March 24, 2010

Rotation Set: Duke 1st, McCutchen 5th

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / March 24, 2010

Completely disregarding the results of the Pirates WFC Blog poll, the Pirates have named Zach Duke the Opening Day starter for Monday, April 5th.

Although Paul Maholm started the opener last year, my preference was to go with Duke because of his performance in last year's home opener. He shut out the Astros on four hits and was dominant throughout the game, something that's quite rare for a pitch to contact guy. Furthermore, look at him. Put an R next to his name and he could win a county commissioner election in any hinterlands county of Western PA.

It will be the lefty's second ever true Opening Day start. Zach also rose to the occasion in 2007 giving up two runs over seven innings, although the Paulino-led lineup only got him a no-decision. I love lefthanded pitching.

The Dodgers haven't named Duke's opponent yet. I think Joe Torre will let his young pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, pitch the second and third games. That would leave either Hiroki Kuroda or Vicente "No N" Padilla to pitch the opener. My vote is Padilla because he's more likely to get lit up.

Ross Ohlendorf will start the second game of the season on Wednesday the 7th. Paul Maholm will start Thursday the 8th. Charlie Morton will start Friday the 9th at Arizona with Duke making his second start on the 10th.

Finally as predicted here and virtually nowhere else, Daniel McCutchen won the fifth starter job. In the clearest indication yet that the Pirates are basing their personnel decisions on the WFC Blog, Kevin Hart was sent to Indianapolis. McCutchen is a solid six inning/three run kind of guy which is the best any team gets from their fifth starter. He'll only start two games in April, neither of them at home, as the Pirates will give their top four guys the maximum number of starts. Another good decision.

Backing this pretty solid rotation will be a lineup that looks like this:

CF McCutchen
2B Iwamura
RF Jones
C Doumit
LF Milledge
3B LaRochetat
1B Clement
SS Cedeno

Not quite as impressive. The 5-6-7 spots could change but I'm pretty sure of the others. It's time for Ryan Doumit to put together a 25 home run year out of that cleanup spot.

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