After watching Andy LaRoche play last season, I have to admit that I was impressed with what he did. But I still have my doubts. I would love to see the Pirates give Delwyn Young a real shot at starting. He did great at second, and I feel that he would be more valuable than LaRoche. Any chance of this happening?
-- Aaron U., Latrobe, Pa.
If I had answered this a week ago, I would have said no chance, because even if you wanted to start Young over LaRoche, you couldn't since he didn't play third. However, in recent days, Young has been taking some ground balls there, and there's a chance that he might even see a little game action at third before the spring ends. How Young adapts to another position remains to be seen. But at least know that the Pirates are going to try to make him as versatile as possible to increase his chances of getting into the lineup more frequently.
Young has been the Pirates' best offensive player this spring, and has shown impressive power in the process. His six home runs heading into Thursday's game were two shy of the club's spring record. The problem continues to be finding a place where he can fit in on defense. I don't see him getting much time at second because of Aki Iwamura. And even though Young is learning how to play third, the presence of LaRoche and eventually Pedro Alvarez doesn't make that seem like a long-term fit, either.
If Pittsburgh really wants to make room for Young's bat, it seems like the club could put him in right field. Garrett Jones could then slide to first base. Obviously, that would squeeze Jeff Clement out of a spot, but he was a question mark at that position to begin with. In such a scenario, Clement could go back to Triple-A to work on his defense, and Young could be a regular.
How long will the Pirates hold on to John Raynor before they offer him back to his original club or decide to keep him all season?
-- Dave B., Zionsville, Ind.
The Pirates don't have any sort of external deadline they have to meet, so the club has all the time it wants to evaluate Raynor. And even if they decide to keep Raynor on the Opening Day roster, that doesn't lock the Bucs into having to keep him all year.
The fact that Raynor remains in camp means that he is still being legitimately considered by management for a spot on this team. It looks like it will come down to Raynor or Brandon Moss for the final spot on the bench. The Pirates are not keen on giving up on Moss already, and they will not risk losing him on waivers (since he is out of options) if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster. However, Raynor could have more long-term upside, so don't be surprised if the Pirates go that way.
Based on what you have seen these past two years, is there any doubt in your mind about the ability of John Russell in managing this team into a winning club?
-- Raul O., Herington, Kan.
Considering some of the talent Russell has been given and the turnover this club has endured over the past two years, I think it's really hard to make any sort of assessment on Russell's managerial skills. When I look back on the 2008 and '09 records of this team, I don't do so thinking the results would have been significantly better if someone else had been the manager.
For every good move that Russell has made (remember when he decided to make Ryan Doumit the everyday catcher in 2008 over Ronny Paulino?), there is a questionable one (should Russell have continued to go to Matt Capps in save situations last year?). But you play with what you have, and quite frankly, Russell wasn't given exceptional talent in his first two years. Now, if the Pirates have as much talent as they say they do, then Russell should be held more accountable for that won-loss record moving forward.
What is the Pirates' payroll this season, and how does it compare to the team budgets of the past two seasons?
-- D.W., Salt Lake City, Utah
The Opening Day payroll isn't set in stone yet, but it will likely be somewhere in the mid-$30 million range. Whether the club keeps Ramon Vazquez's $2 million salary on the books will have the biggest effect on that number.
Keep in mind that Opening Day payroll is very different than the one the team has at the end of the season, and it's the end-of-the-year one that matters most. But if you want to simply compare Opening Day payrolls, it looks like the Pirates will have their lowest one since 2004 ($32.2 million). The Opening Day payroll in both '08 and '09 was at $48.7 million.
I am a big fan of Chase d'Arnaud. I believe he could be a very solid Major Leaguer in a few years. Is he in the Pirates' long-term plans? If he is, when could we see him in the big leagues?
-- Eddie E., Pitcairn, Pa.
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He'll probably get playing time both at second and short with Altoona because the Pirates have some other shortstops at the level that they'd like to get in the field. That's not to say the organization views him as a utility player. They just want to make sure he gets consistent at-bats even if he can't play short every day.
If d'Arnaud continues developing as he has been, there's no reason why he couldn't be entering the 2012 season as a possible option to start every day in the big leagues. However, as we all know, so much can happen in the interim.
I don't recall any mention this year of Daniel Moskos. Has he been in the Major League camp, or has he been somewhere else, or have I just missed seeing him? Is he destined for the bullpen, in your opinion?
Moskos is not in Major League camp this year, so you haven't been missing him. He has come up as a Minor League extra a few times, though, and did make one appearance a while back. In that game, Moskos allowed one run on three hits in an inning.
If Moskos is going to be a Major League pitcher, I see it coming as a reliever. The organization doesn't talk about Moskos anything close to the same way they did about Brad Lincoln, and the best way to maximize Moskos' talent may just be to make him a bullpen guy.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.