The front office and field management of the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to be caught in a quandary. Their present dilemma is simply this. The pendulum of the team’s everyday performance on the field seems to be swinging toward the injury side as opposed to the normal functions of the Pirates everyday position players. David Freese was placed on the 10-day DL last week (April 26). The injury of Freese may represent a curse in more ways than one. Aside from the Pirates losing one of their most exciting and productive offensive players, Freese is also a steady glove at third base.

I feel for Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle. When the bell tolls at midnight on the day of or before that, he has to send one or more of his minor league standouts back down when one of his everyday regulars returns to the lineup. The Pirates seem to have received a gift that may keep on giving if a place for rookie second baseman Gift Ngoepe, just recently called up from the minors, is entrenched in the Pirates’ everyday lineup. If I’m making out the lineup card for the Bucs, this collection of starters would be taking the field for me: Josh Bell, first base; Gift Ngoepe, second base; Jordy Mercer, shortstop; Josh Harrison, third base; Gregory Polanco, left field; Andrew McCutchen, center field; And a combination of John Jaso, Danny Ortiz, or Jose Osuna in right field. With Ngoepe, Harrison, Polanco and McCutchen as four of the starting nine on a daily basis, the Pirates have four greyhounds that can flat out fly.

Having those players in the lineup every day, Pittsburgh may possibly manufacture at least one extra run per game as well as defensively preventing the opposition from scoring a run or two. How important is that? Well, as of Monday morning (May 1), the Pirates have scored 90 runs in 24 games. To compare, the Washington Nationals have scored 170 runs in 24 contests. Every run scored and every run that the Pirates can prevent from scoring means far more, especially when the Pirates roster is beginning to resemble a M.A.S.H. unit, combined with an anemic offense.  Speed kills the opposition and sends your team for a thrill, when you have it. But if you don’t have it, it can kill you.

James Conner becomes a Steeler

When the Pittsburgh Steelers chose Pitt star running back James “The Real King James” Conner in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft on April 28, I don’t know about you, but chills ran up and down my spine. Although he has now crossed over to the other side, I felt the presence of the Steelers late owner Dan Rooney when the pick was announced. I visualized the thumb of Mr. Rooney on the scale of opportunity in regards to the Steelers choosing the celebrated running back hailing from where else, Pitt.

Throughout his collegiate career, Conner battled and overcame cancer as well as several other injuries that would have spelled doom for any normal human being. However, the grit, determination and perseverance of Conner had to be one of the determining factors in the talented back getting the call that instead of playing on Saturdays, he would suit up to play on Sundays, in the same locker room that he used in college.  May God continue to be with him.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: or 412-583-6741. Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe.)


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