Results tagged ‘ Andy Phillips ’

Andy Phillips traded to White Sox; Bucs acquire Michael Dubee

The Pirates made a swap of Minor Leaguers on Friday. The organization traded infielder/outfielder Andy Phillips to the White Sox in exchange for RHP Michael Dubee.

Dubee, 23, went 5-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 30 appearances (13 starts) for high Single-A Winston Salem last season. He began the 2009 season in Winston Salem and had allowed two runs on five hits in three innings of relief so far.

Dubee, an 18th-round Draft pick in 2006, is the son of Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee. He has been assigned to high Single-A Lynchburg.

Phillips signed a Minor League deal with the Pirates this offseason and looked to be in good shape to make the club out of Spring Training until a back injury cost him three weeks of playing time in March. The Pirates were taking a look at him playing second in Indianapolis and very likely could have called him up later this month to serve as another utility player. However, the acquisition of Delwyn Young earlier this week eliminated that need.

Phillips was also seen as a potential backup at first base and in right field. He is expected to report to Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate.

Red Sox 4, Pirates 3

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The Pirates have officially told Craig Monroe that he is on the team — we didn’t get official word this morning, so I figured I’d update this bit of news now.

As of 5 p.m., the Pirates were in the process of contacting whoever is being removed from the team’s 40-man roster to make room for Monroe. Once that player is reached, the move will be officially announced. Check back for an update later this evening.

***

One thing that GM Neal Huntington (pictured above) has tried to emphasize – and which I’ll do again here – is that the Pirates team that stands on the Busch Stadium field Monday for the National Anthem very well might not be the team that fills PNC Park midway through the month. In other words, the Pirates have options, plenty they feel, to call upon should any of the 25 players the team leaves camp with falter.

So who would be the most likely to come up soon?

There’s Andy Phillips to consider, as he was putting himself in position to be the team’s utility infielder until a back injury cost him three weeks in March. The Pirates want to still see Phillips play second, and if he can go down to Triple-A, get in some at-bats and move around the field, the Pirates could very well swap Luis Cruz for Phillips pretty soon.

Andrew McCutchen is another one to keep your eye on. The Pirates have a few more areas of development for McCutchen to meet, but as soon as he does, he should be in Pittsburgh. Whether that’s early summer or late is a point of interest. And be sure that if Nyjer Morgan or Brandon Moss struggle to be everyday contributors that the Pirates will have to look hard at McCutchen.

From a starting standpoint, Virgil Vasquez and Jason Davis would be the two likeliest candidates to be called up should a starting need arise. Jeff Karstens is going to have to continue to earn his rotation spot, and should he slip, the Pirates won’t hesitate to make a move.

Then there is the bullpen, which could very well be a revolving door all season. Actually, I’d bet on it being that way. There certainly will be some up and down movement; it’s just a question of who and when. As it stands now, Denny Bautista, Chris Bootcheck and either Evan Meek or Jesse Chavez (whoever doesn’t make the roster) would seem to be the first in line for a call-up. With so many unknowns in that bullpen, there is the potential for plenty of experimenting.

***

Meek, who is battling for the final bullpen spot, threw a light side session on Wednesday despite still looking visibly ill with bronchitis. The Pirates are hopeful that he’ll be well enough to pitch in Thursday’s game against the Reds, as they’d like another look at the right-hander before making final roster decisions.

Meek last pitched on March 20. He was then shut down for a week due to a tired shoulder. Then, just as he was cleared to return to the mound, Meek came down with the stomach flu and then bronchitis. 

***

Paul Maholm has been waiting to have his “bad outing” all spring. In his mind, it came on Wednesday. Maholm’s final line wasn’t awful – 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR – but Maholm definitely wasn’t satisfied.

“Today was the first day I actually felt bad,” he said. “To go all spring and only feel bad in one start is pretty good. You could throw every pitch out but the fastball today, since that’s how things were going. [I'm] glad to get [the bad outing] out of the way.”

When Maholm surrendered a three-run homer in the fourth, it snapped a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings for the left-hander. He finished the spring with a 1.52 ERA. And like all of us, Maholm is just relieved finally to have finished.

“More than forever,” Maholm answered when asked how long Spring Training felt. “Eternity in Bradenton. Seven weeks in sunny Florida is way too long.”

I have to selfishly add an “amen” to that.

***

Just as Maholm did on Wednesday (only pitching four innings), all the starters will back off on their pitch counts this week. Each has already reached the 90-pitch mark in an outing this spring, and this is the last time through the rotation before the season starts.

***

Minor Matters: LHP Tom Gorzelanny threw five shutout innings in a Triple-A game on Wednesday. He allowed four hits, two walks and struck out six. Since being sent down to Minor League camp, Gorzelanny has allowed three earned runs, nine hits and four walks in 12 innings. He has 13 strikeouts in that span.

***

Up Next: The Pirates will have two games on Thursday. The Major League players will head over to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Reds. Ian Snell, assuming that he is over a bout with the stomach flu, will start for Pittsburgh against Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez.

The Pirates will also host Manatee Community College at McKechnie Field on Thursday in the two team’s annual charity game. Vasquez, recently demoted into the Triple-A rotation, is expected to pitch for the Pirates. The rest of the team playing in the exhibition game will likely be made up of players from Minor League camp.

Day 47: Red Sox @ Pirates; Karstens, Monroe, Cruz in; Eight others out

Today held the big wave of cuts we had all been anticipating… and finally, the final 25-man roster is coming into view. Here’s the news from this morning…

  • Jeff Karstens has been named the team’s fifth starter. Virgil Vasquez was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis where he will be in the starting rotation. Ultimately, the Pirates decided against keeping Vasquez with the big league team as a long reliever. The thought is that if the need for a long reliever presents itself, the team will dip into its Minor League options.
  • Utility infielder Luis Cruz has been told that he will be on the team, barring any unforseen acquisition. Craig Monroe has not been officially added to the roster, though GM Neal Huntington said he expects that to be done by the end of the day today. Monroe had an escape clause in his deal that would have allowed him to leave the organization today if he did not make the team. The Pirates are ready to put Monroe on the club, but have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster before officially doing so.
  • Three relievers — Jason Davis, Chris Bootcheck and Denny Bautista – were reassigned to Minor League camp. Also reassigned to Minor League camp were Andy Phillips, Garrett Jones, Eric Kratz and Jeff Salazar.
  • There are now five relievers — Craig HansenSean Burnett, Donnie Veal, Evan Meek and Jesse Chavez – competing for the final four bullpen spots. Huntington said that none of those relievers has won a job just yet. Hansen and Burnett are out of options, so they are likely to break camp with the team. Donnie Veal must make the team as a Rule 5 pick or be offered back to the Cubs, and Huntington said on Sunday that it would be hard to leave Veal off the roster at this point. That would seem to leave Meek and Chavez fighting for that final spot.
  • Meek’s health is improving, but he is still out with bronchitis. His shoulder feels fine, though. Huntington said that the team would like to give Meek another opportunity to show where he is physically and command-wise before making any final bullpen decisions. The question is whether Meek can get healthy quickly enough.
  • Though the Pirates have been scouring the waiver wire and calling teams about possible trades, Huntington said that there are no imminent acquisitions likely.

“We continue to look and we continue to explore. Some of the people that we’ve talked to have chosen other opportunities. Some of the people that we’ve talked to our looking for more than we are willing to give and that’s in trades and free agency. Nothing is imminent, nor do we feel like we have to do anything to add. We like what we have. Can we be better? We can always be better. But we feel good about the options that we have internally really at every spot. Now we just need young guys to step up and capture their opportunities.”

  • Though jobs have been handed out, Huntington made it quite clear that jobs have to be kept. He singled out left field (Nyjer Morgan), right field (Brandon Moss), third base (Andy LaRoche), the rotation and the four relievers-to-be-named-soon as having the most to prove early.
  • With Wednesday’s cuts, the Pirates have 27 players remaining in camp. Phil Dumatrait is scheduled to start the season on the 15-day DL, which means that there is only one other cut necessary before the start of the season.

And if that isn’t enough for you… here’s the starting lineup, one that looks as I’d expect it to look on Opening Day on Monday.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Nyjer Morgan (LF)
  2. Freddy Sanchez (2B)
  3. Nate McLouth (CF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  6. Brandon Moss (RF)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Jack Wilson (SS)
  9. Paul Maholm (LHP)

Red Sox lineup:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
  2. Dustin Pedroia (2B)
  3. Chris Carter (1B)
  4. Rocco Baldelli (DH)
  5. Jed Lowrie (SS)
  6. George Kottaras (C)
  7. Chip Ambres (LF)
  8. Ryan Kalish (RF)
  9. Gil Velazquez (3B)

Pitcher: Josh Beckett 
 

Yankees 9, Pirates 8

Thumbnail image for Morgan, Nyjer 2.jpg
Nyjer Morgan (pictured left) has been a popular point of discussion between the media and GM Neal Huntington as of late. And rightfully so. The Pirates named Morgan the starting left fielder before the spring started, largely based on Morgan’s impressive showing with the Pirates last August/September.

However, this spring has been a battle for Morgan. Though he finished Sunday with two hits, Morgan entered the day with just 12 in 64 at-bats. The Pirates like what Morgan has done on the bases, but he hasn’t been getting on base enough to really justify his position as a starter.

I get the impression that the Pirates aren’t going to be overly patient with Morgan once the regular season rolls around if he can’t get on base enough. But at the same time, all signs point toward Morgan still being the team’s Opening Day left fielder one week from Monday. 

“Nyjer has had a tough spring, but we don’t want to make too much of good or too much of bad in Spring Training,” Huntington said. “Nyjer has done what we’ve asked of him, he just hasn’t gotten hits. Has he expanded the zone too much? Yes. He is aggressive. He is high-energy. What he showed in August and September showed that he can perform at the big league level and to take that away from him may be a little bit tough.”

Huntington followed that up by clarifying the difference between Morgan’s situation and that of former Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino last year. In other words, how can management say that Morgan can’t lose a starting job in Spring Training when Paulino did to Ryan Doumit last spring?

“Last year Ryan Doumit came in and took the job away from Ronny Paulino, but he took it away from him from the beginning of October,” Huntington said. “Nyjer has done what he needed to do from the beginning of October. He’s come in in shape. He’s come in ready to go. It’s a tough decision. We don’t want to make a short-term decision with long-term ramifications on this type of situation.”

However, while Morgan will start the season in left field, the Pirates will also carry some legitimate backup options (Eric Hinske, for one) that will supplant him if he starts out poorly. Not to mention, Andrew McCutchen, assuming he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, will be breathing down Morgan’s neck while in Triple-A.

***

Huntington reiterated on Sunday how the business side could play a large role in the decisions about the four open bullpen spots.

Huntington said of Rule 5 pick Donnie Veal that it would be a “tough decision to not put him on the club.” The Pirates would obviously have to offer Veal back to the Cubs should he not be on the 25-man roster all year.

And then there are Sean Burnett and Craig Hansen who are out of options, meaning that the Pirates could potentially lose either if they don’t make the spring cut. Expect that to weigh heavily during decision-making time. I don’t get the impression that the Pirates are ready to risk losing either. They saw Burnett have success in 2008, and they still like Hansen’s power arm upside.

“The roster decisions at this point aren’t going to be made on what somebody shows us today,” Huntington said. “It’s going to be more the big picture puzzle. There are some moves that are irreversible. We take a player who is out of options out and he goes somewhere else, you can’t get that player back.”

*** 

Huntingon reiterated on Sunday that Andy Phillips looks to be out of contention for an Opening Day roster spot because of his extended absence with a back injury. Phillips did come into Sunday’s game to play first, marking his first appearance since March 7. However, the Pirates wanted more time to test Phillips’ versatility before giving him a roster spot.

That leaves Brian Bixler and Luis Cruz as the remaining infield bench options.

*** 
The line score for Zach Duke – 3 1/3 innings pitched, 9 hits, 8 earned runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout — was obviously not very good. But let’s try to pull what positives we can out of it for a second, since that was Duke’s goal.

He was obviously OK with getting the bad outing out of the way this week as opposed to one week from now when games count. He was charged with seven earned runs in the fourth, but seemed pleased with the opportunity to have the practice of working through an extended inning.    

“I think it’s definitely good to have an extended inning where I have to throw a lot of pitches,” he said. “You never want to get in that situation in the regular season and melt down. So if I can go through an experience like that right now then it’s definitely better than [if it happened] in a couple weeks.”

Duke’s fastball location was just fine through the first three innings. His curveball was decent as well. His changeup wasn’t as sharp as desired, though that’s something that Duke said he is continuing to work on.

Heading into Sunday, Duke had a 1.83 ERA in six Spring Training games. He had struck out 13, walked four and allowed only 14 hits in 19 2/3 innings.

***

Jason Davis, who is fighting for a long relief bullpen spot, didn’t help his case on Sunday. After seven consecutive scoreless outings, Davis took the loss, allowing one run on two hits and two walks in two innings.

Davis has crept into recent bullpen discussion because of his recent results. However, the loser of the Virgil Vasquez/Jeff Karstens battle for the No. 5 rotation spot would also be under consideration for that long reliever spot.

If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, Davis will start in Triple-A.

***

Up Next: It’s round No. 5 of 6 against the Reds this spring on Monday when the Pirates return home to face their fellow National League Central mates in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Ross Ohlendorf will make the start for the Pirates against Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto.

The game will be webcast on www. pirates.com.
   

Blue Jays 4, Pirates 1

As mentioned in the earlier blog post, both Paul Maholm and Jesse Chavez appeared in Minor League games on Friday. Jack Wilson and Adam LaRoche all played in Minor League games at Pirate City as well. Andy Phillips hit on Friday and has been cleared to play defense on Saturday. He will play in a Minor League game on Saturday over at Pirate City. Phillips has been dealing with lower back stiffness for the past three weeks.

***

Pirates owner Bob Nutting is in Bradenton, Fla., until Sunday and spent most of Friday around the ballfields. He started over at Pirate City in a meeting with farm director Kyle Stark and other members of the development staff. Nutting then walked around and observed while workouts and Minor League games were going on. He was at McKechnie Field on Friday night for the Major League game.

Nutting is expected to hold meetings with the Major League staff at McKechnie on Saturday.

***

Camp Competition: The Pirates have one week to pare down a 40 player camp to a 25-man squad. Expect those cuts to start coming soon. The coaching and management staff held closed door meetings on Thursday and Friday, and we all know what that’s usually a sign of.

***

Up Next: It’s another home game for the Pirates on Saturday and the third of three meetings against the Phillies this spring. Ian Snell will make the start for the Pirates in the 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Left-hander Jamie Moyer will start for Philadelphia.

Rays 4, Pirates 2

Thumbnail image for Wilson 09ST 02-17 (296.jpgJack Wilson (pictured left) left Wednesday’s game after just one inning, but there’s no need for concern. It was just his asthma giving Wilson problems.

He said that his allergies and asthma started bothering him while he was taking groundballs pre-game. Wilson stopped fielding and stood in the outfield to shag fly balls but still said he never was really able to catch his breath. The dry Port Charlotte air was part of the problem.

Wilson had a first-inning at-bat and didn’t make any plays in the field, but was taken out when he continued to struggle to get good breaths of air.

“I felt like I played 15 innings,” he joked afterward, noting the difficulty in breathing. 

Brian Bixler finished the game at short.

***

Injury Report:

  • As I noted in the earlier blog posting, Andy Phillips (lower back stiffness) participated in workouts on Wednesday and plans to do so on Thursday, possibly standing in at the plate when Phil Dumatrait throws live batting practice over at Pirate City. Phillips said the injection he had has worked wonders on the pain and that if all goes well, he should be back in games on Friday. Manager John Russell said that Phillips will likely play at least one Minor League game before returning to Grapefruit League action.
  • Russell said that Evan Meek (tired shoulder) is doing much better and should be in action soon.
  • As mentioned above, Dumatrait (left arm injury) is set to throw another round of live BP on Thursday. The Pirates have not yet determined what will come next for the left-hander in his return to game-play.

***

With the Pirates needing to extend some of their other starters, Paul Maholm will make his next start in a Minor League game at Pirate City on Friday. Maholm has a pitch limit of 90. Jesse Chavez is also scheduled to pitch in that game.

***

Minor Matters: Former Pirate and No. 1 Draft pick Bryan Bullington pitched against his former team in a Minor League game on Wednesday. He allowed just two hits and struck out three in 4 2/3 scoreless innings. … Brian Slocum appeared in the game for the Pirates and gave up three earned runs on four hits in three innings. He took the loss.  

***

Up Next: We all get to enjoy one more day off this spring on Thursday before the Pirates play the Blue Jays at 7:05 p.m. ET at McKechnie Field on Friday.

Virgil Vasquez, who is still fighting for a rotation spot, will make the start for the Bucs on Friday. Vasquez allowed seven hits and six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in his last Grapefruit League outing (March 17). Vasquez did pitch five scoreless innings in a Minor League game after that outing.

Roy Halladay is scheduled to start for Toronto. There will be a Zambelli fireworks display following the game for those attending. 

Day 40: Pirates @ Rays

On the Jose Tabata front… In case you missed it, I updated Tuesday’s initial story with new information this morning. Click here for the full story. The important item, as it relates to the team, is this: there is no indication that Jose Tabata had any knowledge of his wife’s alledged kidnapping. A look into the past record of Amalia Tabata Pereira suggests that Jose Tabata’s only mistake was getting involved with her beginning backin 2007.

Regardless of Tabata’s innocence in this whole matter, it will be of note to follow how this might potentially affect him on the field. Based on the statement that Tabata provided after being questioned by police, he was upset and shaken up by what had occurred. How that affects a 20-year-old “kid” remains to be seen.

And now that I got my taste of the cops and courts reporting beat for the day, let’s get back to the baseball beat.  

This is the second of three consecutive night games this week (with an off-day thrown in on Thursday for good measure). It’s an odd sequence to see in Spring Training, though one that I don’t mind considering I like this schedule during the season.

Anyways, Andy Phillips seemed encouraged by his status when I spoke with him briefly this afternoon back at McKechnie Field. He said the difference is like “night and day” since getting an injection on Monday. Phillips participated in full workouts on Wednesday and is going to do so again on Thursday. He said he also may stand in while Phil Dumatrait throws live BP on Thursday to see some pitches.

Phillips said he plans to then be back on the field in Friday’s game if all goes well. I’m not sure if that means a Major League or Minor League contest. But the progress is good news nonetheless. It also makes me wonder if Phillips does have enough time to still make the Opening Day roster. GM Neal Huntington’s comments on Sunday suggested that Phillips would not have enough time to do what he needed to to win the job. But we’ll see.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Jack Wilson (SS)
  3. Ramon Vazquez (3B)
  4. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  5. Craig Monroe (LF)
  6. Brandon Moss (RF)
  7. Steve Pearce (DH)
  8. Robinzon Diaz (C)
  9. Luis Cruz (2B)

Pitchers: Jeff Karstens, Jason Davis, Craig Hansen

Rays lineup:

  1. Jason Bartlett (SS)
  2. Carl Crawford (LF)
  3. Evan Longoria (3B)
  4. Pat Burrell (DH)
  5. Willy Aybar (1B)
  6. Ben Zobrist (CF)
  7. Gabe Gross (RF)
  8. Shawn Riggans (C)
  9. Adam Kennedy (2B)

Pitchers: Jeff Neimann

Reds 6, Pirates 0

For all that’s been made of the starting rotation situation, GM Neal Huntington said that Ross Ohlendorf has not yet officially been given a rotation spot. Because of his spring results (and the lack thereof elsewhere), Ohlendorf would seem to be the favorite to win one of the final two rotation openings. But one thing is clear: the job is not yet his.

“Ross still needs to go out and pitch well,” Huntington said.

The hope is that Jeff Karstens and/or Virgil Vasquez also step up and seize a final rotation spot(s). Vasquez threw five scoreless innings in a Single-A Minor League game on Sunday.

“Internally, despite some tough springs, we do have some guys who we feel good about,” Huntington said, in reference to Vasquez and Karstens. “We just haven’t had them step forward maybe the way we anticipated to capture roles.”

Also, Huntington said that in terms of starting candidates, Jason Davis is “an outside shot.” Davis threw two scoreless innings on Sunday and has now not allowed a run in his last 10 innings. 

***

On the starting pitching note, Huntington said that he continues to seek for other options externally. That search is ongoing on both the pitching and hitting front, but it’s especially true from a pitching standpoint.

Huntington said that an addition via free agency is “very unlikley,” meaning that it would likely be via a trade or waiver claim that any further pitching would be added before the start of the season.

For all those still emailing me about the possibility of Pedro Martinez, let me make this point again. Would the Pirates welcome him into the rotation? Yes. They have expressed interest. Are they willing to meet Martinez’s salary demands? No. That’s an emphatic no, actually. Martinez’s salary expectations haven’t changed, so there is no reason to believe anything will get done on this front.

Also, remember that this is the time of year when rosters start to get whittled down and players might be squeezed out of jobs and become available (i.e. Tyler Yates’ situation with the Braves last year). As a result, the Pirates will keep their eye on who is made available.

***

The bullpen situation was among the numerous topics that Huntington went into with the media during his weekly Sunday gathering.

You can look for a more in-depth analysis of the bullpen situation on the site on Monday since I already have plenty of content going up today. But in the meantime, the main item of consequence is this: with two weeks left in Spring Training, Matt Capps, John Grabow and Tyler Yates are still the only relievers with guaranteed jobs. No one else, Huntington said, has done enough to be placed in that category.

One important thing to note: Huntington did say that the “business side” may play a role in those decisions. i.e. Without saying so, Huntington alluded to the fact that Craig Hansen (out of options), Sean Burnett (out of options) and Donnie Veal (Rule 5 pick) may be a leg up because the Pirates could lose them if they are not placed on the Opening Day roster.

Stay tuned…

***

With Andy Phillips (back injury) all but out of any chance to make the Opening Day roster, it looks like that final bench spot is going to go to Luis Cruz or Brian Bixler.

(In case you missed it, there is a full injury update on Phillips, Evan Meek (tired shoulder) and Phil Dumatrait (left shoulder soreness) here).

Now the debate comes down to this: Do you take Cruz, who continues to be a strong defensive option and can play anywhere in the infield/outfield, but who has not hit at all this spring? Or do you take Bixler, who has made significant strides defensively and offensively since the end of last season, but whose development might be hurt if he doesn’t get consistent at-bats?

Huntington shed a bit of light on some of the internal discussions he’s had regarding this exact situation.

“[Bixler] may come into a situation where you don’t want a young player that’s progressing and developing to sit on the bench,” he said. “Is Brian a long-term candidate for us at either of the [middle] infield positions? And if so, do we risk stunting his development by having him start in a bench role to start the season? That’s where the short-term/long-term equation always comes in.

***

Huntington also addressed the situation in left field. With Nyjer Morgan hitting just .173 this spring, is there any chance that he could be knocked out of the starting left field job before the start of the season?

Instead of paraphrasing, here’s Huntington’s lengthy response:

“We talk very openly about it that it is their job to keep. None of the young players were written in stone. They have to go out and show us. Nyjer at times showed us some quality things. When he gets on base he’s an effective force. But as we’ve talked from day one, it’s getting on base enough. He’s expanded the zone too much. He hasn’t utilized the bunt enough. He does need to take some steps forward.

“It’s awfully hard to lose a job in Spring Training. Eric Hinske is a definitive option for us there. Craig Monroe has had a solid spring. You look at Jeff Salazar, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen, who is a guy that we are still excited about and can’t wait to see in Pittsburgh full time once he shows us he’s ready. It’s tough to lose a job in Spring Training. But it is something that because we have options, we need to see some performance.”

Reading between the lines, it’s clear that there is doubt about Morgan’s ability to be an everyday guy. The question is, how much patience will management show?

***

Up Next: The Pirates will face the Rays in a 1:05 p.m. ET game on Monday, with Zach Duke making the start for Pittsburgh. He will be opposed by Tampa Bay’s Jason Hammel.

The game will be webcast on www.pirates.com

 

Pirates 6, Phillies 5


Thumbnail image for Daniel McCutchen 2.jpgZach Duke
had a stellar game, his best yet in what had already been an cumulatively impressive spring.

Fellow starter Daniel McCutchen (pictured to left), however, didn’t fare so well. McCutchen took a step back in his Spring Training progression on Friday — 1 1/3 innings pitched, six hits, five earned runs, one walk, one strikeout.

What had McCutchen most disappointed, too, was that this outing came on the heels of his strongest spring showing his last time out.

***

On Thursday, it was non-roster invitee Craig Monroe (three homers) who stole the show. On Friday, it was non-roster invitee Jeff Salazar who hit the headline shot. Salazar’s three-run home run with one out in the ninth sealed the come-from-behind win for the team.

Both Salazar and Monroe are battling for a backup outfield spot that only one of them will be able to get. But the Pirates have to like the fact that both guys, along with a number of others, are going to make those final roster decisions as tough as possible.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” manager John Russell said. “Last year we were trying to search for things a lot, especially when the season got going and we needed help. We felt like we were in a bind. This year, we like the options we have.”

Monroe still likely has the leg up in the competition for that bench spot because the Pirates ideally need a right-handed hitting outfield option. Still, Salazar, who has three home runs this spring, would give the Pirates an intriguing option down at Triple-A if he starts there and then the Major League club runs into a need for another outfielder.

***

No new injury updates today. Eric Hinske (left rib cage contusion), Andy Phillips (lower back stiffness) and Shelby Ford (sprained right wrist) all stayed back at McKechnie Field for the day. As mentioned in the blog this morning, Brandon Moss has also returned to Bradenton and seemed encouraged by decreasing swelling in his right thumb. Now it’s just a matter of how long it will take Moss to get the strength back in his grip.

***

When Salazar’s three-run homer in the top of the ninth ensured a bottom half of the inning, former Expos pitcher Jeremy Powell got to make an appearance before the day’s end. Powell, who was signed by the Pirates to a Minor League deal this offseason, is participating in Minor League camp, but traveled with the team to Clearwater, Fla., in case the need for an extra reliever arose.

This is Powell’s first time back playing professionally in the US since 2000, when he was playing in Montreal. From 2001-08, Powell pitched in Japan.

***

Up Next: The mighty Yankees come to town on Saturday, except for they won’t, uh, be so mighty this time around. New York has a split-squad on the schedule tomorrow, and I’d suspect that most of the Major League players on the team will stay behind for the game in Tampa. Sorry to all of you who bought tickets for the game expecting to see the Yankees’ Major League team.

Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf will get to face his former team for the first time in what will be Ohlendorf’s fourth spring appearance. Denny Bautista, Chris Bootcheck, Sean Burnett, Jesse Chavez, Craig Hansen and Donnie Veal are also scheduled to pitch for the Pirates.

The Yankees will start right-hander Phil Hughes.

For those back in Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast on 104.7 FM.

Pirates 6, Twins 4

Thumbnail image for Ford, Shelby 1.jpgLet’s go through an injury checklist first. This will all appear in a story on the main site in a bit, but since it often takes quite a while for those stories to get posted after I send them in, here is the update in the meantime…

  • Phil Dumatrait - He has been shut down after experiencing arm soreness while throwing live batting practice earlier this week. GM Neal Huntingon said there is no need to be overly concerned, as this type of soreness is common during the type of rehab work Dumatrait is progressing through. Huntington estimated that it will be about seven to 10 days before Dumatrait can throw live BP again, though depending on how long Dumatrait sits, he may have to first take a few steps back (i.e. play catch and throw side sessions) . Dumatrait is almost certain to start the year on the DL.
  • Andy Phillips - Phillips is sidelined with stiffness in his lower back and will be out at least for another day. Unexplicably, the stiffness started on Saturday and is still bothering Phillips a bit, he said. The Pirates will want Phillips to be able to take part in an entire morning workout before letting him return to the field for a game.
  • Shelby Ford - Ford (pictured above) jammed his wrist while diving for a ball on Wednesday and is going to be out at least a few days. He tried hitting on Thursday, but reported some tenderness in the wrist after taking a few swings. With another round of cuts coming next week, Ford could potentially have seen his last appearance in a Major League Spring Training game. He’s slated to start the year as the organization’s Triple-A second baseman and could be moved to Minor League camp soon.
  • Eric Hinske - Hinske took 60 dry swings on Thursday after taking 30 on Wednesday, and he reported no discomfort in his left rib cage area afterward. Hinske is also slowly increasing his throwing distance. After throwing from 60 feet on Wednesday, he moved back to throw from 90 feet on Thursday. Manager John Russell seemed optimistic that Hinske could be ready to return within a few days.

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With Craig Monroe’s three-home run day the focus of the game-related story on the main site, we’ll give some props to starter Virgil Vasquez here.

Vasquez made his first spring start (second appearance) and pitched three shutout innings. He allowed just two baserunners and struck out one.

“He attacked the zone, used both sides of the plate,” Russell said. “Made a couple of mistakes up, but when you hit your spots, you can make a couple of mistakes. I thought he threw the ball very well. Overall, using both outings together, he’s shown the ability to attack the zone.”

Vasquez is being listed as a candidate for one of the Pirates’ open rotation spots, though it still seems most likely that he’ll start the season in the Triple-A Indianapolis rotation. Still, Vasquez’s competitveness on the mound has drawn praise already this spring and has opened some eyes for future consideration.

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Up Next: The Pirates make their only trip to Clearwater, Fla., on Friday to play the Phillies in a 1:05 p.m. ET affair. Scheduled to pitch for the Pirates: Zach Duke, Daniel McCutchen, Matt Capps, Brian Slocum and Dave Davidson. This will be the first appearance for Davidson since he returned from playing in the World Baseball Classic.

Philadelphia is scheduled to start righty Joe Blanton.     
 

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