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AUBREY BRUCE

As of May 10, The Pittsburgh Pirates were the sole inhabitants of last place in the fiery NL Central. However, at least for the moment anyway, you can put away your crying towels because although there are five teams that are members of the division, only 4 1/2 games  separate first place from last place. The competition and rivalry within the NL Central is tighter than a pair of O.J. Simpson gloves that don’t fit.

This is a division where one or two games may represent a trip to the postseason or a long drawn out visit to the nearest furniture store to purchase a new couch from which the unsuccessful combatants can view the playoffs. There are no “gimmes” or giveaways.

Last weekend, the Pirates had a three-game homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers.  Pittsburgh won the first two games and were poised to take all three games, but ahh, the game of musical chair right fielders continued to be played by the Pirates with the same predictable and disastrous results.

Pittsburgh Pirates’ John Jaso, second from left, works out with teammates at baseball spring training in Bradenton, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Pirates “utility man” John Jaso, was penciled in to start in right field for the Pirates for the final game of the series against Milwaukee and one could almost sense the Brewers licking their chops. Jaso is more of a natural catcher/first baseman than an outfielder. He looks very uncomfortable in right field. It may well represent a crapshoot if anything other than a routine fly ball is hit in his direction. There have been times when instead of charging a fly ball, Jaso retreats. There has also been an occasion or two that Jaso has retreated when he should have charged the ball. Not all of his actions have resulted in errors, but one cannot be comfortable with his play in the outfield.

Why not, at least temporarily, move Josh Bell from first base to right field, and move Jaso to first base? During the Pirates series against the Yankees after the Pirates were defeated by the Yankees on April 22 (11-5 final), Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had this to say about the questionable defense of the Bucs. “I think our overall defense has got to tighten up…Jose Osuna started in right field Friday, and his error led to a run. John Jaso played there Saturday and found himself caught in between on a shallow liner.”

Except for a few games, the defense and the offense of the Pirates have yet to put together a sequence of five or six games where they’ve scored at least four runs per game along with no self-defeating defensive blunders.

The upcoming road trip will either be beautiful or brutal for the Pirates. The Pirates will return to PNC Park on May 16 after completing a seven-game west coast trip against the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Bucs will return to the Steel City, hanging somewhere around first place, or firmly mired in the basement.

Only the “Second Fiddles” have temporary control of the team’s destiny.

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

 

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