He wants big, tough guys who play a more old-schooled brand of smashmouth football. To get to that, he's needed not only to weed out bad seeds but also players who don't fit. And Bill O'Brien's situation, conversely, has been to sustain every athlete he can in light of the NCAA allowing unlimited transfers (before this past week), while at the same time not really needing to completely overhaul the nature of the program from when Joe Paterno and staff were running it.

Total apples and oranges here.

Comment From BigNick: Granted im a bigger Pirate fan then the Steelers, but i dont get how a pre season game is gonna win over a Pirate game in August with them having the best record in MLB!!!

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean in TV ratings?

Well, the truth is they won't really line up. The Steelers kick off at 7:30 p.m., and the first team is supposed to play only a few snaps. After that, it's a whole lot of scrubbage. The Pirates are out in Denver and don't get started until 8:15 local time.

Man, why is this so important to people?

I hear about this sort of thing all the time, as if there's some kind of race. Pittsburgh's blessed to have all its teams wearing the same colors and having the same first name. They don't play each other.

Right now, the Pirates are doing great, both on the field and at the gate. The ratings have been good, too. But the Steelers are a clear No. 1, the Penguins an equally clear No. 2 and ... none of that means anything because all three are healthy.

Comment From Dan1283: Don't forget Oliver Perez. He had a season in which he really should have won about 18-22 games with even average run support.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. It was only one year — 2004 — but one year is also longer than three months.

Comment From Zane (not Smith): The Dave Parker story made me a little sad. #39 coming to the plate to the snake charmer music at TRS. Ah, my youth! I think he's a HOFer, nearly identical stats to Jim Rice who's in. (Cue This week in baseball music, laser from RF in all-star game.)

Dejan Kovacevic: Heartbreaking column by colleague Joe Starkey earlier this week, for anyone who missed it. I'll join a really long list of those wishing the Cobra well. Not sure the game has seen his like over the past 40 years, aside from Dave Winfield and Andre Dawson. That prototype huge corner outfielder who can do it all.

Comment From JPbucco: Who goes when Wandy is ready? I say Cole to the bullpen over Hughes..

Dejan Kovacevic: There's no rush. Wandy just climbed onto a mound for the first time in nearly a couple months. He'll need a full rehab stint. Wouldn't expect to see him until mid-September. And that might be optimistic.

Charlie Morton did well to right himself a couple nights ago. (And you could see yesterday in the clubhouse he looked plenty satisfied with it, rightly so.) But Jeff Locke's getting tagged, and Gerrit Cole is laboring. So it's wholly possible someone will have to come out, Wandy or not.

In that case, I wouldn't mind giving Brandon Cumpton another look. You can label people to a fault, but all he's done in his limited work in the majors this season is get people out. At least the first two times through the order.

Comment From BillyO: Just tried to buy tickets for Sunday's Riverhounds game. Game is completely sold out. Can't even buy a single ticket.

Dejan Kovacevic: Been like that most of the season. That's a big one, with the team not only playing a lot better — see beat man Matt Grubba's quality piece this morning on the back line — but also vying for a playoff berth against Tampa Bay in that particular match. Add that to the wonderful little stadium, the low prices, the foreign beer ... and it's a neat setting.

A great addition to the local sports scene.

I'll be there myself Sunday, up in the press box.

Comment From tim: Why no NHL combine like NFL? Have them timed red line to red line, shuttle could be blue lines and hardest shot. Tell me ppl wouldn't watch.

Dejan Kovacevic: The NHL has one every year up in Ontario. It just isn't televised, for what I'd assume are the same reasons NHL Network sleeps through pretty much everything that it can't just cull from a Canadian network. Low-budget, low-ambition operation.

Comment From hankpsu: Thoughts on the Adams/Gilbert flip flop at tackles? Will the Steelers regret not making an offer to Max Starks?

Dejan Kovacevic: Initial thought is that it's outright terrifying to have a rookie, totally green, recent stabbing victim protecting your franchise QB's blind side. So how's that?

But Jack Bicknell feels strongly enough about Mike Adams' health and his ability on the left side to have made the switch, and I'll only hope he feels that way more on what Adams has done than what Marcus Gilbert hasn't done.

Now, regretting not keeping Max?

No, not a chance. One of the interesting undercurrents at Saint Vincent has been that the coaches are enamored of having a better conditioned, faster offensive line that will allow Todd Haley to plan more different types of runs, including to the outside. Last season, pretty much all of those had to go between the tackles, in part because the line wasn't all that athletic apart from Maurkice Pouncey.

Another good thing to watch tomorrow night, by the way.

Dejan Kovacevic: It is now definitely Tampa Bay Lightning time, by the way. Quick Qs, quick As ...

Comment From Chris: My friends and I were arguing last night about who was faster, Marte or Cutch?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd put money on Marte, but it's never been proven. Effortless glide.

Comment From Harold: Do you think Dustin Jeffrey get a legitimate shot at one of the open slots on the Pens forward lines this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: He's borderline worthless on a checking line and, if he's on your top two, chances are excellent something's really wrong. Failing to understand all-around why Ray Shero kept him.

Comment From Peter: Any chance the Pirates seriously go after Stanton in the winter?

Dejan Kovacevic: Argh.

Comment From Mike A.: Please excuse my hyperbole...Is it possible that, based on his training by Mariano Rivera, that Mark Melancon could be the next Mariano Rivera for the next 10 years?

Dejan Kovacevic: Double-argh. Melancon's been spectacular. Why can't it be just that?

Comment From Ryan in Fox Chapel: Based on his play and salary status, is Gerrit Cole on the fast track back to Indy?

Dejan Kovacevic: No chance.

Comment From Alan: Biggest surprise of Steelers camp

Dejan Kovacevic: Troy Polamalu wowing people with his playmaking ... again. Can't say I saw that coming.

Comment From Spanky Lavallieres Mustache: One game playoff starter: AJ or Frank the Tank?

Dejan Kovacevic: Liriano starts Game 1 or a wild-card game on my team. He's ridiculous right now.

Comment From Patrick: If you could pick one song to never hear again at a sporting event, what would you choose?

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, that wretched Black Eyed Peas thing about tonight being a good night or something.

Comment From Napper: How does the depth look behind the starting 22 for the Steelers? Seems to be very thin across the board to me.

Dejan Kovacevic: They would do well to stay healthy at pretty much every position except defensive line, where there are alternatives. That's it.

Comment From Jason81: With the loss of Plaxico Burress and Heath Miller's status still up in the air, should the Steelers be worried about a lack of quality receivers on their roster or is the offensive line still the #1 concern?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers are scouring the football world for tight ends right now. Seems to me that's their No. 1 concern.

Comment From Guest: Hi Dejan.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hi.

Comment From The Pirate Parrot: 12 MORE WINS TO GO!!!!

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, but who's counting?

Comment From Ike Turner: What do you think of the new NFL rule barring celebrations after touchdowns? I think the Roger God-dell is killing the sport.

Dejan Kovacevic: I defer to Ickey Woods on the lasting impact such things can have, if done in a reasonable way. No one remembers anything else poor Ickey did, but they know the Shuffle.

Comment From Jimbo: Will we ever see 90 goals in a season by an NHL player again?

Dejan Kovacevic: You'll never see 70 again.

Comment From Guest 23: Breaking Bad is back Sunday, baby!

Dejan Kovacevic: Indeed it is. Promises to be life-altering stuff. Polamalu is a big fan, by the way.

Comment From Zane (not Smith): The Pirate to have their number retired is:

Dejan Kovacevic: There will be some sentiment for many reasons for Parker, an MVP. I don't see that happening. Top priority should be un-retiring Billy Meyer's No. 1. With due respect to the deceased, one of the least deserved retired numbers in pro sports.

Comment From Guest: We are all looking at St. Louis. Do the Reds make a run at 7 games out?

Dejan Kovacevic: Been saying all along the Reds are the team to watch, not the Cards.

Comment From hankpsu: Has anyone ever given you a standing ovation at Starbucks?

Dejan Kovacevic: Only the bean counters. (Get it, bean?)

Couple more today ...

Comment From shawn: Is Marcus Gilbert a bust since he was drafted in the second round?

Dejan Kovacevic: Starting right tackle is a bust? Wow, not yet!

Comment From Carl: Does Garrett Jones go on a tear anywhere down the stretch?

Dejan Kovacevic: He certainly thinks so. Still waiting. Had a couple nice at-bats yesterday.

Comment From Jhonny Bhe Ghood: Pittsburgh is a big Steelers town. That being said, what would the attendance of tomorrow nights game be if season ticket holders didn't have to buy the game without discounts?

Dejan Kovacevic: It would be a sellout. They're the Steelers. Come on.

Comment From Tony D: Do you think the Pirates will win 100 games this year? They sure are in a good position do it!

Dejan Kovacevic: I would actually hope they don't because any emphasis on that would likely detract from playoff readiness. Do what you need to down the stretch to have your players fresh. The Braves could start on that, like, tomorrow.

Comment From Guest: Why do you decline national requests? You could promote the city of Pittsburgh to a much bigger audience! Win-win

Dejan Kovacevic: Didn't say that. Said I turn down all non-Winnipeg requests from stations around the country. If it's a true national outlet, I'll always consider it.

Comment From TJ: DK did the Pens hire another assistant because they felt they needed the experience or does it speak to the time Bylsma is going to be taking away from the team to focus on team USA?

Dejan Kovacevic: No chance the Olympics had any role in this. None.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's all for this week. The columns run Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. The radio show is Wednesday, the chat Friday. The blog is like Juan Pierre, who I had no idea was still in the bigs until he came up to the plate yesterday.

Thanks for participating.

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