Pirates 2, Yankees 0

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Granted, the Yankees didn’t bring many of their big guns to McKechnie Field on Tuesday. But a shutout is a shutout, and the Pirates were pleased to see all six of their pitchers come in and toss a scoreless inning or two.

The win was the third in five games for the Pirates this spring, and it gives the club back-to-back Grapefruit League victories for the first time since 2009. Yes, that is correct. The team did not win consecutive games once last spring.

The news of the day came this morning, as lefty Joe Beimel had to stop throwing because of more discomfort in his left throwing arm. You can read here to get a closer look at what other left-handed options the Pirates have should Beimel be sidelined into the season. I’ll give you the answer: not many. That doesn’t mean someone can’t step up, of course. But no matter how much the Pirates say they don’t mind going with no left-handed relievers if their best seven are all righties, I just can’t see that happening.

Beimel is undergoing an MRI as I type, though it’s not clear if the Pirates will reveal the results tonight. If not, we should know tomorrow morning how serious an issue this could be.

In today’s Bucs Beat, you’ll find additional injury updates (Scott Olsen, Evan Meek, Jose Ascanio), as well as a look into what James McDonald defines as his season goal. Check the main site later for those items.

As for your leftovers…

***

A little more on McDonald’s start… It’s hard to compare two-inning spring outings, but McDonald appeared, to me, to be as sharp as any Pirates starter to take the mound yet. He was efficient and aggressive, not that the latter was ever much of a problem for McDonald last year.

He threw strikes, got ahead more times than not and got outs early in the count. These are all good early signs for a pitcher who has struggled to keep his pitch count low enough to go deep into his starts before.

McDonald threw mostly fastballs on Tuesday, mixing in one cutter, which is a pitch he is working to use more. Asked where he is in his Spring Training progression, McDonald said: “Actually, I feel like I’m a little ahead right now [compared to years' past]. I was surprised how well I could go side-to-side over the plate. I am pretty happy with myself with the way I’m going.”

The most impressive thing, in my opinion, about McDonald so far is his attitude. He has every intention to lead by example, and for McDonald, that begins by not assuming that a spot in the rotation is already his.

“I’ve got to keep working to show my guys that I’m working really hard and that I’m not going to go through Spring Training like it’s a cakewalk because I’ve already made the team,” he said. “I don’t take it for granted that I’m on the team and sit back and relax.”

***

If anyone is more determined this spring than Steve Pearce, I haven’t seen it. Talk about someone on a mission. In addition to doing everything he needs to do to prove he’s good enough to play third base, Pearce just looks like he refuses to be outworked by anyone.

He had a double in his only at-bat on Tuesday and swiped third base. He also made a nice catch in foul territory over the dugout railing. He has an extra bounce to his step that is noticeable and is out to give the Pirates no choice but to take him to Pittsburgh.

If he doesn’t make the roster out of Spring Training, I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell him.

***

As mentioned in the main story on pirates.com, Justin Thomas believes that, if Beimel is out with an injury, that he has the ability to step up and play an important role in the Pirates’ bullpen. The left-hander has not established himself as a consistent Major League reliever yet, but Thomas believes he is ready to make that step forward this year.

“I know what is expected from me,” he said. “I just need to do it now. I’m at the point in my career where I’ve had a couple stints in the Major Leagues with a couple different teams. I just need to be there and prove that I belong there. I want to be a guy who isn’t just good enough to be there when they need you but who is good enough to be there all the time.”

Thomas could have two new pitches at his disposal out of the ‘pen this year, too. He said he threw a lot of curveballs in winter ball this year and has a better feel for the pitch as a result. He is also in the process of adding a cutter to his repertoire.

The Pirates aren’t likely to throw Thomas into a set-up role right away, instead preferring to use more experienced right-handers (think: Evan Meek, Chris Resop) in those late-inning spots early. But there’s no question that the club would benefit if Thomas steps up and shows he deserves to pitch in higher leverage spots.

***

Credit Daniel McCutchen with a nice bounceback performance after a rocky Grapefruit League appearance over the weekend. On Saturday, McCutchen was knocked for three runs on two hits and two walks. His command was quite suspect.

On Tuesday, he retired all six batters he faced. And McCutchen did so quickly.

I still suspect that McCutchen will begin the season in the Triple-A Indianapolis rotation, but he is out here competing for a bullpen spot. And actually, McCutchen could be better suited for a bullpen role long-term. He has a bulldog mentality and I could see him benefiting from going all out for one inning rather than having to hold back to ensure longevity.

“I really like the way that he responded from his last outing,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He went and filled the plate up with strikes, got after people. He’ll feel a lot better about himself tonight and that’s always good for all our guys. I like what I saw out of him today. He’s one of the guys that we’re expecting to see take a step forward and compete this spring.”

***
The second save of the spring for the Pirates goes to Daniel Moskos, who had plenty of experience notching them while in the closer’s role with Altoona last year. Moskos rebounded nicely after issuing a one-out walk that brought the tying run to the plate. He appeared plenty poised working around the trouble. 

“Daniel is competing,” Hurdle said. “I think he was slowing himself down a little bit and gathering himself a little better than he was last time out. He got outs when we needed him there. He’s coming along. We just need him to go pitch, make pitches, have confidence in himself, not let the game speed him up.”

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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