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Reading behind the lines

Like I said in my last post, this is clearly the worst of times! We are so close that you can smell Spring (Training) in the air, and with everything having been analyzed to the marrow, we are now trying to find dead horses to beat. Neal Huntington, as he seems to do far more than he should want to, has provided another such equine cadaver with his comment about Jose Tabata. The original interview with Rocco DeMaro was first discussed here (I think so, anyway, correct me if I’m wrong), and was brought back into the limelight in Rob Biertempfel’s story yesterday. Again, I believe Huntington intended the comment to be taken in a completely different sense than it was, and here’s what I think he meant.

Apart from unfounded speculation, there is nothing to indicate his age any different than reported. My point is that while we have reason to doubt his reported age, it is a non-issue to us.

The above is the quote that is at the heart of the controversy. I do think Huntington was trying, very methodically, to communicate why the Pirates were not bothered by the rumbling’s about Tabata’s age. Like a good proof-producing technique, he enumerates the 2 cases.

Case 1: The rumor is not true- Hence, the use of “unfounded speculation”. So, we retain status quo on Tabata’s uber-prospect status, and he stays what he was: a 21 year old in AAA who held his own, hit for a decent average, and is looking for the power that will propel him to a star in the majors.

Case 2: He is not quite as young, but is (say) a few years older, and 24. He is, then, the regular great prospect, knocking on the door to the bigs with most of the tools in place. The Pirates are still confident in the tools and the person.

Therefore, regardless of the case, he is a great prospect, and which of the cases is true doesn’t affect anything, as far as the Pirates are concerned.

Purely speculation, but not terribly more unlikely than the more commonly held one.

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One of the more surprising comments to come through recently was the Pirates interest in Japanese lefty Hisanori Takahashi. Chuck Finder at the PBC blog suggests that the speculation is unfounded, but the fact that we haven’t heard that from any of the other sources leaves some room for doubt- given the recent track record of the PBC blog at being accurate in Pirate-related information, I would give then the benefit of the doubt.

I know very little about Takahashi, beyond what is already known via Patrick Newman’s NPB tracker. However, with the Pirates expected to trade away one of their LH starters, if not both, suddenly the projected rotation looks very right handed- a far cry from when the trio of Gorzo, Maholm and Duke had provided hope that they would anchor the rotation for years. In terms of winning a starting job Takahashi has as good a chance in Pittsburgh as anywhere else. However, I don’t see the Pirates handing him a starting gig and an ML contract. If at all, I expect it would need to be a minor league contract with incentives for making the club. I also expect him to get a shot out of the bullpen as the second lefty. As Huntington said a while back, playing time is a resource, and by giving it to Takahashi, the Pirates would cost McCutchen or Hart, and that’s not a good plan. Nonetheless, you aren’t going to go through an entire season with 5 starters, and it doesn’t hurt to have starting depth around- Takahashi might also have a real shot at starting if and when a trade happens and the Pirates do not deem Lincoln to be ready.

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