Day 6 Daily Squeeze
And now your sights and sounds from a blustery Pirate City:
- Third baseman Andy LaRoche did not participate in workouts today (fielding or hitting) after having some slight back spasms on Wednesday. LaRoche said the lower back pain wasn’t anything to be worried about, and the Pirates simply decided to sit him for precautionary reasons. He is expected to be back participating in full tomorrow.
- Pedro Lopez arrived in Bradenton late on Wednesday and worked out with the team on Thursday. With Lopez in camp, the Pirates have 57 players now at Spring Training.
- Utilityman Luis Cruz told me today that he has declined an invitation to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in March. Cruz didn’t seem too disappointed and said that he would have his best chance to make the club out of Spring Training if he stayed with the team all through camp.
- Speaking of the World Baseball Classic, both Ian Snell and Ramon Vazquez have committed to playing for Team Puerto Rico. Vazquez will be the team’s starting third baseman, and as a result, he has been taking extra infield practice at third this week. Snell started his throwing program earlier than usual this spring and will have one start with the Pirates before joining the Puerto Rican team. Manager John Russell said that should ensure that Snell is ready to go for WBC games.
- Had another interesting conversation with Manny Sanguillen today, who pulled me aside to share some insight. He watched Pedro Alvarez take batting practice earlier in the week and had to do a double-take: “I saw that swing, and I thought it was Willie,” Sanguillen said, referring, of course, to Willie Stargell. “It’s the same power, the same [bat] path. I’ve never seen that since Willie.” And the Sanguillen offered his prediction on Alvarez: “That kid — he’s going to be really special.”
- Sanguillen also wanted to let me know that his 50-foot putt for eagle at Wednesday’s Charity Golf Tournament was the highlight of the day (in his opinion, of course).
- Sanguillen wasn’t the only one wanting to catch a sneak peak at Alvarez. During morning fielding drills, the largest crowd, by far, packed around the field where Alvarez was. Considering all the team’s starting infielders were on a different field, fans had to be there to watch Alvarez.
- The infielders had the added bonus of trying to catch pop-ups with a gusting wind outside this morning, which made the drill a bit entertaining at times for onlookers. But props to Freddy Sanchez, who made the acrobatic catch of the day by sprinting into right field, doing a 360, falling and making the catch.
- In the meantime, pitchers worked on rundowns on other fields and catchers focused on throwing out baserunners.
- Nine pitchers threw bullpen sessions today, and most had the dummies set up next to the plate to emulate a real pitcher-hitter situation. Tomorrow, pitchers will throw live BP for the first time. Eighteen pitchers are expected to do so on Friday.
- I saw fan favorite Chuck Tanner from a distance today; it was the first time I had spotted him here since I arrived. He’s one of a handful of Pirates alumni who work with the team during the spring. Also here are Bill Virdon, Bill Mazeroski, Kent Tekulve and Sanguillen.
- Friday’s workout will last longer than usual, with it concluding at about 2 p.m.
- And if you didn’t already see it below, earlier I posted an entry relaying President Frank Coonelly’s message to the team earlier today. Coonelly addressed the team in a meeting before workouts. Scroll down a bit to see what was said.
Quote of the Day: “Watch. These guys are looking much better. They are going to surprise some people this year.” — Sanguillen, on team as a whole.