Pirates 7, Braves 6
For the third straight day, the Pirates’ starting pitcher wasn’t exactly unhittable. Ross Ohlendorf allowed seven runs (four earned) in 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday. Paul Maholm allowed five runs in five innings on Wednesday. And on Thursday, five runs scored against Charlie Morton in his five-inning start. Still, much like his fellow rotation mates, Morton showed little concern about the results.
“I guess it was pitch selection because for the most part I felt like I was throwing strikes with everything except my curveball, which I was having trouble getting up,” Morton said. “I bounced a lot of curveballs. Other than that, I felt like I was in the zone. It was just pitch selection because they were hitting the ball.”
Keep in mind that there isn’t a lot of preparation that goes into Spring Training starts in terms of studying scouting reports and pitching to hitters’ weaknesses. So you would have to believe pitch selection might not have been as much an issue if this was a regular season game.
Manager John Russell pointed specifically to the changeup Morton threw to Eric Hinske as an example of a pitch that would normally not have been thrown in the situation but was because Morton wanted to work on it. Hinske took the changeup and sent it over the wall for a three-run homer.
“I thought he was good,” Russell said of Morton. “A couple wind-blown balls hurt him. But all in all, the ball was coming out of his hand well. His slider was really, really good today. Very explosive with his fastballs.”
As Russell mentioned, Morton threw a whole bunch of sliders in this start against his former team. The slider is a pitch Morton stopped throwing a lot last year, but one that he has been resurrecting this spring. If his curveball takes a little while to get going (like it did on Thursday), Morton will rely more heavily on the slider. On other days, it’s the other way around.
“Yeah, I got some swings and misses and just good strikes on sliders,” Morton said, speaking specifically of Thursday. “I’m still learning how to throw it. It’s probably working a lot better than the curveball.”
Morton has time to make two more starts before the season begins.
Delwyn Young made his debut at third base on Thursday after coming in to replace Andy LaRoche in the seventh. I heard he made a nice play in the top of the eighth, though we were down talking to Morton when that happened, so I didn’t see it. Otherwise, Young didn’t see any other action defensively.
On the offensive side of things, Young continues to rake. He leads the Grapefruit League with 18 RBIs after driving in two more on Thursday with an eighth-inning single. And it’s been well noted already that Young sits two home runs away from matching the Pirates’ all-time spring club high of eight.
Could Young play his way into an Opening Day starting job with what he has done at the plate this spring? Don’t count on it. The Pirates still don’t seem ready to make a spot for him in the lineup (there’s no one they apparently want to kick out), and they love what he can do off the bench. You wonder, though, how long a team that needs some offensive firepower can afford to keep one of its best bats off the field.
By the time the Pirates came back to win this one late, all but one of the day’s starters was already out of the game. That meant that some of the organization’s prospects — like Chase d’Arnaud and Starling Marte — were in the middle of things late.
D’Arnaud went 2-for-2 with two singles and a stolen base. One of his singles was courtesy a generous scoring decision from the official scorer (I would have given the second baseman an error), but d’Arnaud has still held his own in his handful of appearances.
Speaking of d’Arnaud, here’s a nice video of him that is currently being featured on pirates.com.
Marte had an infield single and later scored in the eighth. Boy, that kid can run.
“It’s fun to watch them play,” Russell said, speaking generally of the Minor Leaguers that have seen Grapefruit League action. “That’s the fun thing about our organization now. It’s fun to watch. It’s why we enjoy calling them up and why I enjoy getting them in the game. We have some talent.”
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