Mailbag: When will Bucs sign Moskos?

Mailbag: When will Moskos sign?

When are the Pirates going to sign first-round pick Daniel Moskos? And if they do, why not put him in Triple-A Indianapolis and get him up as soon as possible to help the Bucs bullpen?
-- Zach B., Pittsburgh

The Pirates have been in ongoing negotiations with Moskos since his Clemson Tigers team was eliminated from the College World Series Super Regionals. Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield hasn't gone into specifics on the negotiation process, simply saying that it is going smoothly and that fans should expect it to take a little longer for the club to sign its top picks. There is a signing deadline period of Aug. 15, so the only thing we know is that Moskos will likely be signed between now and then.

I understand your frustrations with the Pirates bullpen, and there are games during which it seems like anyone would be an upgrade. But Pittsburgh won't rush Moskos to the Majors this year. At this point, there isn't a reason to rush his development. The Pirates will deal with the 'pen they have, even if it means more Advil for the rest of us. Let Moskos develop at the Minor League level, where he can work closely with coaches down there for now.

The Pirates also have a track record for being cautious in how fast they rush their draft picks to the big leagues. Not a single one of their draft picks from the past three seasons has seen Major League playing time.

What is going on with Ronny Paulino? Last season he was consistently batting over .300. This year he seems to be having a hard time getting hits. Also, I have noticed some defensive miscues as well. Do you think Ryan Doumit could be a better fit at catcher for the Pirates?
-- Jake C., Cranberry, Pa.

It seems that despite whatever Paulino does, or doesn't do, manager Jim Tracy is going to keep him in as the team's primary catcher for one reason -- the pitchers love pitching to him. And it shows by the comparison in the team's ERA when Paulino is catching as compared to Doumit.

With Paulino behind the plate, Pirates pitchers have a 4.02 ERA. That is an average of more than two runs fewer than opponents score when Doumit is catching. Pitchers have a concerning 6.40 ERA with him behind the plate. Even though the Pirates are losing some offensive productivity with Paulino in the lineup instead of Doumit, they are not losing two runs worth of productivity each game.

Paulino puts all his efforts into working with the pitchers and improving his game calling, so much that I believe is takes away from his own offensive preparation. You can't fault him for working so hard with his pitchers, and as he matures, hopefully he will learn to also make sure to take care of himself.

As hard as it can be to read Tracy, he does seem to be losing some patience with the increasing number of relay throws Paulino has dropped at the plate lately. Granted, not all those throws have been on the money, but it is definitely an aspect of Paulino's game that needs to be improved. Regardless, Tracy is going to stick primarily with Paulino because he values Paulino's play calling so much.

Will Matt Capps be in the closer role the rest of the season? Or will the Bucs make a move to get someone else?
-- Bryan A., St. Clairsville, Pa.

Yes, Capps will be the closer for the rest of the season. He has the fastball command to be successful in the role, and the Pirates are going to stick with him this year. Again, because the Pirates are likely to be sellers at the trading deadline, there is no reason to expect them to make a trade to land a closer.

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Was Mike Gonzalez really worth the trade for Adam LaRoche?
-- Ronny D., Scenery Hill, Pa.

While it's not a secret that LaRoche has underperformed, the Braves are probably wishing -- at least for this season -- that they hadn't given up LaRoche for Gonzalez. Gonzalez went on the disabled list in mid-May and had left elbow surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the season. Though Gonzalez had pitched great for Atlanta up until that point (17 innings, three earned runs), the Braves only had a month and a half to take advantage of his arm.

If Gonzalez were healthy, there would be reason to suggest that the trade did not benefit the Pirates up to this point. The bullpen has been a disaster since the beginning of May and has really missed the veteran presence of Gonzalez in it. It's hard to count an exact number of losses that could have been prevented with Gonzalez in the bullpen, but it's safe to say there would have been at least a few. And up to this point, LaRoche hasn't been the middle-of-the-lineup spark the Pirates had been counting on.

But with Gonzalez out for the season and LaRoche due to find his groove at the plate soon, there is still plenty of time for the Pirates to show that they ended up with the better end of this bargain.

Do pitchers in the Minor Leagues bat or do all Minor League teams use the designated hitter? Based on how most pitchers hit, I would assume they use a DH in the Minors.
-- Nick L., Pittsburgh

The designated hitter rules have changed over time, but this is the deal right now: the DH is used in Double-A and Triple-A games unless the two teams are both farm teams for National League teams. If that is the case, then pitchers on both sides hit. In Class A or lower games, the DH is always used.

Where is catcher Humberto Cota now that he is no longer on the Pirates roster?
-- Michael S., Savannah, N.Y.

Cota was designated for assignment by the Pirates on June 4 and cleared waivers 10 days later. Right now, Cota is playing at Indianapolis, where he has gone 2-for-14 since returning there. It is unlikely that Cota will make a return to the big-league club now that the Pirates have a third catcher in Josh Phelps.

I see that many fans are raising questions about Zach Duke. Haven't Duke's last few starts been good enough to get a win? It's the same with Paul Maholm. While they are not blowing batters away, they are pitching good games, only to have the bullpen come in and not finish the job. What is your opinion on the Pirates starting pitchers and what their records could be with a more reliable bullpen?
-- Matthew R., Mercersburg, Pa.

While you can't expect the bullpen to be perfect and hold every lead, if we lived in a perfect world in which they did, here's how the Pirates' starter's records would look.

After doing a little stat crunching, it seems that Tom Gorzelanny's record has been hurt the most by the Pirates bullpen. Gorzelanny left three games this season with a lead only to have the bullpen lose it. On April 10, Salomon Torres blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning that cost Gorzelanny a win. On May 19, Gorzelanny watched the bullpen blow the five-run lead he left with. Torres cost Gorzelanny another win in June when he gave up two runs to the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth. If the 'pen had protected those three leads, Gorzelanny would be 10-4 and leading the league in wins.

Duke has had two games blown by the bullpen, the most recent one happening against the Angels on Friday. Duke left with a three-run lead in that game, only to see the Angels chip away against the bullpen and eventually win in extra innings. Back on May 16, Matt Capps blew a save against Florida which also cost Duke a victory. If Duke had those two wins, his record would be a more respectable 5-6.

Ian Snell would be 7-5 if Torres hadn't blown a save in one of Snell's starts in April. And Maholm is the only pitcher who hasn't had a win taken away due to a bullpen blown save.

Where did the Pirates get Masumi Kuwata?
-- Jake F., Wheeling, W. Va.

Kuwata arrived at Spring Training after spending 20 seasons as a pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. The 39-year-old pitcher had wanted to play in the Major Leagues his entire career, but he had trouble trying to pursue that dream because the Giants management would not relinquish his rights for years. But after he played only three games last year due to an ankle injury, the Giants let him go.

Two teams, the Pirates and the Red Sox, gave Kuwata Minor League offers, but Kuwata decided to go with the Pirates, who signed the Japanese right-hander as a Minor League free agent in December 2006. Kuwata felt like Pittsburgh was a good fit for him because of the connections both Tracy and pitching coach Jim Colborn have with Japanese players. Tracy spent two years playing in Taiyo, Japan during the early 80s, while Colborn spent four years as the pitching coach for the Orix BlueWave of the Japanese Pacific League.

Jeifer Langosch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.