Pirates Notebook: How might Bonds affect young starters?
Monday, August 06, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Remember Al Downing?
Most baseball fans do, and it has nothing to do with his 17 seasons in Major League Baseball or his being a 20-game winner in 1971. Rather he is, now and forever, the guy who gave up Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run April 8, 1974, as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
By next weekend, the Pirates could have someone in a similar category.
With Barry Bonds still a home run shy of breaking Aaron's 755, he has four home games against the Washington Nationals beginning tonight, then five against his former team, very much opening the possibility that someone in that span will be the poor soul whose gopher ball gets shown on ESPN Classic for the next few decades or so.
Pirates manager Jim Tracy's rotation for the three games in San Francisco -- which he was forced to reset after the rainout yesterday at PNC Park against the Cincinnati Reds -- will be Matt Morris, Tony Armas and Tom Gorzelanny. The pitchers for the Aug. 13 doubleheader at PNC Park will be Paul Maholm and Shane Youman.
Morris and Armas are veterans who probably have been through enough to handle it.
But the others?
Gorzelanny and Maholm are 25, each still in the formative stage of his career. Youman is 27, but a rookie.
"Yeah, if you're the one, you'll have to see it for many years to come," Maholm said. "But, for me, he's one of the best hitters in the game, and I take that as a challenge all by itself. I'm going to challenge him. If I give it up, I give it up. It wouldn't be the first home run he's hit."
He quickly added with a smile: "But, hopefully, it will happen before we get there. I know it'll be a big deal."
Gorzelanny, too, acknowledged already giving it thought, but ...
"We're going out there to win three games, not to worry about one guy," he said. "There's a lot of hoopla. We watch it, we hear it, and I'm sure we're all interested. But we're more interested in winning games. When he comes up, we're just going to try to get him out like all their other hitters."
And does he, like Maholm, plan to approach Bonds aggressively?
"I don't see any reason to pitch around him. You're better off going at him than putting him on."
For the record, here is how Bonds has fared against the Pirates' five starters facing San Francisco: He is 2 for 14 with two doubles vs. Morris, 5 for 10 with two doubles and two home runs vs. Armas, 1 for 2 with a double vs. Gorzelanny, and he never has faced Maholm or Youman.
The Nationals' starters against the Giants will be John Lannan, Mike Bacsik, Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan.
Rain pushes game to Aug. 28
The Pirates and Reds, who never took the field yesterday once the rain began falling a half-hour before the scheduled first pitch, will make up the game as part of a doubleheader Aug. 28, beginning at 5:05 p.m.
Gorzelanny, who had been set to start for the first time since feeling shoulder stiffness July 25 in New York, will be pushed back to the Pirates' next game, tomorrow in Phoenix. Maholm and Armas will pitch the other two games of that series.
Tickets for the game yesterday can be used for any remaining home games other than the SkyBlast dates, Aug. 16-18.
Littlefield: Still active
General manager Dave Littlefield does not discuss potential personnel moves, so he is not about to shed light on the ongoing talks with the Detroit Tigers regarding shortstop Jack Wilson.
But he did acknowledge yesterday, in a general sense, that he has remained active in talks beyond the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
"We're trying to get better, and we're continuing to work to make that happen," he said.
Asked if that is more difficult now, given that players must clear waivers to be dealt, Littlefield replied: "It's more challenging, but it's doable. Teams make trades in August."
The best trade of Littlefield's career came in August, the one that netted Jason Bay and Oliver Perez from the San Diego Padres for Brian Giles on Aug. 26, 2003.
Outfielder Xavier Nady did more running to test his strained left hamstring but reported negligible progress. It is far from certain that he will rejoin the lineup tomorrow.
Outfielder Chris Duffy, rehabilitating a sprained left ankle in Bradenton, Fla., has resumed baseball-related activity, Littlefield said. There remains no timetable for Zach Duke, also in Bradenton because of a sore left elbow, to throw off a mound.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig will not attend Bonds' games tonight through Wednesday, but there is a chance he will be in San Francisco after that, including the series with the Pirates.