--Robert D., Moon Township, Pa.
The release of Morris was not an easy decision, Robert, despite his early-season struggles. Matt is a consummate professional and his clubhouse presence will be missed.
As we weighed our options with Morris, it became evident that there was little to be gained in moving him to the bullpen. The best answer was to release him and create an opportunity for some of our younger pitchers that we hope will be a part of the picture for years to come.
Ian Snell stressed the importance of Morris' veteran presence. Is it possible to hire him as a consultant for our young guys?
-- Jared D., Pittsburgh
Jared, we intend to hire two or three former players as special assistants to the baseball operations staff, and it is our hope that Morris will have an interest in one of those roles. We will benefit as an organization by having former successful Major League players available as resources for our Minor League players and staff, our Major League players and staff, and for us in the front office.
What is your position regarding the value of advance scouting in person vs. the current video system?
-- Dustin B., Cranberry, Pa.
Thanks for your question, Dustin. Having first-hand experience with both types of advance scouting, I can comfortably state that advance scouting via video has certain advantages over advance scouting live in person, and vice versa.
Essentially, it comes down to the Major League coaching staff and the information they require to best help our players prepare to compete on a nightly basis. As we prepared for the 2008 season, we discussed the positives and negatives of each program and chose to utilize the video advance process for this season. We are fortunate to have such a quality person in Adam Lewkowicz doing the video advance for us this season.
Giving our history of drafting pitchers, do you feel any pressure to take a position player in the First-Year Player Draft this year?
-- Tom B., Evans City, Pa.
Tom, I assure you that our focus is on taking the best available player. The bottom line is that we need to acquire as many talented players as possible via as many avenues as possible. While we cannot turn a blind eye to history, we also cannot close off a significant portion of the talent pool because of less-than-desirable prior results. We believe that our revised scouting system and points of emphasis will enhance our probability for success regardless of position.
Ryan Doumit is hitting well. Is there another position he can play to keep his bat in the lineup on a daily basis?
-- Marc K., Pittsburgh
Mark, I appreciate your interest and your question.
Doumit has met and exceeded our expectations on several fronts. Obviously he has swung the bat well, but, just as importantly, he has also worked extremely hard on his defense and has really improved his overall body conditioning and preparation.
At this point, we are continuing to focus on developing Doumit as a catcher. Provided he can continue to be adequate defensively, his bat plays above average as a catcher, but might only play average as a corner outfielder or first baseman. As such, our focus will continue to be on maximizing our players' value by developing each of them at the position of highest value to the organization.
What are manager John Russell and the coaching staff doing to improve our play defensively?
-- Justin J., Minneapolis, Minn.
Russell and his staff continue to work very hard to help our players play up to their potential. There are various points in the day where they are able to reinforce fundamentals, technique and mental attentiveness required to be a sound defender.
Frequently there is on-field early work (prior to batting practice) for individuals as well as the team as a whole. There is also the daily maintenance work that is done during batting practice by taking balls hit by coaches and fielding balls hit by the batters during batting practice. Additionally, the coaches work with each player to prepare for every game with respect to tendencies and positioning. Lastly, each of our instructors has follow-up conversations and film sessions to reinforce the teaching points for the team-defense concept as well as for each individual.