Astros 11, Pirates 1; Duke gets Opening Day nod

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

After Tuesday’s loss, manager John revealed that lefty Zach Duke will be the Pirates’ Opening Day starter this year. The rotation will then follow this order: Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton and Daniel McCutchen.

This will be Duke’s second Opening Day start. He earned the nod first in 2007.

Russell emphasized that he could have selected any three of Duke, Ohlendorf and Maholm to make the April 5 start. But with the way the spring schedule lined up, the start fell to Duke. He will make his next spring start on March 26 and another on March 31. He’ll then have a normal four days of rest before the April 5 opener.

You can find more on this decision on pirates.com in a bit.

***

Not to start a panic or anything, but two weeks from Opening Day and Ross Ohlendorf still isn’t particularly sharp with his command. Tuesday was his biggest struggle this spring. Ohlendorf had hoped to finish 5-6 innings, but was only able to get 3 2/3 under his belt. He came in with a target pitch count of 80.

Ohlendorf allowed nine hits, seven runs (four earned), walked three and struck out two against a Houston team that was made up of mostly reserve players.

“Obviously, I didn’t pitch well,” he said afterward. “I was in bad counts. I just wasn’t commanding the fastball like I needed to. Command wasn’t very good.

“I was wanting to treat it more like a game. I kind of wish I had thrown more changeups. I threw one and it was a good one. It would have been a good day to work on throwing it to righties, but I didn’t think about that until afterward.”

Ohlendorf’s results on Tuesday bring his cumulative Spring Training totals to: 10 2/3 IP, 15 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. It’s not exactly where the right-hander had hoped to be.

“I would have hoped to have pitched a lot better than I did today,” he said. “I would have liked to have pitched better up to now.”

Said Ohlendorf on his command: “Last game it was good and the first one-inning game was good. I wouldn’t say it was great throughout Spring Training. At the beginning, I know I was overthrowing.”

Again, Spring Training isn’t all about results. But command is certainly not something you want to be struggling with as camp nears an end. Ohlendorf does have time to get two more starts under his belt before making his first one of the season on April 7 against the Dodgers.

“He’s going to be fine,” Russell said. “He’s going to continue to go out, continue to work.”

Follow me on Twitter; @LangoschMLB

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