The Pirates, who have emphasized a need to find talent via every available outlet, have again gone where no team has gone before.
Late Monday night, the Pirates came to terms with Iraqi pitcher Muntadhar al-Zaidi. The 28-year-old al-Zaidi will participate in the team’s Minor League Spring Training next year.
“We are intrigued by Muntadhar’s arm strength. The Pirates are committed to creatively adding talent to our organization,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. “We are pleased to not only add another prospect to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market.”
The Iraqi pitcher came to the Pirates attention by throwing two size ten shoes at lame duck US President George W. Bush. The first shoe was a 95 mph heater, the second was comparable to Jonathan Papelbon’s slutter.
A scout from a rival organization offered this evaluation of al-Zaidi’s stuff based on the video:
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very aggressive to the plate. Call it a 3/4 arm angle. Has a very smooth and natural-looking delivery.
Fastball is 94-95 and touches 97 with some tail down and in on right-handed batters, showing occasional sink. Delivery looks repeatable, but his release point is a little inconsistent, which will create command issues until he sorts it out. Due to his lack of height, he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get great plane but nice movement on the fastball can compensate for it. The shoe doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come out of his hand as easily as IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like, but he gets good extension on his follow-through. Nice aggressive finish. And from the way he reacted when security piled on him, he’s not gonna be afraid to pitch hitters inside.
“Signing those two kids from India was the best publicity the Pirates have had in over 15 years,” said Huntington. “Our pitching basically been crap with guys from countries that don’t start with I, so we want to keep going in this new diretion. We’re also on the lookout for prospects in Iran, Indonesia, Ireland and Italy.”