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View From The Crow’s Nest

The most encouraging aspect of the Pirates’ season so far has been the work turned in by the starting rotation. Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm and Charlie Morton each contributed fine outings on multiple occasions in April and James McDonald slipped one in there toward the end of the month.

The only negative was still another injury to Ross Ohlendorf. So hats off to pitching coach Ray Searage, a gentleman who prefers not to get too technical. “I’m not trying to change anybody and I’m not trying to clone anybody. Let’s just see what you’ve got and see if we can improve it,” he said.

Neal Huntington has exhibited the ability to construct an outstanding bullpen throughout his tenure as the Pirates’ GM and he appears to have done it again. Among the team’s current relievers are: a closer that he traded for (Joel Hanrahan), a Rule 5 pick-up (Evan Meek), two minor free agents (Jose Veras and Joe Beimel) and a guy he claimed off waivers (Chris Resop). “The bullpen has responded in such a big way,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We have some interchangeable parts out there, and it’s just been guy after guy coming in and doing what they’re supposed to do.”

The only thing more discouraging than Pedro Alvarez hitting in the low .200s last month was the fact that Andrew McCutchen was right there with him. With such vital cogs of the offense misfiring, it was a bit surprising that the Pirates won as many games as they did in April. Pedro has a history of being streaky and perhaps he always will be, but that sure wasn’t the Cutch we know.

More Pedro: Alvarez performed well defensively in April, making more than his share of highlight reel-type plays. But at the plate, he was getting himself into an 0-2 hole faster than anyone I’ve seen in a Pirates’ uniform since Jeromy Burnitz. It was baffling that someone of his pedigree could be such an easy out so much of the time. During spring training, manager Clint Hurdle said of Alvarez: “When he gets in a groove, the noise gets loud.” Here’s hoping he finds that groove in May.    

More Cutch: When John Russell was the Pirates’ skipper, McCutchen frequently played shallow in center field. The thinking was that he could cut off more base hits that way and still use his speed to go get drives hit into the gaps. But Hurdle has a different philosophy about that. “From what I’ve seen (on tape) and heard, Andrew used to play center field like a cornerback. I prefer him to play deeper like a free safety, keep everything in front of him, and then go and get the ball.” That makes sense to me. I’ve always believed that cornerback is the toughest position to play in football.

After failing to land coveted free agent Cliff Lee, the Yankees went all Oakland Raiders on us and offered several veteran pitchers a chance to prolong or resurrect their careers. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia turned in fine work for manager Joe Girardi during the first month of the 2011 campaign, and Kevin Millwood–though he’s no longer with the organization–and Mark Prior began the season with New York’s Triple-A affiliate (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). But the Yankees’ best free agent signing prior to this season was former Dodger Russell Martin, who has played well behind the plate replacing the aging Jorge Posada.    

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