Results tagged ‘ Akinori Iwamura ’

Red Sox 6, Pirates 4

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Delwyn Young continues to be the Pirates’ hottest hitter this spring. He came in as a mid-game substitution on Thursday and hit a line drive, two-run homer in the ninth to make the game interesting.

Young now has six home runs on the spring, which puts him two away from matching the club’s Spring Training record. Young still hasn’t been officially told he’s on the club, though there is no question he will be. It’s Young’s role that remains somewhat undefined.

Right now, he has no place to start. Right field belongs to Garrett Jones and second base is Akinori Iwamura’s for the season. If the Pirates really want to get Young’s bat into the lineup on a regular basis, it would likely be done by moving Jones to first and knocking Clement out of a starting role. The Pirates haven’t mentioned this publically as an option, but I would imagine it has to be considered if Young keeps hitting as he has.

The Pirates are also trying to increase Young’s versatility now by getting him some work at third base.

He is taking groundballs there in the morning and might play a few innings at the hot corner before spring ends if he feels comfortable enough. You’ll remember that Young worked extensively at second last season to get to where he could play that infield position.

“A ground ball is a ground ball,” Young said. “Just a little bit different view of the field, that’s it.
It’s more reaction plays, from what Andy’s been telling me. I haven’t been over there in a game, so we’ll see.”

***

Three mistakes resulted in four runs for Paul Maholm, who made his first five-inning start of the spring on Wednesday. In all, Maholm allowed five runs on five hits. He struck out seven, most of them with his slider.

Those three mistakes all landed over the outfield wall. Victor Martinez connected on a hanging breaking ball for a two-run homer. Bill Hall and Mike Cameron each had a solo shot. Those latter two have been a nemesis to Maholm for as long as they have faced him. Not counting Spring Training stats, Hall has a .581 lifetime average against Maholm (18-for-31). And Cameron isn’t that far behind with a .433 one.

But while the numbers weren’t ideal, Maholm was plenty pleased with how he felt in his longest spring outing thus far.

“Overall, I felt great,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t want to give up three home runs. But you miss a couple of pitches and they are home runs. The rest of the game, I felt great. I felt like the rest of my mechanics were where they needed to be going into the last couple of times out.

“I felt strong, and I felt like my sinker was working. I didn’t get ahead of as many hitters as I wanted to, but I was definitely was able to challenge hitters.”

Manager John Russell, too, saw little reason for concern.

“He’s honing in on his pitches,” Russell said of Maholm .”You can see it just continuing to get better. I think he’s on a very good path to be ready for his first start.

Shocker, I know, that Maholm would be pitching against the Red Sox. He’s only done that in each of his last three starts. His other two? Well, those came against the Yankees.

“It’s tough to face those guys, whether it’s one time or three times in a row,” Maholm said. “But I definitely overall felt better today than I did the last few times.”

Good news for the left-hander. His next start will come against the Astros, as the Pirates have no more games scheduled against the Red Sox or Yankees. Maholm is in line to make two more spring starts before taking the mound on April 8 for his regular season debut.

***

Iwamura stole his first base of the spring on Wednesday, and the Pirates are expecting to see more of that from him during the season. Iwamura swiped just nine bases in 69 games last year, but remember he was playing on a bad knee.

That knee, according to all parties, is giving Iwamura no problems anymore. He’s moving around just fine in the field and obviously on the basepath, too.

“He looks good,” Russell said. “Each day as camp goes along, he looks more comfortable, more agile. I think he’s coming along very well. He’s a good athlete. We’re looking at him to hopefully be able to steal a few bases for us. He’s moving fine. And each day he seems to be getting better and better.”

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 33: Red Sox @ Pirates

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

As I’m sure you saw on Tuesday afternoon, lefty Zach Duke was named the Opening Day starter for the Pirates. Because the announcement came after Duke had left the ballpark, I spoke with him this morning about the honor.

“It is an honor,” he said. “But at the same time, I know there are two other guys that could have done it as well. It just so happens that I get the opportunity.”

There was plenty more from Duke about that Opening Day start, his previous one and about this season as a whole. Here’s the teaser, though. You’re going to have to wait until next week to read it. There will be all sorts of Opening Day content coming out on pirates.com next week in advance of the start of the season, and a preview to Duke’s start will be part of it.

As for other items on this very chilly morning…

  • D.J. Carrasco is getting ready to pitch in back-to-back games for the first time this spring. And yes, he was excited about it when we spoke earlier. Carrasco pitched in a Triple-A game on Tuesday and will pitch in a regular Grapefruit League one today. He made the appearance in the Minors in order to keep his pitch count low in case he gets into any trouble today and needs to extend himself a bit.
  • Octavio Dotel will also take the mound on Wednesday in his anticipated Grapefruit League debut. In a camp with minimal news so far, Dotel’s side injury and return from it has been pretty notable. Everyone still seems to think he’ll be ready for Opening Day, so we’ll stick with that prediction for now.
  • Left-hander Javier Lopez is back with the team after flying home to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter.
  • For those still convinced that Bobby Crosby might start the season as the team’s everyday shortstop (and I know you people are out there), the fact that Ronny Cedeno and Aki Iwamura continue to be paired at second and short on the same day should tell you that the Pirates plan to stick with that pair. With Spring Training winding down, you want your double play combo to get comfortable together, and that’s what Cedeno and Iwamura are doing by playing together.
  • Joel Hanrahan and Wil Ledezma are pitching an inning in a Minor League game over at Pirate City. Neither have made a game appearance yet this spring because of injuries. 
  • Tomorrow’s pitching plan: Charlie Morton (6 innings/90 pitches), Brian Bass, Evan Meek

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Bobby Crosby (1B)
  6. Ramon Vazquez (3B)
  7. John Raynor (CF)
  8. Jason Jaramillo (C)
  9. Paul Maholm (LHP)

Pitchers: Maholm (5-6 innings, 80 pitches), Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly, Lopez, Dotel

Red Sox lineup:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury (LF)
  2. Mike Cameron (CF)
  3. Victor Martinez (C)
  4. Mike Lowell (1B)
  5. Jeremy Hermida (DH)
  6. Bill Hall (SS)
  7. Tug Hulett (2B)
  8. Josh Reddick (RF)
  9. Jorge Jimenez (3B)

Pitchers: Josh Beckett, Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse, Fernando Cabrera

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 12: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

final day at Pirate City.jpgWe’re moving on to bigger and better things, folks. Like real games. OK, maybe it’s unfair to call them real games since they don’t count. But at least there is something to start evaluating. Today was the last day of workouts at Pirate City (sad times) as everything moves over to McKechnie Field from now through April 1.

The transition was evident, too. As the 66 guys in Major League camp were packing up the clubhouse, all sorts of Minor League players begin filing in. Early camp for Minor Leaguers began on Monday and about 75 players showed up. Pitchers and catchers are required to report by March 5, though farm director Kyle Stark said that just about everyone will be at Pirate City by then.

Here’s your last workout daily squeeze until 2011…

  • Short workout days are always good and Monday was one more of those. Live batting practice has ended, so most pitchers finished their PFPs and were done. A group of nine — Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, Steven Jackson, Brad Lincoln, Virgil Vasquez, Paul Maholm, D.J. Carrasco, Jack Taschner and Chris Jakubauskas – threw a 25-40 pitch side session.
  • Position players had another session of defensive drills and all took batting practice. The day ended with some practice sliding, though the absence of Nyjer Morgan made that a bit less entertaining than usual. Some observations from watching the infielders. …
  • Andy LaRoche and Neil Walker sure can hold their own defensively. You would never know Walker wasn’t always a third baseman. …
  • Jeff Clement looks just fine most of the time, but then there are moments where you see that he has much more work to do to get comfortable at first. I think that’s one of the biggest obstacles — feeling comfortable there. How he looks defensively during games will be very telling. … 
  • Though he continues to wear a knee brace, Aki Iwamura does not seem hampered by his surgically repaired left knee. He’ll be monitored as Grapefruit League play begins, but GM Neal Huntington said Iwamura will not be limited.
  • Infielder Ramon Vazquez also looks just fine running around fielding groundballs even after being minimally limited when camp opened. Manager John Russell said he might limit Vazquez’s playing time for the first few games, but that’s all.
  • I saw four rehabbing Pirates — Jose Ascanio, Tyler Yates, Neal Cotts and Jimmy Barthmaier – throwing long toss today. All continue to slowly progress.
  • For any of you who watched the USA-Canada hockey game and heard broadcaster Doc Emrick mention the Pirates gathering for a hockey watch party in Bradenton yesterday, it wasn’t true. Not sure where that false fact originated, but there was no such event. Now, plenty of players did watch the game on their own, though.
  • Atlanta announced that it will start Kenshin Kawakami against the Pirates on Thursday. The Orioles will start Chris Tillman under the lights on Friday. The Yankees had already tapped Chad Gaudin as Wednesday’s starter.
  • For those of you who enjoy the Jumbotron content at PNC Park, you may enjoy checking out this video. It goes behind the scenes to see how all of that is filmed during Spring Training. You’ll also get a sneak peek into what is in store for 2010.

UP NEXT: The Pirates open up against the State College of Florida on Tuesday with a seven-inning exhibition game. It doesn’t look like the weather is going to cooperate, though, so the Pirates might never get the chance to avenge last year’s loss. If there is a game, the following pitchers are scheduled to throw for an inning: Bryan Morris, Donnie Veal, Ronald Uviedo, Justin Thomas, Ramon Aguero, Jeff Sues and Anthony Claggett.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 11: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Aki Iwamura.jpgSecond baseman Aki Iwamura might be rivaling Andrew McCutchen as the most popular player here at Spring Training. It seems the Floridians who watched him play three seasons with the Rays fell in love with the guy. There was an adorable little boy yelling, “Aki! Aki! Aki!” all through the team’s infield drills. And the hoarde of autograph seekers seemed to make Iwamura a priority. You’ll see that in the photo that I snapped with my phone earlier.

As for the rest of your daily squeeze:

  • There’s still no date for Octavio Dotel to begin throwing again, though it’s still expected to be sometime next week. Joel Hanrahan is still on target to have his first long toss session on Wednesday. Both pitchers will move with the team to McKechnie Field to get their work rather than stay at Pirate City.
  • Today was the fourth day of live BP and it featured righty Brendan Donnelly for the first time. He had skipped his first session to throw a normal side instead. Again, there is no reason to be alarmed. He’s just being given more time to get ready since he doesn’t need as many Grapefruit League innings.
  • Bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade has arrived in Bradenton after being held up in Venezuela with visa issues.
  • For all of you Pittsburghers curious as to the status of hometown boy Neil Walker, here’s a piece about what’s in store for him this spring. 
  • Bobby Crosby worked with the second baseman during infield practice on Sunday. The Pirates plan on getting him reps all over the infield so that he can be a backup option anywhere. Steve Pearce spent the day working with the outfielders, while Garrett Jones stuck to infield work. Besides taking groundballs as usual, infielders also worked on pop-ups.
  • Hitting coach Don Long had a situational hitting game going on at Field 5 for much of the morning. Here was the premise: A runner is on third and your corner infielders are playing in. On the infield grass, stretching from short to second, Long placed orange and black traffic cones. The goal was for the batters to hit balls low and hard in the direction of the cones to drive the imaginary runner in. If your hit gets him home, that’s 1 point. Hit an orange cone: 2 points. Knock an orange cone down: 5 points. Hit a black cone: 5 points. Knock a black cone down: 15 points.
  • The winner of the drill was the infield group of Crosby, Iwamura, Ronny Cedeno, Ramon Vazquez. In one five-swing sequence, Crosby recorded 19 points (he knocked down a black cone obviously). That was the high round of the day.
  • It was photo day in the morning, and players/coaches/manager had their photos taken by 12 outlets.
  • Monday marks the final day of workouts at Pirate City before all the activities move over to McKechnie Field
  • If you’re reading this on Sunday afternoon, close the browser and go watch some hockey. Big game between USA and Canada is on in case you missed the memo.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 5: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Walker, Neil 2.jpgEveryone is here and accounted for and was more than 24 hours before the Pirates have their first full squad workout. (That will be Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. There is a full team meeting an hour earlier).

The final few missing position players to trickle in this morning included Andrew McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, Ronny Cedeno, Gorkys Hernandez and Argenis Diaz. It might have been a dangerous move to put McCutchen and Milledge in adjacent lockers in the clubhouse. The two are sure to liven up the atmosphere in a hurry.

As for the rest of your notes from a sunny Bradenton Monday:

  • Position players who had not yet undergone physicals spent much of the day in that process.
  • Most of the position players went on the field for workouts, though not all. Two that I did not see on participating in workouts were Brandon Moss and Akinori Iwamura, though both were around the clubhouse afterward.
  • Neil Walker (pictured above) spent time fielding grounders at third and second. Again, he’s getting work in wherever he can. Bobby Crosby also did some moving around. After working on his defense at short, Crosby spent some time fielding grounders at third.
  • Infielder Ramon Vazquez said he has been encouraged by the progress of his surgically-repaired knee these last few days. Vazquez is fielding grounders hit right to him and did some sprints at 70 percent Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He is scheduled to take batting practice for the first time on Tuesday.
  • A handful of the Minor League players have already begun reporting for Minor League camp. I spotted Daniel Moskos (No. 4 overall pick in 2007 Draft) among them.
  • The second group of pitchers had their second side session of spring on Monday after another 40 minutes of defensive drills.
  • Among the Pirates alum who are here helping out at Spring Training are Manny Sanguillen, Kent Tekulve and Bill Virdon. I’ve been told that Bill Mazeroski is set to arrive later this week.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 4: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Sanchez,T (2) 02-20 _230.jpgOne thing I learned in journalism school was that you know you’ve done your job as a reporter when you have so many notes for one story that you are forced to throw three-fourths of them out because you don’t have enough space. That was close to the case this afternoon as I was working on a feature about Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ first-round Draft pick last year.

First off, Sanchez is a delight to talk with. Very engaging. Very cordial. Seems genuinely appreciative for the chance to be at Major League camp. But the praise he has already been receving from others was what really struck me. You’ll find much of that in the story on the main pirates.com site shortly.

But because I wasn’t able to use half of the information I collected, I wanted to share one thing from Sanchez that didn’t make it into my main story. We got to talking about his opportunity to join the high-A Lynchburg team at the very end of its season (Sanchez had been playing for low-A West Virginia) just in time to help the team in the playoffs.

Yes, he talked about how neat it was to win the Carolina League Championship. But Sanchez spent most of the time lamenting the fact that because he got called up for the playoffs, the catchers who had helped Lynchburg get there were forced to sit on the bench:

“It wasn’t the position I wanted to be in, though I know it’s a business now. Those catchers have caught those guys for 142 games. They were putting in the work to get to the playoffs. Then I showed up and ended up catching the playoffs. It was kind of bittersweet. I loved to move up and I loved to help that team win a championship, but I know that those catchers had worked so hard for their team to get to the playoffs. I kind of felt bad. But I did whatever I could to help them win.”

This seems to speak to Sanchez character very much. With him, you’re not going to find a guy who feels entitled to anything even though he was a top Draft pick. He wants to earn everything. And he wants to do things right.

Anyways, here’s the rest of your daily squeeze:

  • Gorgeous day here at Pirate City. First real good weather day yet.
  • The 16-pitcher group that threw side sessions on Friday were back throwing off the mounds on Sunday. As you can read here, they have pink strings and strips of rubber to help them out.
  • Position players had the option of taking the day off (remember, there is no official full squad workout until Tuesday) and many of them did. However, the following 10 players still showed up to take part in fielding practice and BP: Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, Doug Bernier, Brian Myrow, Jeff Clement, Brian Friday, Brandon Jones, Aki Iwamura and John Raynor. Of that group, only Iwamura and Jones have already been guaranteed Opening Day starting spots.
  • Bullpen catcher Heberto Andrande has still not been able to arrive to help out with camp. He is stuck in Venezuela with visa issues.
  • I asked Manny Sanguillen, who works with the catchers, how the group looked this year. He answered by singling out Ryan Doumit: “Ryan has really come a long way. I’m happy with his attitude, and he looks good.”
  • When asked if he had given any thought to who might be the team’s Opening Day starting pitcher, manager John Russell succinctly answered: “No.” My guess? Paul Maholm, followed by Ross Ohlendorf, Zach Duke and Charlie Morton. Pure speculation on my part.
  • Did I mention the weather was beautiful today?
  • For those of you who have been asking when another video will be posted, be patient. I’m working on one right now that is going to include a handful of interviews. Hopefully I’ll have it up by the end of the week.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 3: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Doumit and Sanchez (Small).jpgIt was nice of the sunshine to come out after the fields at Pirate City had been cleared. But regardless, it seemed to be another successful day of workouts for the club. You’ll find stories about Jeff Clement (is he making progress at first?) and the back-up catching job (yes, it is a competition) on the main site before the end of the day. But here are the rest of your tidbits for this Saturday…

  • The group of 14 pitchers that threw side sessions on Thursday had their second sides today. (Go back to your Day 1: Daily Squeeze if you want that list in full.)
  • Pitchers spent another 40 minutes in fielding drills, while infielders and outfielders had their own fielding practice as well.
  • After taking some groundballs at second base on Friday, Neil Walker was back with the third baseman for Saturday’s infield drills.
  • Garrett Jones joined the first baseman in infield practice. He’s going to get reps both at first and in the outfield. While he’s projected to be the Pirates’ starting right fielder, there could be a need to shift Jones back to first if Jeff Clement stumbles.
  • Delwyn Young arrived at Pirate City on Saturday and took the fields for workouts. He took grounders at second. Ryan Church and Aki Iwamura also went out on the fields with position players for the first time. Remember, the first full squad workout isn’t until Tuesday.
  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly was seen around the Pirate City grounds mingling with fans. He also took some time to observe the pitchers’ side sessions.
  • We (the media) had a lengthy session with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan after workouts, and you’ll see stuff from him spread out in stories over the next couple of days. One thing worth mentioning here, though, is the Pirates’ plan on getting Brendan Donnelly and Octavio Dotel ready for the season. Kerrigan said the plan isn’t to get them into Grapefruit League games immediately and to limit their work to about 11-12 innings in total. Because they are both experienced pitchers, there isn’t the same need to push Donnelly and Dotel as hard as early.
  • A couple of Kerrigan’s goals this spring are to help Brad Lincoln improve his changeup and to work with D.J. Carrasco to make him more effective against left-handed hitters. Lefty hitters batted .317 against Carrasco in 2009.
  • In case you missed it, here was a piece I did yesterday on Kevin Hart and his battle to win the final spot in the rotation. Kerrigan had this to say about Hart today: “He’s done really well this winter. He’s put a lot of hard work in. He’s been really impressive. He looks like he’s been [using that delivery motion] for a while. Last year it looked a little raw, a little rough. This year it has more of a flow to it. He’s dancing with it. He looks smooth now. There is no jerkiness. It looks natural to him now. He’s been downhill instead of flat.”
  • Workouts are scheduled to begin around 10 a.m. again on Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB 

Pirates acquire 2B Akinori Iwamura from Rays for RHP Jesse Chavez

By Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

On Tuesday, the Pirates acquired second baseman Akinori Iwamura from the Rays in exchange for right-hander Jesse Chavez. The Pirates will take on Iwamura’s $4.85 million salary in 2010, a dollar figure that actually makes Iwamura the Pirates’ highest paid player at the moment. No cash changed hands in the deal.

With Iwamura in tow, the Pirates now have their immediate answer at second base for 2010. After trading away Freddy Sanchez in July, the Pirates were left with no strong internal replacements. Delwyn Young got his chance to be the team’s everyday second baseman for the final two months, but even after intensive daily defensive work with infield coach Perry Hill, he was still not seen as the optimal choice to be the everyday player there next season.

“It was a chance more to get an established player,” GM Neal Huntington said. “It returns Delwyn to a role that he’s excelled at. Ultimately, we felt Iwamura was a better fit for long term.”

For Young, that role will be on the bench, where he hit. .316 in 38 pinch-hit appearances in 2010.

Iwamura, 30, comes to Pittsburgh after hitting .281 with 103 RBIs in 344 career games over three seasons with the Rays. He has also spent a considerable amount of his time in the Majors as a third baseman, though the Pirates do not have a need to use him there.

Huntington said that ideally Iwamura would be a solid fit to hit second in the batting order behind Andrew McCutchen. The left-handed hitter batted primarily from the leadoff spot in his time with the Rays.

Iwamura was limited to only 69 games in ’09 and needed left knee surgery to repair a partially torn ACL. Huntington said that the Pirates have not independently examined Iwamura’s knee, but that all the medical reports suggest that there will be no lingering issues.

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Sources: Bucs finalizing deal for 2B Iwamura

By Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Pirates are on the verge of completing a deal for Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that the deal has actually already been finalized and an announcement will come later on Tuesday evening after Tampa Bay has been able to reach Iwamura in Japan once the sun rises there.

Right now, it’s unknown who the Pirates will part ways with in the trade, though the Rays are known in the market for young catching and young pitching.

The deal will be a sign-and-trade one, as the Rays hold a $4.85 million club option on Iwamura for 2010. Tampa Bay was not expected to pick up the option and had been prepared to pay a $550,000 buyout and watch Iwamura enter the free agent pool. Now, though, the Rays can exercise the option and then immediately send Iwamura to Pittsburgh.

Trading for Iwamura, who hit .291 in an injury-plagued 2009 season, would address one of Pittsburgh’s biggest needs this winter since the Pirates entered the offseason without an established second baseman ready for ’10. Delwyn Young spent the last two months of the season trying to show that he could be the second baseman of the future, but when the season ended, there were still questions about his defensive ability.

Iwamura, 30, has hit .281 with 103 RBIs in 344 career games over three seasons with the Rays. He has also spent a considerable amount of his time in the Majors as a third baseman.

From what I’ve heard, it’s not believed that the Pirates are going to deal away someone who is as established as closer Matt Capps.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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