Twins 5, Pirates 4

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

An 0-for-3 day now has Brandon Moss at 0-for-22 this spring. He didn’t get the ball out of the infield on Thursday, grounding out weakly to second twice and reaching on an infield error. This is not what Moss had in mind when he showed up at Spring Training intent on proving that he deserves another chance to prove that he can be an everyday player. At this point, Moss is still competing for a bench spot.

But at some point, he’s going to have to get that first hit.

“I’m sure he’s pressing,” manager John Russell said. “That’s a tough go. He’s had some decent at-bats. I hope after he gets that first he that he can relax. I’m pretty sure he’s pressing a little bit. We’ll see how it goes. It’s not that he’s taking bad swings. He’s not finding holes when he does hit the ball hard. It’s just one of those thing that you go through.”

Is there at least any sign that Moss is maintaining consistent mechanics with his swing (something he couldn’t do last year)?

“He seems to be,” Russell said. “We just don’t want him to tighten up. He’s starting to fight some balls off now. I know Donnie has talked to him about trying to stay as free and easy as you can. He just needs to try and relax.”

Only Garrett Jones (nine) has struck out more times this spring than Moss (eight).

Before jumping to any conclusions, though, keep in mind that at this time last year everyone was wondering how the Pirates were going to stick with Nyjer Morgan through his awful spring. Morgan then went on to hit .307 in April.

***

First baseman Jeff Clement connected for his first home run of the spring, and it helped him, too, get out of an offensive funk. Clement is still just 4-for-26 this spring, but the Pirates are encouraged by the approach that he has kept despite the lack of hits.

Clement is not chasing that many pitches and taking plenty of them. He has walked a team-high four times. At this point, it doesn’t seem like Clement’s less-than-stellar offensive numbers will be a factor when the Pirates decide if he can be the club’s Opening Day first baseman. That all depends on his defense, which has been steady.

“He’s been having pretty good at-bats and staying on the ball and hitting the ball the other way,” Russell said. “It looks like he’s not overswinging, not chasing a lot. Those are some of the things you look for. In Spring Training especially, it’s how they do it, not the result of it. I think that was big for him today. All in all, I think his at-bats have gone pretty well. He just hasn’t gotten the hits to show for it.”

***

Righty Ross Ohlendorf seemed plenty pleased with how things went in his four-inning outing on Thursday. Ohlendorf allowed two runs on four hits and struck out two. And in a nice change of pace from yesterday’s start with Kevin Hart, there were no walks.

Ohlendorf took the mound against the Twins using his entire repertoire of pitches. Early in Spring Training, pitchers often use starts to work on particular pitches. With just over two weeks remaining until Opening Day, though, this is the time of the month where pitchers start putting everything together.

“I felt really good,” he said afterward. “I felt like I was into the game more in terms of being able to read swings better and picking pitches. It’s more fun now because you get to face a lineup multiple times. You worry about pitch efficiency more. Early in Spring Training, you pitch more like a reliever. It’s just a little bit different mindset. I like getting stretched out more.”

He was particularly pleased with his fastball and changeup — a pitch that Ohlendorf has really zeroed in on this spring — afterward.

Ohlendorf threw 69 pitches. He said he expects to likely to have a pitch count of 80 his next time out. Minnesota’s Jim Thome caused Ohlendorf’s primary problems. Thome singled and scored in the second and then homered in the fourth. Both pitches he hit were fastballs.

“I thought both pitches were pretty good pitches,” Ohlendorf said. “He did a good job of hitting them.”

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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