MLB Insiders - Pittsburgh Pirates

Tom Gorzelanny says he is ready to put a miserable 2008 season behind him. He has lost 15 pounds and a new closely-cropped haircut is at symbolic of change.

The left-hander seemed poised to become of the better starting pitchers in the National League in 2007 when he went 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 32 starts during his first full major league season. However, he was 6-9 with a 6.66 ERA in 21 starts last season, and he was made to take a seven-start detour to Class AAA Indianapolis beginning July 4 in an effort to get on track.

Gorzelanny admitted he reported to spring training out of shape last year after getting married in the offseason and slacking off on his workouts. He also had elbow pain that persisted throughout the season, though he hid the severity from the Pirates' medical staff.

"I figured once we got started with spring training, everything would be fine, I'd get back into shape and my arm would stop hurting," Gorzelanny said. "It was a humbling season. I learned a lot about myself and to not take things for granted. I realized that the hard work doesn't stop once you have success in the major leagues."

Gorzelanny tried to pitch through the elbow discomfort. He second-guesses himself for not having the problem attended to early.

"I didn't think it was that serious and I really wanted to build off what I had done the year before," Gorzelanny said. "I'm a competitor. I wanted to take the ball every fifth day and pitch. I didn't want to go on the disabled list. Looking back, it was selfish on my part. At the time, though, I felt I was doing the right thing by not letting my team down."

His lessons learned, Gorzelanny believes he is on course for a season more like 2007 than 2008.

"Last year was so frustrating that I never want to go through anything like that again," Gorzelanny said. "It made me hungry to come back this season and pitch the way I know I'm capable of pitching."

--CF Nate McLouth remains on course to go to an arbitration hearing Feb. 17 in Phoenix. He is seeking a $3.8 million salary for 2009, while the Pirates are offering $2.7 million. McLouth won a Gold Glove and played in the All-Star Game last season in his first full year as a regular in the major leagues. He hit .276 with 26 home runs, 94 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 152 games.

--While the Pirates say that LHP Paul Maholm is the only starting pitcher assured of a spot on the Opening Day roster, most insiders believe LHP Zach Duke and RHP Ian Snell are all but certain to be in the rotation at the start of the season. That leaves LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RHP Jeff Karstens, RHP Daniel McCutchen and RHP Ross Ohlendorf as the most legitimate candidates for two jobs, though RHP Jimmy Barthmaier could surprise.

--OF Nyjer Morgan enters spring training with a lead in left field; club officials say it is his job to lose. Morgan hit .294 with seven RBIs and nine steals in 58 games last season but figures to be pushed during the exhibition season by a pair of veterans, OF/INF Eric Hinske and OF Craig Monroe.

--C Jason Jararmillo, acquired from the Philadelphia organization in an offseason trade, figures to have a leg up in the battle with Robinzon Diaz to back up Ryan Doumit. Pirates manager John Russell is familiar with Jaramillo after having managed him at Class AAA Ottawa in 2007. Jaramillo, 26, hit .266 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs in 115 games with Class AAA Lehigh Valley last season.

--3B Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, showed up early for spring training in top condition. The Vanderbilt product was overweight when he participated in the Florida Instructional League last fall after being a contract holdout for most of the summer and suffering tendinitis in both knees. Alvarez likely will be sent to one of Pittsburgh's two full-season Class A farm clubs, either West Virginia in the South Atlantic League or Lynchburg in the more advanced Carolina League.

BY THE NUMBERS: .253, .297 -- 1B Adam LaRoche's career batting averages before and after the All-Star break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is the year it changes for Adam. He's going to come out of the box raking on Opening Day and have that big year we all know he's capable of having." -- Pirates C Ryan Doumit, on 1B Adam LaRoche.

Pirates Dugout Top Stories