First Call: Pirates’ price for Felipe Vazquez becoming clear; robot umpires debut |
Breakfast With Benz

First Call: Pirates’ price for Felipe Vazquez becoming clear; robot umpires debut

Tim Benz
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez pitches during the ninth inning against the Brewers Sunday, July 7, 2019, at PNC Park.

In “First Call” Wednesday, we catch wind of what the Pirates’ asking price is for Felipe Vazquez. It’s “Tacko Time” in Boston. And robot umpires make their debut.

Fishing for Felipe

We’ve talked about what it would take for the Pirates to get Madison Bumgarner if they stay in the playoff race.

But what would it take for them to part with Felipe Vazquez if things go south between now and the July 31 trade deadline?

The Dodgers are said to covet Vazquez.’s Jon Paul Morosi seems to have an idea who Neal Huntington may want in return for his closer.

Those four players are — in order — the top four prospects in the Los Angeles system.

Keibert Ruiz is a catcher. He’s at Double-A Tulsa. Gavin Lux plays shortstop and second base. Dustin May is a 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher. Those two have split time between Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. Will Smith has spent all year in Oklahoma. He catches and plays third base.

I’m on record saying that I wouldn’t trade Vazquez. But a haul like this would tempt me. Especially if May is one of the players coming back.

Team Tacko

Celtics rookie Tacko Fall is quickly becoming a sensation in the NBA rookie league.

He’s the 7-foot-7 center the Celtics drafted out of Central Florida. And he has become an instant hit with the fans.

With plays like this, you can see why.

His free throw technique is amusing to say the least, as well.

And if you don’t chuckle watching people try to take charges from him, you are dead inside.

Via, Fall has been averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds and a block in 10.5 minutes per game and was a plus-18 and plus-9 against Philadelphia and Cleveland, respectively.

Pass the salsa. I’m all in on Tacko.

Kanter’s cheat day

Meanwhile, another Celtics center, Enes Kanter, posted video of his diet “cheat day.”

It’s not so much a cheat day. It is more like him eating as if there is an eighth day in the week.

My two takeaways from that video are:

1. Thankfully, at least he didn’t involve the sushi with that mess.

2. I hung with him until he drenched the hot dog/pizza/burger trio with mayo. That’s a crime in most countries, isn’t it?

Some love for the Dukes

The Duquesne basketball team got a little national praise this week.

Jon Rothstein, College Basketball Insider for CBS Sports, ranked his top incoming freshmen for the A-10. He lists two of Keith Dambrot’s players among the best of the bunch.

James Ellis sat out last year after playing at Westinghouse. He’s a 6-foot-11 center with a 7-foot-6 wingspan. He was named the City League Player of the Year, plus garnered first-team all-state recognition in Class 3A after averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds, and seven blocks.

Northwestern, Penn State and VCU were also recruiting Maceo Austin. He’s a 6-foot-4 guard from Mercer County basketball power Kennedy Catholic.

Tracking TrackMan

The Atlantic League All-Star game used robot umpires to call balls and strikes.

Or “TrackMan” if you want to be more specific.

Here’s how it looked.

According to, “umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.”

Players seemed to notice the natural delay in the call. “One time I already had caught the ball back from the catcher, and he signaled strike,” said pitcher Daryl Thompson.

The umpire has veto power in case the system completely misses a call. The pitchers were quoted as saying high strikes were called far more often with the TrackMan system in place.

It’s going to be implemented leaguewide over the next few weeks.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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