Stable lineup should be a benefit for Pirates
Pirates manager John Russell filled out his lineup card 120 different ways last season.
That was eight fewer versions than in 2008 and the third-lowest total used by the Pirates in the past 10 seasons. Yet, there still was a lot of player movement.
Among the eight starting position players on Opening Day 2009, only third baseman Andy LaRoche went on to start at least 100 games for the Pirates.
Over the past eight years, stats guru Bill James has tracked the number of games started by each team's Opening Day starters. The Pirates amassed 665 games last year — the lowest single-season total James has ever recorded.
"Last year it was kind of a crazy season, with all the trades and the injuries," said LaRoche, who made a team-high 142 starts. "Hopefully, we can keep everybody healthy this season, keep everybody together and get everybody comfortable out there, playing together."
Two-thirds of last year's Opening Day outfield — left fielder Nyjer Morgan and center fielder Nate McLouth — was traded by the end of June. Infielders Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche were dealt in July.
Catcher Ryan Doumit was out nearly three months due to a broken wrist. Right fielder Brandon Moss played his way out of a starting job by batting just .236.
This year, Russell expects the players he put on the field for Monday's season opener will actually become regulars, instead of transients.
"The one thing we can hold onto is that this is the group we want to move forward with and build around," Russell said. "We know that, barring injuries, these guys are going to go out and stay together. That's going to be big."
Lineup consistency will help the infielders, who spent spring training learning each other's nuances in the field.
"Working a lot with (second baseman Aki) Iwamura and (shortstop Ronny) Cedeno, I think we're starting to get comfortable with each other," LaRoche said. "I'm learning what kinds of ground balls Cedeno can get to. I'm learning how to give Iwamura feeds at second base, where he likes 'em and if I can put a little something on them if I need to.
"We're pretty confident that we're going to be a pretty solid infield. The more we play together, the better we'll be."
Ironically, the first player to be bumped out of a starting job this season might be last year's rock, Andy LaRoche. Top prospect Pedro Alvarez is expected to debut by midseason, which could force LaRoche into a utility role.
It's always good to have experienced players on the bench. Reserves Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby both are former starters. Last season, some of the Pirates' mid- and late-season starters — Garrett Jones, Jason Jaramillo, Andrew McCutchen, Delwyn Young — were playing every day for the first time in the majors.
"Heaven forbid we have an injury, but we've got guys this year who can step in and play well, not just fill the spot," Russell said. "We're very strong in that area."
Church has started 100-plus games in three of the past five seasons, and would have surpassed 100 in 2008 if not for sustaining two concussions. Church figures he can succeed even in a limited role with the Pirates.
"If you put in your work, good things will happen," Church said. "If you sit around and mope, that's when things go bad. I'll be ready when they call on me."
Here and gone
Games played in 2009 by Opening Day starter at each position:
Pos. — Player/Games
C — Ryan Doumit/71
1B — Adam LaRoche/86
2B — Freddy Sanchez/84
3B — Andy LaRoche/142
SS — Jack Wilson/74
LF — Nyjer Morgan/69
CF — Nate McLouth/44
RF — Brandon Moss/95
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Bucs set single-season attendance record
- Pirates find a bridge at end of baseball world in Holdzkom
- Pirates, Worley edge Brewers, 1-0, move to cusp of playoffs
- Monday’s scouting report: Pirates at Braves
- New approach on offense has Pirates in playoff contention this season
- Thursday’s scouting report: Red Sox at Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Castillo’s debut underscores challenges in Cuban market
- Pirates analyst Kent Tekulve recovering after heart transplant
- Wednesday’s scouting report: Red Sox at Pirates
- Friday’s scouting report: Brewers at Pirates
- Sunday’s scouting report: Brewers at Pirates