Twins 4, Pirates 1

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

As I close out the day with a blog entry of notes, Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is one of three players still on the field taking extra batting practice. (Josh Rodriguez and Josh Fields are the other two). The game has been over for an hour now, but Alvarez has been getting some hitting instruction from manager Clint Hurdle – the empahsis being on hitting breaking pitches.

As I have pointed out previously this spring, Alvarez’s work ethic has been phenomenal. He left the game after six innings on Monday and instead of getting out of the park ASAP as some do, Alvarez stuck around for extra work.

Now Alvarez has stopped hitting from the pitch machine and Hurdle is on the mound throwing to him.

***

Paul Maholm threw 96 pitches in his start on Monday, putting him right where he needs to be with one more start left before the regular season. Maholm did allow nine hits on Monday; eight were singles. Maybe most impressive, though, was his work in the fifth. After the Twins loaded the bases with none out, Maholm induced a double play groundball. Though a run scored on the play, it put Maholm in position to get out of the inning with no further damage.

“I think you get in it and just have to slow it down and make a pitch and get your groundball and hope it’s at a guy and we turn a double play,” Maholm said. “You’ve got to have confidence in your infielders.”

The Twins’ hitters worked the counts well against Maholm, particularly the top four hitters (who combined for seven hits off the lefty). But Maholm did well throwing inside, and there seems to be little concern about him not being ready by April 1.

“I thought he pitched well today,” Hurdle said. “He was aggressive with his fastball. He threw some good changeups. Paul will give up some hits now and again, but he was aggressive. He was pitching to contact. It was a good outing.”

***

Speaking of Maholm, the Pirates will name him or Kevin Correia the team’s Opening Day starter this week. Hurdle said the announcement will not come on the off day (Tuesday), but expect it on Wednesday or Thursday.

***

Not everyone on the team will have Tuesday off. Jose Ascanio is slated to throw two innings of batting practice (35 total pitches) to hitters. There will also be a “B” game of some sort, in which Sean Gallagher, Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen are listed to pitch. Karstens is scheduled to go four innings.

The Pirates are building up both Karstens and Brian Burres (who will pitch four or five innings in Wednesday’s game) in case either is needed in the rotation at the beginning of the year. This could be a sign that James McDonald might miss one turn through the rotation to open the season.

***

Catcher Chris Snyder took multiple at-bats in Minor League games (yes, games is plural) on Monday. He jumped around to a few fields to get at-bats where they could be had. Snyder is expected to catch in a Minor League game on Tuesday.

Ryan Doumit and Ronny Cedeno also went over to Minor League camp to get at-bats on Monday.

***

Steve Pearce made his first spring appearance in left field and did so without any issue. He wasn’t all that busy out there, but he seemed to handle the new spot just fine. He has now played at every corner infield and outfield spot this spring.

“He’s done fine wherever we put him,” Hurdle said.

***

Catcher Jason Jaramillo had another hit, bringing his spring total to 11 in 22 at-bats. Keep in mind that it might not matter if Jaramillo hits 1.000 — if the Pirates elect to keep just two catchers, he won’t be able to make the Opening Day roster. But that hasn’t stopped Jaramillo from making every effort he can to impress.

Hurdle noted on Monday that Jaramillo’s pitch calling and defense have also improved as spring has progressed.

“He’s worked very hard,” Hurdle said. “It’s gotten better each time out. Handling the ball, receiving the balls, it’s cleaned up. He’s slowed the game down, which I think was the biggest thing early in the spring was that games were moving real quick for him behind the plate. He’s showed up very, very good. I think he’s in a confident place and he’s worked very, very hard.”

***

I’ve finished typing and Hurdle is still out throwing BP to Alvarez, Fields and Rodriguez. Coaches, including Bill Virdon in left field, are still shagging balls.

Anyways, tomorrow is an off day for the team, though you can look for MLB.com’s Top 10 Pirates prospect list to be released during the day.

As for today’s content, you can read here all about Scott Olsen’s situation and Charlie Morton’s position in the rotation. There will also be notes about Garrett Olson’s debut, Garrett Atkins’ decision to ask for his release, a slew of injury updates and something short about the morning’s other roster moves on the site later tonight.

And since I forgot to do it this morning, your latest NCAA bracket update has T. Coulter and E. Brosius leading the group. My bracket… not looking so good at the moment.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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