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One Week In

One Week In
With one week of spring training already in the books, the Pirates are sailing along at a good pace. They are far removed from the gloom of yet another Atlantic region snow storm, and the teams of doubt in years past. With the management team placing such high expectations on this years Bucs, it is good to see that they are moving in the right direction in camp. With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, this team may just be a little bit special.
Pitcher Joel Hanrahan, was cleared to resume throwing again, after being diagnosed with a flexor-pronator strain earlier in the year, keeping him out of minicamp and last weeks sessions. If all goes well, Joel will be in the bullpen on opening day and available if needed. He is expected to have a key role in the bullpen for the Pirates this season. They are looking to improve upon what many would call a bullpen let-down last season.
I do believe however, bullpen success is also determinant on the starters success. If our starting pitching is able to deliver quality starts of six or more innings each time out, that will take a lot of stress and innings off of the bullpen. It is never helpful to a bullpen when the first reliever is being called in before the fifth inning, because the starter just didn't have his stuff. I don't see this happening near as often this season, with the staff that the Pirates have. Sure there will be questions, like "Can Kevin Hart secure the fifth spot?", "What role will Brad Lincoln play?", "Where does Daniel McCutchen fit in?", an so on. As I have said before, I could see the Pirates potentially having at least four 10 game winning pitchers on this staff. If Maholm, Ohlendorf, Duke, and Morton stay healthy, they can all win with consistency.
This is assuming that the offense is able to score more than one or two runs every game as well. I don't see this being a big problem either, with the entire nucleus of this team returning with a seasons worth of experience under their belts. This Pirates team has every bit as much potential as half of the teams in baseball. You will not see this printed anywhere, or in anyones projections, or on ESPN, because of the perception that surrounds the Pittsburgh Pirates. If perception really is reality, then this is the year to take the focus off of all those losing seasons that haunt this team.
Maybe there really is "The Barry Bonds Curse" here in Pittsburgh, in which case it's time to reverse the curse and start a new decade with a new attitude. With this said, do I think the Pirates will make the playoffs this year? Not likely, but I do think they have a great chance to change the publics opinion of them, and start filling seats in one of the most beautiful stadiums in all sports, PNC Park. I expect the Pirates to finish as high as third, but more likely fourth in a weak N.L. Central Division. The Cardinals still have enough talent to win the division, followed by the Brewers and then the rest of the division. Positions three through six could end in any order, and I wouldn't be surprised. The Reds, Cubs, and Astros are in the same type of building that the Pirates are in. Sure they may have won a few more games the past couple of seasons, but are those teams really that much better? No, not really. This is how I am able to say that the Pirates could finish as high as third in the division.
Game on.