Now that football season is over, at least as far as Pittsburgh Steelers fans are concerned, let’s take a look at what the 2012 baseball season holds in store.
The Pirates are coming off a mixed bag of a season. You might remember them as being in first place in late July, then losing a 19-inning game on Umpire Jerry Meals’ bad call. It was all downhill from there, in a big way.
It’s only about another month or so until pitchers and catchers start reporting to Bradenton. Speaking of which, here are some of the new Pirates (for now) who will be traveling to Florida:
Erik Bedard. The 33-year-old lefty (pictured at left) posted two consecutive stellar years for the Orioles. He went 15-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 2006 and 13-5, 3.16 ERA (fourth in American League) in ’07. He has been plagued by injury and inconsistency since, winning just 16 games and missing the entire 2010 season. The Pirates signed him to a $4.5 million contract for ’12.
Rod Barajas. The good news: Barajas has hit 178 major-league home runs, including 16 for the Dodgers in 2011. The not-so-good news: He’ll be 37 before the end of this season and has a career .238 batting average. Given the Pirates’ track record with ostensibly power-hitting catchers – Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder, for recent example – Barajas had better be careful out there to avoid major injury.
Clint Barmes. Another thirtysomething – he turns 33 on March 6 – Barmes posted some half-decent numbers in a few seasons for the Colorado Rockies. His numbers in Houston last year were underwhelming: .244, 12 home runs and 39 RBI. But he might prove to be an upgrade at shortstop for the Pirates.
Casey McGehee. Hey, here’s a guy who won’t turn 30 until October! McGahee was tremendous for the Brewers as late as 2010, hitting .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBI. His production fell dramatically last year, and the Brewers decided to sign All-Star (after his Pirates career) third baseman Aramis Ramirez and part ways with McGehee. He might provide a viable alternative if (when?) Pedro Alvarez tanks again.
Nate McLouth. Welcome back … maybe. McLouth, who’s 30, would like to forget his two-plus seasons with the Atlanta Bravers. So would we. But don’t look for a repeat of, say, his 2008 campaign, when he hit 26 home runs, stole 23 bases and led the league in doubles. Plenty of observers thought that was a fluke, and his performances in 2010 (below the Mendoza Line) and 2011 (.228 with 16 RBI) would seem to bear that out.
Yamaico Navarro. The 24-year-old infielder has had a few cups of coffee in the majors with the Red Sox and Royals, including hitting .304 in a handful of games for Kansas City in late 2011. The Pirates traded Brooks Pounders and Diego Goris to acquire him. I’ve never heard of those guys, either.
Jo-Jo Reyes. The non-roster invitee throws lefthanded and is 27 years old. But he has a lifetime ERA of 6.05. And he goes by “Jo-Jo.”
Jeff Clement. He’s baaaack. Well, maybe. Another non-roster invitee, Clement won the Pirates’ starting first-base job coming out of camp in 2010. He did hit 7 home runs, but his .201 batting average and 37 strikeouts in 144 at-bats cost him his job. He hasn’t played in the majors since.
Nick Evans. He’ll turn 26 on Jan. 30. Another non-roster invitee and primarily a first baseman, Evans had 176 at-bats for the Mets last year, hitting .256 with 4 HR and 25 RBI.
Jake Fox. A guy who’s split his time between catcher, first base, third base and outfield, Fox turns 30 in July. He hit 11 home runs for the Cubs in 2009, and nine since with the A’s and Orioles. Another non-roster invitee, perhaps his versatility can earn him a spot with the Pirates.
Associated listening: “Burning Bright” compilation of Ashley Hutchings’ work