Nice article....only question is, how long will they last in Pittsburgh before being snapped up at bargain basement prices by winning teams? Let's hope history doesn't keep repeating itself and we can actually keep these guys.
Pirates' hopes rest on two young arms
By Paul White, USA TODAY
The Pittsburgh Pirates spent most of last season waiting for two young pitchers to lead them out of baseball's longest current streak of losing seasons. The streak continues, but the Pirates have found their golden arms.
Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell aren't the two names the Pirates had in mind for 2006, but they've emerged as the leaders of this year's Pittsburgh staff. Though the Pirates are five games under .500 in their bid for their first winning season since 1992, Gorzelanny and Snell entered Tuesday among the top 15 in the league in ERA. In fact, Gorzelanny's 2.51 ERA since July 23 of last season is second-best in the majors over that span among pitchers with at least 100 innings. Only San Diego's Jake Peavy has been better.
Lefties Zach Duke and Paul Maholm were supposed to be the emerging stars after impressive performances as late-season call-ups in 2005, but they have combined for a 22-36 record and 4.81 ERA since the beginning of last season. Both remain in the Pittsburgh rotation and, says manager Jim Tracy, the 24-year-olds are still key parts of the team's future. But right-hander Snell, 25, and lefty Gorzelanny, who turns 25 in July, have transformed themselves into the Pirates' effective 1-2 tandem.
They're hardly alike. The 6-foot-2 Gorzelanny, a second-round draft pick in 2003, is not overpowering but effectively mixes and locates a fastball, slider and changeup. Snell, listed at 5-11, was a 26th-rounder in 2000. He's adding polish to the power repertoire. Gorzelanny is confident but soft-spoken, Snell brasher with an edge honed, he says, by skeptics wondering if he was big enough to be a successful major league pitcher.
"He's a competitive, competitive kid," Tracy says of Snell, who has won at least 10 games every year since his first full pro season, in 2001, and had a 58-19 minor league record. "At some point, people have to realize he's won everywhere he's pitched."
Snell's record is 4-4 this year but at 14-11 last year was the only Pirates starter with a winning record after barely making the rotation out of spring training.
"I don't have much to say about myself," Snell says. But when told Tracy says he's on his way to becoming a No. 1 starter, Snell pauses.
"Really?" he says. "That's a great compliment. I've still got a lot to learn. I still basically need to learn how to pitch, things like pitch selection."
A hard curve has been Snell's best pitch, but he's throwing more changeups now, especially to right-handers, in addition to a fastball that can get into the 93-95 mph range and a slider. But it's not Snell's stuff that intrigues Tracy.
"He has a better idea of how to get out of trouble," Tracy says. "He has a better understanding of how to pitch to a lineup, identifying where he can best get outs. That's a serious sign of growth."
Snell has heard enough about growth. He jokes he wants to meet San Francisco Giants rookie pitcher Tim Lincecum, the 2006 first-round draft pick also listed at 5-11 and 10 pounds lighter than Snell's 170 pounds.
"I can't wait to meet him and to hear what people have been telling him" about his size, Snell says.
Gorzelanny had his own skeptics coming into this season, especially after a 7.96 spring training ERA in 26 innings. He hardly seemed like he had a job ensured, coming off a 2-5 major league record last year. But his 2.52 ERA over his final eight 2006 starts carried much more weight than the spring numbers, Tracy says.
"This spring was more of getting everything in tune," says Gorzelanny, who at 5-3 entering Tuesday's start has the only winning record in the Pittsburgh rotation this season. "I feel like I told a million people the regular season is what counts and I'd be ready."
That's a huge step from his first three starts after the Pirates summoned him from Class AAA last year.
"I didn't know where the ball was going," says Gorzelanny, who gave up 12 runs, 14 hits and 12 walks in those three games, two losses and a no-decision. 'I was like, 'Here we go. ? Look out. ? Oh, my God, sorry if I hit you.' Finally, I started relaxing. I'd take a breath and say, 'Do your thing.' "
These days, that's winning.