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6. PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page H14

Dude, why even bother? Seriously, what's the point in fielding a team this year -- or any year, for that matter? Well, since it looks like you're going to be stubborn, let's be up front about this: You've got no chance. Zilch.

Sure, there are a handful of promising players in this outfit, beginning with left fielder Jason Bay, last year's NL rookie of the year, and emerging ace Oliver Perez (2.98 ERA last year). In addition, the shedding of catcher Jason Kendall's cumbersome contract at least gives the franchise a starting point for its rebuilding effort.

_____ Breakdown _____
 baseball
Lineup
RF Matt Lawton
SS Jack Wilson
LF Jason Bay
1B Craig Wilson
3B Ty Wiggington
CF Tike Redman
C Humberto Cota
2B Jose Castillo
Rotation
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP Kip Wells
RHP Josh Fogg
LHP Mark Redman
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
Closer
RHP Jose Mesa

Best move: Getting out from under C Jason Kendall's contract by trading him to Oakland for LHP Mark Redman.
Biggest loss: Losing promising RHP John Van Benschoten for the season with a shoulder injury.
Top rival: Philadelphia Phillies.

___ Team Capsules ___
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
NL East
NL Central
NL West
1. Cubs
4. Mets
4. Reds
   
 
AL East
AL Central
AL West
 


But Bay missed a sizeable chunk of the spring after bruising his left wrist diving for a ball on March 8 -- Dude, take it easy in the spring, okay? -- and Perez missed a smaller chunk with shoulder stiffness.

There seems to be little chance the Pirates can avoid what would be a 13th consecutive losing season, but largely because of the shedding of Kendall's contract, there at least appears to be something resembling hope.

The Pirates have yet to win more than 75 games in four years under Manager Lloyd McClendon, and he might not make it through this season if there is not some improvement.

Dude, could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

-- Dave Sheinin


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