Pirates 10, Rays 3

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Pirates have Grapefruit League win No. 1 under their belt now after a lenthy three hour, 27 minute affair here at McKechnie Field on Sunday.

You can find a short game recap here, with a box score attached. Other content coming on the site soon:

  • Feature on Joe Beimel and how his Pittsburgh ties drew him back to the city this offseason
  • Bucs Beat: Former manager John Russell talks about his time in Pittsburgh on the eve before he returns to McKechnie Field; Kevin Correia discusses how fastball command issues bothered him on Sunday; Scott Olsen (hamstring) continues to progress; Trade talks have simmered involving Ryan Doumit

And now for the loose ends…

***

Since it’s not the main focus of the Beimel story on pirates.com, I want to mention again here that Beimel missed his scheduled appearance on Sunday due to some soreness in his left elbow. This was apparently something that crept up on Sunday, though Beimel had left the ballpark before the club notified reporters of the injury. That said, it will certainly be something I will check into on Monday.

With the lack of left-handed relief options, the Pirates really cannot afford for this to be an ailment that lingers. Right now, Beimel is listed as day-to-day.

***

It was a big day for Andrew McCutchen on Sunday, as he finished 3-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs. This marked the second day manager Clint Hurdle put McCutchen into the third spot in the lineup, a slot that Hurdle is considering for the center fielder this season.

Two of McCutchen’s three hits went for extra bases — a first-inning home run and a double in his final at-bat. Though it might not be his calling card, the power that McCutchen has shown makes it even more appealing to think about him in that No. 3 hole.

“He’s got usable power,” Hurdle said. “I just want to look at it. I think it would be silly not to look at something different after what we went through last year. Why would you come to Spring Training and not move some people around and see how we can find an offense that can score some more runs? We’re going to move some other guys around to take some different looks. This is the one, probably, that is as important as any look that I’m going to take.”

McCutchen hasn’t lobbied one way or another for where he wants to hit this season. As he noted on Sunday, “As long as I’m hitting, that’s all that matters.”

You can also anticipate seeing McCutchen run more in the coming weeks. He swiped second after singling in the fourth and continues to work on refining his baserunning technique.

“See what I can or cannot do,” McCutchen said. “The only way you can work on it is to try it. Not to give anything away, but when the opportunity is there, I’m going to try and go.”

***

After watching 10 days of practice, it is certainly encouraging to see the team execute some of those fundamental drills early in the Grapefruit League season. A few instances, in particular, stood out…

  • At least one session during workouts last week was spent practicing dirt ball reads — in other words, players tried to read how far away a ball in the dirt got from the catcher and whether or not a baserunner could advance 90 feet. It’s not that exciting of a drill to watch, but Garrett Jones made a perfect dirt ball read on Sunday that allowed him to move to second on a ball that didn’t get that far away from the catcher. Had he not been on the move immediately, Jones would have been thrown out easily.
  • The coaching staff has talked about being aggressive on the basepath, and Chase d’Arnaud followed on cue. With a hit-and-run called, d’Arnaud took off from second as Steve Pearce grounded out to short. D’Arnaud never slowed down, rounded third and scored at home on a bang-bang play. Moving from second to home on a groundout isn’t something you saw the Pirates attempt much (if at all) last year.
  • In addition to McCutchen stealing second, the Pirates also later executed a double steal with Jones and Doumit running.

All of these are encouraging signs of implementing instruction and attempting to be more aggressive.

***

Some odds and ends:

  • The Pirates went 6-for-19 with runners in scoring position, while the team’s pitchers held the Rays hitless in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
  • Joel Hanrahan made his first appearance and pitched a scoreless inning. He had two strikeouts and walked one.
  • It doesn’t shine much in the boxscore, but credit Corey Wimberly with a terrific at-bat in the eighth. He fouled off a number of pitches before drawing a two-out walk.
  • By my count, Neil Walker and Ronny Cedeno have turned three double plays in three chances and have looked very comfortable doing so.
  • Asked to pick out what he was most impressed with on Sunday, Hurdle had this to say: “Probably the number of at-bats (more than 20) we had with two strikes and finished the day with three strikeouts. We made better adjustments at the plate yesterday. We need to pay attention on deck. Today, I thought we were just in a better place. It looked like our focus was just a little bit better.”

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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