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Andrew McCutchen is the leader of the Pirates. Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

Royals/Pirates Series Preview Q&A With Tom Smith of Rum Bunter

Interleague play starts back up in earnest tonight with a road series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. As such, we’ve asked Tom Smith of Pirates blog Rum Bunter a few pertinent questions to get fans fired up for the weekend showdown. My portion of the Q&A is up  now, so go check it out.

(no seriously, I’ll wait).

Below are the six-pack of hard-hitting questions I leveled at Tom to prepare Royals fans for the feisty 29-27 Pirates:

Andrew McCutchen leads the team in virtually every relevant statistical category. Is there a more popular man in Pittsburgh right now?

 I think the fans are starting to realize just how great Andrew McCutchen is playing.  Pittsburgh is tough on their star players.  There are plenty of critics regarding Sidney Crosby and Ben Roethlisberger.

Cutch gets his far share too–there is a minority of people who look at his arm and question it.  Even more wonder how in the hell he can’t be a better base stealer or base runner.  However, Cutch is a popular figure and without him, this Pirates team would be in sad shape.  It’s hard to understand why some teams pitched to him in the past month, the Bucs had precious few other bats that were consistent.

The Pirates remain two games above .500 despite posting the lowest average runs per game in the league. How do they keep winning despite the offensive struggles?
The pitching has been very strong.  The bullpen has its’ share of edge of your seat excitement, but they have also done the job.  The pickup of A.J. Burnett has done wonders for the confidence, mental approach, and mound presence for James McDonald–who has been lights out.  It’s hard not to imagine Burnett has helped out other pitchers on the Bucs roster.

We also think the Pirates were embarrassed by how they finished last season.  It was a huge flop.  Most of the team looks to be in great condition and that off season work and commitment has (knocking on a 2 by 4) kept the team very healthy in the first third of the season.

I am envious of the rotation Pittsburgh has put together. Do Pirates fans appreciate the finds of A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, and do you feel comfortable with them taking the hill?

Erik Bedard of the Pirates will get the start tonight against Luke Hochevar and the Kansas City Royals. Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The city loves veteran players.  It’s unreal.  Give Pittsburgh a chiseled veteran like Burnett who looks like he just polished off a shot and an Iron at the corner pub and they will cheer all night for the guy.  Bedard has won fans from the get go… his strong start on a gorgeous opening day at PNC Park that had the stands and rotundo overflowing.  It also helps when he gives insanely short answers to the media’s questions.

Pittsburgh appreciates talented players on the mound, it’s been a long time since it’s occured so the absence of talent has definently made the hearts of Pirates fans have an affection for what Bedard and Burnett have going on right now in the Burgh.

Pedro Alvarez was taken one spot ahead of Eric Hosmer in the 2008 draft. Both players have had ups and downs. Do you regret the pick of Alvarez or do you still hold out hope for stardom for him?
We think Alvarez would have been who 90-95 percent of teams would have taken.  We stand by Alvarez and in time, he is going to develop into the slugger everyone thought he would be.  He has played some great situational defense at the hot corner which sometimes gets overlooked.

The bottom line is that he has struggled mightily, but the team simply can’t give up on him.  He needs to play to make future evaluations of his status.   The bench isn’t a smart option.

Do Pittsburgh fans feel confident about signing Mark Appel? How did fans respond to his decision to decline media inquiries after the draft? Will he ultimately be better than Kyle Zimmer?
We don’t know what options he really has.  What is he going to do go to Japan or play independent ball?  The draft is what it is and under the regime’s new laws, the leverage that the first-year player has are truly limited when you think about it.

Most fans knew it was Evil Scotty messing with our Team President and rival Frank Coonelly, formerly of MLB.

We like Zimmer a lot, but trying to predict what these heart breaking prospects will do is something I am trying to shy away from anymore.  I do think he will be better long term than Zimmer will be.
 What is your prediction for this series?
 We think the Pirates will win two of three for their fifth straight series win.  It won’t be easy as the Royals bullpen scares me in looking at matchups against the Bucs offense.

 

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Tags: A.J. Burnett AL Central Andrew McCutchen Erik Bedard Kansas City Royals Mark Appel MLB NL Central Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates Royals

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