There aren’t a lot of certainties in life, but there are some: death, taxes, an annual series between the Tigers and the Pirates.
With it being that time of year again, we decided it was time to talk to an expert about the biggest and most important Pirates questions out there, namely: why don’t they suck this year, and what’s our bestie Don Kelly up to.
So we turned to Pirates’ beat reporter Alex Stumpf—who writes for DK Pittsburgh Sports—to fill us in on some names we should know, and how the true Donnie Baseball is doing with his new club.
BYB: I feel like “Good” might be an overstatement, but the Pirates aren’t off to a terrible start. What has been going well for them?
AS: The big thing is the bullpen. Don’t let the unit’s ERA deceive you. There are some really good pitchers just dealing right now. Dillon Peters and Wil Crowe have thrived in their new roles, going through the order once and then leaving. David Bednar is on the cusp of being one of the game’s top relievers, in my opinion, and Ke’Bryan Hayes is providing a ton of hits to go with his soon-to-be Golden Glove.
BYB: Tigers fans are very, very passionate about Don Kelly, so tell us how his stint as a bench coach seems to be going so far. Is he happy? Does he miss us?
AS: DK is a manager is waiting. The next person to say a bad thing about him will be the first. And as for you guys, he told me that Lakeland, Fla. was “God’s country” this spring, so you guys still have a piece of his heart.
BYB: Which offseason acquisitions have been working well for the team, and who do you wish the Pirates had picked up?
AS: José Quintana has been a very pleasant surprise so far, getting those increased strikeout numbers from last year with softer contact. Roberto Pérez is adored by his pitching staff and could be in the mix for a Gold Glove if he stays healthy. Daniel Vogelbach has been an on-base machine with some good pop. The free agent pickups the Pirates had this winter, by and large, have worked out quite nicely. Increasing the quantity would have gone a long way, though.
BYB: Are there any exciting prospects on the cusp of making their big-league debuts?
AS: Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras have already made their debuts, but they’re stuck in AAA at the moment so I’m counting them here. They are both top 100 prospects, and while I do have a personal bias getting to watch them so much, I think they could be All-Stars someday. As for the biggest name who hasn’t played in the bigs before…Travis Swaggerty? Honestly, most of the top prospects are in AA Altoona right now and need another year (Michael Burrows, Liover Peguero, Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales… the list goes on).
BYB: Which Pirates player should the Tigers be most wary of this series?
AS: Dillon Peters has allowed one hit all season, and honestly a tiny surprise of me is surprised he’s allowed even that many. No way around it, he’s either going to thrive in the opener role Wednesday or he’s gonna give up five runs and I’ll look the fool.
BYB: Which Tigers player will be the biggest thorn in the Pirates’ side?
AS: The Austin Meadows revenge game feels inevitable. Or maybe Javy Báez will do something mind-blowing again.
Thanks so much to Alex for taking the time to chat with us about our favorite forced-proximity rivals. If you want to read more of his work, follow him on Twitter.