Sunday, July 24, 2016

Glasnow exits early, but Pirates rally to beat Phillies 7-4

By John Perrotto
July 23, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates starter Tyler Glasnow, right, delivers a pitch that hit Philadelphia Phillies' Cameron Rupp, left, on the helmet in the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates can't feel all that excited about their victory Saturday because of an injury to their top pitching prospect.
Tyler Glasnow was removed with shoulder discomfort before Gregory Polanco and David Freese hit two-run singles during a five-run fifth inning that rallied Pittsburgh over the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4.
Glasnow exited his second major league start in the fourth. The rookie right-hander was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day and allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits in three-plus innings. The 6-foot-8 22-year-old is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he had "no sense at all" of the severity of the injury, but Glasnow did not seem overly concerned.
"He didn't notice or tell us or share anything with us until just visually we saw him moving his arm around like it was uncomfortable," Hurdle said. "We went out and talked to him and removed him."
"It's a long year and you're always going to have things come up," Glasnow said. "It was kind of a progression, I guess, inning by inning got a little worse and they felt like it was time for me to come out."
Polanco's hit put the Pirates ahead 4-3 and chased starter Aaron Nola. Freese's hit off Severino Gonzalez pushed the lead to three runs, and Francisco Cervelli capped the inning with a sacrifice fly to help Pittsburgh win for the fourth time in six games.
Cervelli went 2 for 3 and was the only Pirates player with multiple hits -- the Phillies outhit Pittsburgh 12-8. Starling Marte and Jordy Mercer also drove in runs.
Juan Nicasio (8-6) allowed one run in two innings in relief of Glasnow. Nicasio tied left-handers Jeff Locke and Jon Niese for the team lead in wins, though all three are now pitching out of the bullpen after beginning the season in the starting rotation.
When Glasnow left, the score was tied 2-2 and the Phillies had runners on first and second with none out, but Nicasio escaped the jam unscathed.
"Nicasio came in and did exactly what we needed him to," second baseman Josh Harrison said. "At the end of the day, it gave us time to keep plugging away and we got to the fifth inning and were able to come up with a big inning."
Mark Melancon closed with a scoreless inning for his 29th save.
Glasnow also hit two batters, including catcher Cameron Rupp, who left the game in the third inning after being struck in the left ear flap of his helmet. Rupp did not display any concussion symptoms but will be re-examined Sunday as part of Major League Baseball's protocol for head injuries.
Nola (5-9) was tagged for six runs and six hits in four-plus innings with five strikeouts and two walks. That was a step backward from his last start when he pitched six shutout innings against the Miami Marlins on the heels of giving up 30 combined runs in his previous five outings.
"When he's at his best, he has control of all his pitches," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's lost his control and he needs to a find a way to get it back."
Odubel Herrera had his second straight three-hit game for the Phillies after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games.
Cesar Hernandez hit a pair of RBI singles and was one of four Phillies with two hits along with Andres BlancoTommy Joseph and Carlos Ruiz, who took over behind the plate for Rupp. Blanco and Joseph hit run-scoring singles.
Phillies: 3B Maikel Franco (sore left wrist) sat out after being hit by a pitch in the first inning of Friday night's 4-0 win. Franco is considered day-to-day.
Pirates: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (facial fractures) played catch before the game after leaving his rehab start Wednesday with Indianapolis after four innings because of a stiff neck.
In addition to Glasnow, C Elias Diaz was recalled from Indianapolis while RHP AJ Schugel was optioned to the same club. C Eric Fryer was placed on the paternity list after his wife gave birth to twins -- a boy and a girl -- on Saturday.
Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.15 ERA) will start Sunday in the finale of the three-game series. He is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in six starts since his last loss May 29.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.44) has allowed one run in six innings in each of his last two starts.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Le'Veon Bell's upcoming payday takes huge hit

Dan GrazianoESPN Staff Writer 22, 2016

Timing is everything, and assuming Le'Veon Bell's four-game drug suspension isn't overturned on appeal, his timing is lousy.
The Steelers' star running back, who is headed into the final year of his rookie contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agency next year, recorded a rap song last month in which he referenced a potential $15 million-per-year salary. As great a player as Bell is, that was always unlikely. Adrian Peterson is the highest-paid NFL running back at $14 million per year, but after that it's a big drop-off to LeSean McCoyat $8.01 million per year. Even if he'd had a monster year and hit the market, it's likely Bell would have had a chance to top McCoy's average annual salary, but not Peterson's.
Of course, now you have to wonder whether he can even hope for that. Assuming his appeal is unsuccessful, Bell will begin the season on a drug suspension for the second year in a row. He missed the first three games of his 2013 rookie season due to injury, which means 2014 will be the only year of his first four in the league in which Bell played 16 games.
These are the kinds of things that erode a player's market value, as are the torn knee ligaments that cost Bell the final eight games of 2015 and the fact that he's a running back in a market that doesn't value that position as highly as it values many others.
Bell is a superstar talent, and his on-field performance makes a case for him to be among the highest-paid players at his position. Since he entered the league, his 119 yards per game from scrimmage leads all players. He caught 83 passes for 854 yards two years ago to go with his 1,361 rushing yards. When he's on the field, the Steelers' run game and passing game function at a high level.
But when and if the two sides get to the negotiating table, the team's case for holding back is going to make some good points, too. DeAngelo Williams ran for 801 yards and 11 touchdowns in the 10 games Bell missed, which eats at the idea that Bell is irreplaceable. But more important to the team's case will be the old saw that "the most important ability is availability."
Between suspensions and injury -- assuming the suspension he's currently appealing stands -- Bell will have missed 17 of the first 52 games of his NFL career. If he comes back and has a dazzling final 12 games, leading the Steelers to the playoffs, performing the way he did in 2014 and staying out of further off-field trouble, then he'll be able to make the case for a big-money contract. But Pittsburgh already had questions about when and whether he could recover from last year's knee injury to play at his 2014 level, which is one reason it hadn't extended his contract already.
What we have at this point is a pile of reasons for the Steelers to wonder whether they can trust Bell to be available to them moving forward. As brilliant a player as he is when he's on the field, a team wants to know before dishing out a big long-term deal whether it can trust the guy it's paying. If Bell wanted a new contract, or even if he wanted to avoid the 2017 franchise tag, the news of his latest drug suspension couldn't have been timed much worse.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A healthy Le'Veon Bell can lift Steelers' offense to new stratosphere

Jeremy FowlerESPN Staff Writer 18, 2016

LeVeon Bell.  Photo courtesy of the Steelers.
LeVeon Bell. (Photo: Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Pittsburgh Steelers open training camp July 28 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Here's a closer look at the Steelers camp, which wraps up Aug. 17.
Top storyline: The Steelers' offense would be just fine without Le'Veon Bell. But if Bell returns smoothly from his knee injury, the possibilities are endless. Bell was in top form before going down in Week 8 last season. A healthy Bell can slash through the middle on the run and line up wide as a lethal receiving target for Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers will be cautious with him, but if he's looking explosive by Week 3 of the preseason, he'll be going for gold in a contract year.
Player who will have fans buzzing: Tight end Jesse JamesSammie Coates and Ladarius Green are new weapons expected to enhance the offense, and they'll get their chances, but the Steelers are also high on James, who at 6-foot-7 is an attractive target for the red-zone package. With Green coming off a knee injury, expect James to get a significant run early in camp and capitalize on that run. James can inline block, which this offense values, ensuring James will have a role.
Position battle worth watching: Let's see if first-round corner Artie Burns can make a move on that outside cornerback job, which would probably go to Ross Cockrell if the season began today. Burns, who is rangy and athletic but is perceived as raw, has the month of August to close that gap. Cockrell might be a stopgap option, but he has been pretty steady for Pittsburgh.
That rookie should start: Safety Sean Davis. It's early, but so far the second-round pick has looked the part of a productive NFL safety. He has position flexibility after playing safety and corner at Maryland. At 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, his size and athleticism stand out in practice settings. Davis very well could take ownership of the starting strong-safety job alongside Mike Mitchell. He'll have Robert Golden, a sub-package favorite, and Shamarko Thomas to outshine.
Veteran whose job is in jeopardy: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. After five sacks in three years, Jones enters a career-defining season. If he finally breaks out, there could be a long-term extension waiting for him. But James Harrison is still productive, and that production could decrease Jones' reps once again. The two basically split snaps a year ago. As a 26-year-old former first-rounder, Jones should get those snaps, right?
Who's No. 2?: Markus Wheaton will have every chance to produce behind Antonio Brown as a starting receiver. He'll have company, though. Coates' work this offseason suggests he'll make a move. Darrius Heyward-Bey will get deep-threat looks. If Coates can get comfortable with at least some slot receiving and Eli Rogers carves a role there, that leaves Wheaton with more time at his more natural position on the outside. He's 5-foot-11 but likes operating with more space. The Steelers will want him to use his speed to attack defenses.
Wild card: Expect to see a refreshed Ben Roethlisberger in camp. Big Ben suffered four injuries last season, but this offseason he lost about 15 pounds and felt good going into minicamp. The injuries never affected Roethlisberger's play on the field, but this year a theme will be playing a full 16. When he plays, the Steelers have a chance in every game.
What fans will be saying after camp: They will say, "We still have some questions about the defense -- mainly, who will be the player to get sacks when we need it -- but we finally have a secondary that can get it done."
For daily updates, check out the Pittsburgh Steelers clubhouse page.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Harrison's walk-off scamper lifts Pirates by Brewers 3-2

By Will Graves
July 19, 2016
Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison (5) slides safely into third with a triple during the 9th inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Harrison was awarded home after Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett's throw went out of play giving the Pirates a 3-2 victory.
Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison (5) slides safely into third with a triple during the 9th inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Harrison was awarded home after Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett's throw went out of play giving the Pirates a 3-2 victory. (Fred Vuich/AP Photo)

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PITTSBURGH -- Josh Harrison watched his long drive hit off the wall in right-center field leading off the bottom of the ninth of a tie game against Milwaukee on Tuesday night and one thought kept running through his head: keep going.
So the Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman did, racing around second and diving into third before strolling home when the relay from Milwaukee second baseman Scooter Gennett bounded by the bag and out of play as the Pirates escaped with a 3-2 victory Tuesday night.
"I saw (Milwaukee center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis) jump for the wall, and from there I never broke stride," Harrison said. "I was going to make (Gennett) make a perfect relay."
Gennett didn't, and Harrison's Little League homer off Tyler Thornburg (3-4) allowed the Pirates to start a crucial stretch against National League also-rans with a victory despite a second straight blown save by All-Star closer Mark Melancon (1-1) and a scary moment in the second inning when rookie pitcher Jameson Taillon took a line drive to the head.
Taillon, making his return from a stay on the disabled list to deal with right shoulder fatigue, was pitching to Hernan Perez with one out in the second when Perez sent a shot right back to Taillon that hit the 24-year-old in the back of the head and rolled out into left field. Taillon lay on the ground for several minutes while being tended to by medical staff before being cleared to stay in the game.
"I saw it coming at me, turned from it and remember going down," Taillon said. "I could feel it on my head a little bit, but I remained conscious. I saw where the play went. I answered all the questions they asked me. I wanted to get up quicker than I was able to. I remember it pretty clearly."
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle admitted his thoughts went to Taillon's parents watching on television but decided to trust the recommendation of the medical staff that Taillon was OK to continue.
"This is one area that I'm not really comfortable with," he said. "I have to trust our people. They do know what they're doing, how to follow protocol to test the player and the things to do."
The near miss hardly seemed to faze Taillon, who allowed one run and five hits, striking out three without a walk before being removed after throwing 65 pitches.
"I felt like I dealt with it pretty well," Taillon said. "I definitely had some adrenaline after. I thought some of my pitches were up afterwards. It's tough to control the emotions right after that. I was able to keep the team in the game."
Athletic trainer Ben Potenziano, left, watches Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (50) hold his head in the second inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Taillon was hit by a ball off the bat of Herman Perez, but stayed in the game.
Athletic trainer Ben Potenziano, left, watches Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (50) hold his head in the second inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Taillon was hit by a ball off the bat of Herman Perez, but stayed in the game. (Fred Vuich /AP Photo)

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Chris Carter doubled leading off the fourth and scored on a groundout by Perez but otherwise Taillon kept the Brewers in check as he outpitched Junior Guerra, a fellow rookie who has been one of the bright spots for the struggling Brewers, who have dropped five of six.
Guerra's only wobble came in the first, when two walks and a single by Andrew McCutchen loaded the bases with one out. David Freese loped a soft single to right field and Francisco Cervelli's fly to left easily scored McCutchen to give Taillon an early lead. Guerra surrendered one more hit through six innings, walking three and striking out six.
Taillon was solid during his first month in the majors before the team shut him down briefly due to concerns about his workload. He was fresh in his first start in three weeks, working quickly and retiring the last nine batters he faced before turning things over to a bullpen that rounded into form following a rocky start.
The only hiccup lately has come from Melancon, who blew his third save of the season and second in three days. He issued a leadoff walk to Ryan Braun in the ninth and Jonathan Lucroy followed with a single. Melancon then struck out Carter and Nieuwenhuis before Perez's grounder to center tied the game.
Pirates: RF Gregory Polanco went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored while showing no ill effects from a sore left hamstring that kept him sidelined since July 8.
Brewers: Chase Anderson (4-10, 5.44 ERA) will try to get a handle on his control issues on Wednesday night when he makes his second start of the season against the Pirates. Anderson has issued a career-high five walks in each of his last two starts, both losses to St. Louis.
Pirates: Jeff Locke (8-5, 5.26 ERA) will try to win his fourth straight decision on Wednesday night when he makes his 18th start of the season. Locke is 5-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 13 career starts against the Brewers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

McCutchen on verge of catching Parker on Pirates' home run list

July 18, 2016

WASHINGTON — Tucked away on the concourse behind left field at PNC Park is a sculpture honoring Ralph Kiner, the second-leading home run hitter in Pirates history.
It's not a full-body statue, like the imposing figure of Willie Stargell, the franchise's home run king, that stands outside the ballpark. Rather, it's a cast of Kiner's strong hands, which slugged 301 homers while he played in Pittsburgh.
If the Pirates someday erect a marker for Andrew McCutchen, who is ascending the club's all-time home run list, perhaps Kiner's tribute will serve as a template.
If so, it would be a sculpture of McCutchen's hips.
“I always thought power was about quick hands,” McCutchen said. “But it has to start from the bottom up. The hip rotation and the hip speed are what develops the power.”
McCutchen came to that realization a couple of years ago when researchers tacked sensors onto his body and analyzed his swing.
“I hit off a tee a couple of times and they said, ‘Man, your hip rotation is unbelievable,' ” McCutchen said. “That's where the power comes from.”
McCutchen's next home run will be No. 166, which will move him past Brian Giles and into a tie with Dave Parker for fifth place in franchise history.
“I didn't know that,” hitting coach Jeff Branson said. “You wouldn't think that, comparing McCutchen to Parker, because they're two totally different body types, two totally different guys.”
Parker was called the “Cobra” because of his powerful build (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and long, smooth swing.
McCutchen is 5-10, 190 with a fast, compact swing. He's nearly matched Parker's homer total with the Pirates, despite having played in 177 fewer games.
“We all know that you don't have to be the biggest person to play this game,” McCutchen said. “Look at what (5-6 Jose) Altuve is doing; he's got 15 homers. Willie Mays wasn't the biggest guy in the world, and he hit over (600) homers. All I can say is, it's a God-given ability to be able to swing the bat.”
Over the 130 seasons the Pirates have been in the NL, only two of the team's right-handed batters — Hall of Famers Kiner (301 homers) and Roberto Clemente (240) — have gone deep more often than McCutchen.
McCutchen was not a prolific slugger in the minors. In 2006, his second year as a pro, McCutchen hit a combined 17 homers at Single-A and Double-A levels. In 201 games at Triple-A in 2007-08, he went deep 14 times.
Those were learning years. In 2006, McCutchen discovered what it means to “load up” at the plate during a batting practice session with Branson, who then was his manager at Hickory.
“He told me, ‘You need to load into it' and I was like, ‘Load? I don't know what that is. What are you talking about?' ” McCutchen said. “He showed me to get on my back leg a little more as the pitch is coming.”
McCutchen tried that on the next pitch and hit a titanic clout over the wall.
“I just looked at him, and he looked at me,” McCutchen recalled. “I said, ‘Wow, there's more in there.' That was the first time I ever experienced a difference. I made a physical adjustment with my body and got more power behind the ball and more direction. That was really cool.”
Two years later, McCutchen spent the offseason at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., hitting off the curveball machine. He was developing power, but it was mostly on pitches he pulled to left field.
As dozens of swings became hundreds, McCutchen learned to poke the ball over the fence in right-center field.
Armed with uncanny hip rotation to generate torque and knowledge of how to hit to all fields, McCutchen needed just one more thing to start attacking the record book.
“If you're going to put numbers up in this game, you have to play,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “That's one of Andrew's strengths — his desire and ability to post up, even when he's not 100 percent.”
The past couple of seasons, especially, McCutchen has been able to produce when his body is much less than 100 percent.
“Some mornings you wake up and, man, it's tough. Your body just hurts,” he said. “If there's something physically wrong to where I can't even swing, then I won't play. But, it if's something I can battle through, then I'll do it.”
Although he's batting just .244, McCutchen has hit 14 homers. He's on pace to finish with 25, which would tie him with Barry Bonds on the Pirates' list.
McCutchen laughed when he was asked how it would feel to end his career as one of the Pirates' most prolific sluggers.
“I try not to think so far ahead,” he said. “But to think it could even be mentioned now is really neat because I don't think my career is close to being done yet. Hopefully, I can keep going, keep playing, keep making history.”
If McCutchen does that, maybe that bronze replica of his hips will someday be unveiled at PNC Park.
“Aw, I hope not,” he said, laughing. “Just the hips? No, that would not be good.”
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.