Pirates will rely on pitching
With an offense that will struggle to score runs consistently, the Pirates will have to rely on strong pitching to win games. Youth is being served as this year the Bucs? pitching staff is led by 24-year-old Oliver Perez and backed by a rotation that is just 28 years old on average. Conversely, the Yankees? youngest starter is 29, and the average age of their big guns is over 35 years old. Here is a quick rundown of the young arms who?ll be taking the mound for Pittsburgh in 2005.
Starter Oliver Perez ? Perez, acquired in the trade that sent Brian Giles to San Diego, emerged as the staff?s ace last year after a mediocre 2003. He had an earned run average of just 2.98 and struck out nearly
11 batters for every nine innings he pitched. However, thanks to meager run support on the offensive end, he managed only 12 wins for the season. This year, he?ll be counted on to lead the Pirates in innings pitched and
strikeouts again, and could be the team?s best All-Star candidate.
Starter Kip Wells ? Since he came to the team in 2002, fans have been waiting for Wells to put together a breakout season. He looked like he was on track in 2003 when he started 31 games and had an ERA of 3.28, but took a nosedive in 2004 due to injuries and other complications. This year, he?ll look to rebound from his five-win season and return to the form that made him one of the league?s best prospects. He should contribute with 13 wins this year and return to his pre-2004 form.
Starter Mark Redman ? Redman came to the Bucs in the trade that sent Jason Kendall to Oakland. He isn?t much of a strikeout pitcher and he?s been all over the league as this will be his fifth team in an eight-year career. However, he has valuable playoff experience as a member of the 2003 Florida Marlins team that won the World Series. His leadership will be key in the dugout, especially if the Bucs make it to the playoffs.
Starter Josh Fogg ? Like Wells, Fogg has been revered by Pirates fans as one of the team?s brightest stars since arriving in 2002. However, he?s struggled in the big leagues so far, never putting up much in the way of strikeouts, ERA, wins, or innings pitched. If he can put together a decent season, he?ll be a good number four starter, but after so much mediocrity, he?s got to be considered a question mark for this team.
Starter Dave Williams ? Williams becomes the fifth starter on this team because seemingly no one else wanted the position. The other candidates, Ryan Vogelsong and Zach Duke, are too young and inexperienced to take the spot, so it goes to the inconsistent Williams. He?s young, and could put together a solid season, but don?t be surprised if he?s sent to the bullpen by the end of the season in order to get a younger guy in there.
Reliever Mike Gonzales ? Gonzales came out of nowhere to appear in 47 games last year and throw lights-out relief. Opposing hitters hit only .201 against the lefty, and he?ll be counted on to get out left-handed batters and keep games close in the late innings.
Reliever Ryan Vogelsong ? Vogelsong will likely shift between the bullpen and the starting rotation all season. He?ll be a good fit in long relief when the team needs a pitcher to go three or more innings at a time.
Reliever Salomon Torres ? Torres, a righty, had a strong year in the bullpen last year, posting a 2.64 ERA in 84 appearances. He?s a workhouse who eats up innings and keeps games under control. He?ll get a lot of work this year, giving starters some rest.
Reliever Brian Meadows ? Meadows is a converted starter who will fill a similar role to Vogelsong. However, his extra experience brings an added dimension to the bullpen. He?s one of the elder statesmen and will be counted on to rally the young guys.
Closer Jose Mesa ? When Mesa came to the Bucs, he was coming off a disastrous season with the Phillies where he was tagged for a 6.52 ERA. Last year, he put up 43 saves while cutting his ERA in half. Though his strikeout numbers aren?t what they used to be, he?ll be good for about
30 saves and is the best candidate the team has for the closer?s role until a young guy can step up.