Yankees 6, Pirates 3
Virgil Vasquez hung a pitch to minor leaguer Colin Curtis with two on and one out in the ninth on Wednesday and that’s how this one ended. When Curtis made contact, there was never any question that it would clear the right-field fence. Three runs scored on the walk-off blast.
On a positive pitching note, things couldn’t have started off much better for Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf. Both retired the side in order in their one inning of work. Maholm won the battle of efficiency, though, with nine of his 11 pitches for strikes. Ohlendorf needed 12 pitches — including one nasty, low, called third strike to Alex Rodriguez. Seven were strikes.
“I challenged [Ohlendorf],” Maholm joked when their outings were completed. “I told him I had 11 pitches. He threw 12. So I’m one ahead of him right now.”
Neither pitcher had much time to get comfortable on the rubber either. Maholm’s first opponent was Derek Jeter. And Ohlendorf drew Rodriguez as his first batter of the spring. So much for warming up against a Triple-A squad.
“It’s always interesting to see Alex Rodriguez as the first hitter you face,” Ohlendorf said. “Of course, it’s his first time out, too. It was a lot of fun to get out there. I was a little bit overexcited, but not too bad.”
Both pitchers were limited to one inning to simulate what would have been their normal day for a side session. Expect both to throw two innings next time out and then start building up from there.
Ohlendorf didn’t throw a single changeup on Wednesday, but expect that to change his next time out. The right-hander really wants to perfect the pitch as the spring progresses, but he particularly wants to throw it to left-handed hitters. As luck would have it, Ohlendorf faced three right-handed batters in this one.
Left-handed hitters batted .286 against Ohlendorf last year as compared to the .221 mark posted by right-handed hitters. He hopes the addition of an improved changeup can limit the success left-handed hitters have against him this season.
The fact that Ohlendorf is not out competing for a rotation spot like last year gives him a better platform to really focus on this pitch without worrying about results.
“I feel a lot better right now just because I feel a lot more confident in my ability,” Ohlendorf said. “I feel like I know more what it takes to get guys out than last year. So I feel better for that reason. The main thing is that I may try and work on things a little bit more.”
The Jeff Clement experiment moved from the practice field at Pirate City to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Wednesday. And he fared just fine. Clement made a nice play in the first on a chopper his way and made it through four innings without any noticeable issues.
“He did fine,” manager John Russell said of Clement’s defense. “He was in the right position. He didn’t stiffen up or panic. The biggest thing is being in the right position and knowing the fundamentals of what he’s doing. He looked fine.”
Clement continues to put in early work in the field daily.
After going 2-for-2 with a solo homer and RBI single in Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Manatees, catcher Erik Kratz split the left-center field gap with a line-drive, two-run double in the Pirates’ three-run seventh inning. That was his only at-bat of the game.
“Right now you’re just trying to look for a pitch to hit,” Kratz said after Wednesday’s hit. “I’m looking for something in the zone and the last two days I’ve gotten pitches that were in the middle and I was able to take a good swing at. I wasn’t trying to do too much with them, and I got more out of them than I was looking for. I was just trying to hit a line drive.”
Kratz is back with Pittsburgh as a non-roster player and is coming off the best season he’s had professionally. Kratz hit .273 with 41 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs in 93 games with Triple-A Indianapolis last year.
“He has picked up where he left off last year,” Russell said. “He put himself on the map with a very solid Triple-A season and he’s doing a good job here. He’s a threat at the plate. He’s catching the ball well. He’s another nice addition with our catching corps.”
Because your Pittsburgh media contingent was up in Tampa today, we didn’t get to see Joel Hanrahan get back into action. However, we were told this afternoon that he did throw on flat ground Wednesday (45 feet) and that all went well.
I’ll keep you updated on what his progression will be as we learn more.
Up next: It’s a two-hour drive to Orlando for the troops on Thursday, the first of two that we have to the land of Disney in the next nine days. Charlie Morton will get the two-inning start for Pittsburgh and is scheduled to be followed by Brian Burress and Brad Lincoln, among others.
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