The Pittsburgh Pirates were a push over for a long time in the National League Central and a team that the Milwaukee Brewers owned and dominated, but after two straight Wild-Card bids, they are a team looking to contend for a title. Last season the Brewers still won the season series 12-7 and they must do it a again if they hope to contend for a playoff spot this season.
Like the Brewers, the Pirates were swept in their first series of the season and will enter the weekend 0-3. With the help of Jason Rollison from Rumbuter, we were able to take an inside look at the 2015 Pirates. Here is what he had to say:
Josh Harrison had a breakout year last season, who could be that breakout star this year for the Pirates?
—Perhaps it’s an embarrassment of riches, but the Bucs have several breakout stars. The cliche answer is Starling Marte, so I’ll go a bit off of the board and say Francisco Cervelli. Here is a guy that, when healthy and playing everyday, can give you a great slashline with very adequate defense. He seems to be locked into the seventh spot in the order, so the Pirates will count on him to make pitchers work to get him out.
Jung Ho Kang was a big signing this winter, where do you see his future with the club and what are your expectations for him this season?
—His future with the club hinges entirely on what the club decides to do with Neil Walker. Whether Walker is in the long term plans for the Pirates at 2B remains to be seen, but Kang’s fate is attached to The Pittsburgh Kid’s. As for this season, after a lukewarm spring our expectations are significantly lowered. We hope to see competent defense and 8-10 HR from a pinch hitter/part time player scenario.
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Corey Hart was a fan favorite in Milwaukee. Though he has battled a lot of health problems in recent years what are his chances of earning everyday at-bats this season?
—I hate to break it to you but the chances are slim-to-none. Perhaps that plan was made even clearer in last night’s game when Hart came in for Pedro Alvarez, came through with a pinch-hit single, then was immediately pulled for a pinch runner. Sure, Hart will get his starts here and there, but I would expect one start a week, if that. Barring injury of course. Defensively, Clint Hurdle seems to favor Sean Rodriguez.
Any chances of a pitcher like Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon pitching in the Pirates rotation this season?
—There is always a chance but of the two Glasnow has the best chance. Taillon is still working his way back from TJ Surgery, and although there is a good possibility of a September callup, my bet is the club plays it safe, barring a disastrous string of injury. Glasnow seemed to be ready last year, so I expect to see him up as one of the first depth options for the Bucs.
The Pirates have been a team that has been on the brink for the past few season’s what do they need to happen to get over the hump this season and advance in the postseason?
—Our offense needs to hit like we are capable of. Our rotation after AJ Burnett needs to be as reliable this year as they were last year. Gregory Polanco absolutely needs to take the next step in his progression, especially now that his safety blanket in Travis Snider has been dealt away. Most importantly, Pedro Alvarez will have to bounce back at the plate to give the Pirates a true thumper in the lineup.
With the series set to begin on Friday Mike Fiers will face left hander Jeff Locke. It will be interesting to see how Brewers manager Ron Roenicke sets his lineup considering the struggles of both Adam Lind and Scooter Gennett against lefties. Saturday’s match-up features Jimmy Nelson against Vance Worley and on Sunday Kyle Lohse will look to rebound off of his rough opener as he squares off against Francisco Liriano.