Results tagged ‘ Charlie Morton ’

Game 14: Pirates (6-7) @ Reds (8-5)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The placard above Andrew McCutchen’s locker read: McKKKKutchen this morning. Great humor, though two of those Ks should have been backward for accuracy sake. McCutchen took the gag in good spirits.

For those curious, McCutchen would have needed to strike out one more time to tie a club record and Major League record for a nine-inning game. The two Pirates who have struck out five times in a game? Bert Blyleven (1979) and Pep Young (1935).

Some news and notes:

  • While McCutchen is still looking for his first stolen base of the year, Jose Tabata already has seven. We’ve talked a lot about Tabata’s hitting, but his basestealing (and 7-of-8 success rate) is notable. Tabata worked hard to refine this part of the game during Spring Training and the work is most notable in three areas. He’s readiug pitchers better, taking slightly bigger leads and keeping his body in a position to get a better jump. More on this on the main site later.
  • The Reds changed their pitching order late last night to give Edinson Volquez an extra day to recover from a stiff neck. That means Mike Leake will oppose James McDonald this afternoon.
  • It wasn’t until May 14 that the Pirates picked up their sixth road win last season. They have a chance to do so today.
  • Interesting tidbit from Elias Sports Bureau: The last Pirates pitcher to lose a shutout by allowing a solo homer with two out in the ninth inning of a complete-game performance was Bronson Arroyo (2001). This is ironic given that it was Arroyo who opposed Charlie Morton last night.
  • I get a lot of questions about how much credit is due Ray Searage for Morton’s bounceback. Certainly, there is some. But give Morton the credit he deserves, too. Here’s a guy who hit the lowest of lows last year and is now looking like an early-season favorite for comeback player of the year consideration. His confidence is as high as I have ever seen it, and he is now taking the mound believing that his stuff is good enough to get out anyone.
  • Lyle Overbay has a .411 lifetime average against the Reds and even better numbers (28-for-66) at Great American Ball Park.

Lineups:

PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), J. Tabata (LF), L. Overbay (1B), N. Walker (2B), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Doumit (C), G. Jones (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), J. McDonald (RHP)

REDS: D. Stubbs (CF), M. Cairo (2B), J. Votto (1B), J. Gomes (LF), J. Bruce (RF), J. Francisco (3B), R. Hernandez (C), P. Janish (SS), M. Leake (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Game 11: Brewers (5-5) @ Pirates (5-5)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

With last night a wash out, let’s try this again. Not much news to report on since no game has been played since Sunday afternoon, but here are a few news and notes to run through…

  • Because of the rainout, Jeff Karstens will no longer slot into the rotation behind Kevin Correia (Wednesday) and Paul Maholm (Thursday).  Now, Charlie Morton will start against the Reds on Friday, with James McDonald slated for Saturday. Right now, the Pirates are keeping Sunday’s starter as TBD — though it’s my guess that Karstens will pitch then.
  • That would change if Karstens is needed out of the bullpen one of these next two days. And manager Clint Hurdle said Karstens will be available for relief duty through the end of the series against the Brewers.
  • If Karstens is unable to pitch on Tuesday, the Pirates would almost certainly turn to Brian Burres. Sunday will be Burres’ scheduled day to pitch next.
  • Hurdle talked for a while today about Texas’ Josh Hamilton’s ill-advised headfirst slide yesterday. Hamilton has landed on the DL because of it, and that prompted Hurdle to talk with the club again today reminding them that they do not need to be sliding headfirst, especially into home plate. The risk of injury outweighs the gamble of being safe.
  • Interesting lineup switch in the last 24 hours. On Tuesday, Garrett Jones was slated to play against righty Shaun Marcum. Now, Matt Diaz is inserted into the lineup. Why the change when it’s still Marcum on the mound tonight? Hurdle said after sleeping on it, he opted to go with Diaz for a few reasons. Diaz is swinging the bat better at the moment, and right-handed hitters have actually fared better against Marcum than left-handers.
  • The unexpected righty-lefty splits even prompted hitting coach Gregg Ritchie to talk to the team’s switch hitters about possibly hitting from the right side today. Normally, it would be a given that they’d take their swings left-handed against a right-handed pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see what Ryan Doumit and Neil Walker opt to do.
  • Evan Meek is cleared and ready to pitch out of the ‘pen today.
  • Joe Beimel reported no issues on Wednesday after pitching on back-to-back days earlier in the week. The Pirates are going to see how he is feeling tomorrow, but Hurdle strongly hinted that Beimel could be joining the team as early as Friday. The logisitics would be easy, as Indianapolis is just a two hour drive from Cincinnati.
  • Righty Bryan Morris pitched six shutout innings in his second start for Double-A Altoona this season. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three in the outing on Tuesday. Morris was a candidate to start the year in Triple-A and very well could have if the Pirates didn’t need to keep some Major League arms (Burres, Sean Gallagher) there as insurance.
  • Catcher Chris Snyder played his sixth game in as many days for Class A Advanced Bradenton on Tuesday. He went 1-for-4 with two runs scored.

Lineups:

PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), L. Overbay (1B), M. Diaz (RF), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Doumit (C), R. Cedeno (SS), K. Correia (RHP)

BREWERS: R. Weeks (2B), C. Gomez (CF), R. Braun (LF), P. Fielder (1B), C. McGehee (3B), M. Kotsay (RF), R. Betancourt (SS), J. Lucroy (C), S. Marcum (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 39: Pirates @ Orioles

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The news of the day came just about two hours ago, when manager Clint Hurdle named Kevin Correia the Opening Day starter. My guess had been that Paul Maholm would get the assignment and that Correia would pitch the home opener at PNC Park for a handful of reasons, one being Maholm’s tenure with the club. But the Pirates decided to go in a different direction.

Correia will face Chicago’s Ryan Dempster in that April 1 game at Wrigley Field.

Hurdle also announced that the rotation would go in this order: Correia, Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

All this is set assuming that McDonald can get his arm built back up in time. The hope is that he can extend himself to 50 pitches in an outing on Saturday. Then, McDonald would stay in Florida to pitch on March 31 — with the goal being 80 pitches. If McDonald can reach both of those thresholds without any setback, Hurdle said the team would be comfortable having McDonald start on April 6 in St. Louis.

As for the rest of your news…

  • Catcher Chris Snyder returns behind the plate on Thursday after missing two weeks with back soreness. He hasn’t had any back issues since resuming hitting and catching over the past few days.
  • Joe Beimel was scheduled to throw off the mound on Thursday. The Pirates haven’t announced what his progression will be from there, as Beimel returns from left elbow discomfort. One thing to keep in mind — if Beimel does not pitch in a Grapefruit League game the rest of the way, the Pirates would have the option of placing him on the DL to begin the season. And the club could make that DL stint retroactive to March 22. This means that Beimel would be eligible to come off on April 6. Going this route would give Beimel — who has made just two appearances so far this spring — a bit more time to prepare for the season but wouldn’t cost him the usual 15 days.
  • The Pirates’ other option is not to put Beimel on the 40-man roster until he’s healthy. Doing this would negate needing a DL stint since Beimel is a non-roster player right now.
  • Hurdle said that the club has already picked additional pitchers to be in the team’s bullpen, but he would not give names at this point. You’d have to guess that in addition to Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan that Chris Resop, Jose Veras and Jeff Karstens are in. So, too, is Beimel once he is healthy. I also get the impression that Garrett Olson has a real strong shot to be the seventh since he would give the Pirates another left-handed option.
  • If Beimel does not start the season with the club, the Pirates can choose any one of the number of right-handers left in camp to take his spot in the ‘pen until he returns.

Lineups:

PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), J. Tabata (LF), L. Overbay (1B), N. Walker (2B), P. Alvarez (3B), G. Jones (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), C. Snyder (C), R. Ohlendorf

Pitchers: R. Ohlendorf (5/6 innings), E. Meek, G. Olson, C. Leroux

ORIOLES: B. Roberts (2B), N. Markakis (RF), D. Lee (1B), V. Guerrero (DH), L. Scott (LF), F. Pie (CF), M. Reynolds (3B), M. Weiters (C), J.J. Hardy (SS)

Pitchers: J. Arrieta, M. Hendrickson, K. Gregg

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Correia named Opening Day starter; rotation set

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Manager Clint Hurdle announced on Thursday that right-hander Kevin Correia will pitch the season opener in Chicago on April 1. The nod was going to go to Correia or Paul Maholm, who will follow Correia in the rotation and will now pitch the home opener (April 7).

The full rotation will be as follows: Correia, Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

Correia had this to say about being named the Opening Day starter: “It’s a good honor for me, but I know there is a lot of work that is going to be involved with every five days. It’s not just one start. Every one is important. It is nice to go out there on a day that kicks off the season, but like I said in the past, in our rotation we need every one of these guys to pitch like they’re the best pitcher on the staff at some point in the year for us to do what we need to do.  I am excited about it, but I do know that there is a lot of work.”

This will be Correia’s first Opening Day start of his career.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Olsen out of mix for rotation spot; may begin year on DL

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Scott Olsen will not open the season in the Pirates’ rotation, as the left-hander is taking a step back from game action to rebuild arm strength lost when he was down earlier in camp. And with less than two weeks remaining before Opening Day, this means that Olsen could begin the year on the disabled list.

The Pirates and Olsen met on Monday to discuss Olsen’s situation and determined it was necessary to slow things down. General manager Neal Huntington emphasized that Olsen is not injured. He simply is not where he or the club expected him to be this late in camp. The time missed due to a hamstring strain cost Olsen arm strength.

“The ball is just not coming out of his hand the way it was pre-hamstring injury,” Huntington said.

Olsen was expected to be in the mix for a bullpen spot if he lost out on his attempts to dent the rotation. But even that possibility is now in doubt given that Olsen has made just two appearances and is now shut down from Grapefruit League action.

With Olsen officially out of the mix, Charlie Morton is all but assured to be the team’s fifth starter when the season opens.

The Pirates haven’t made anything official regarding Morton’s status, but Huntington had this to say when asked if Morton has pitched his way into the team’s rotation: “Charlie has certainly made a case to have that be the situation. Given what he did yesterday, given what he’s done really all spring, he’s thrown the ball well. He’s attacked the bottom half of the strike zone. He’s let the ball fly. He’s been aggressive. His pace has been good. And the results have been there. It has been very encouraging to see Charlie this spring. Hopefully, he carries it forward.”

Olsen’s situation also affects the potential makeup of the bullpen. Assuming he starts the year on the disabled list, the Pirates have one less left-handed option than they expected. Joe Beimel, Garrett Olson and Brian Burres are all still lefties in the mix for a bullpen opening.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Orioles 8, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen really can do it all.

After losing his glove over the outfield wall trying to make a jumping catch to save a homer, McCutchen took matters into his own hands… or feet. The outfielder scaled the wall, retrieved his glove and jumped back over the wall to get ready for the next play.

“He’s got six tools,” manager Clint Hurdle joked. “We saw the sixth tool today.”

***

While we’re on the subject of McCutchen, it’s also worth noting that he stole his second base of the spring on Monday. He went to second despite there being a runner at third, no outs and Pedro Alvarez (hitting fourth) at the plate. I had been wondering if McCutchen’s speed would be harnessed if he hit third, but Hurdle emphatically said that will not be the case.

It doesn’t matter who is hitting behind McCutchen, the outfielder will be mostly free (and encouraged) to run.

“You have to remember who we are,” Hurdle said. “Our four hitter right now, we want to get runners in scoring position for him. If Pedro is hot and rolling during the season, we might not take as many chances. But we’ve got usable speed and if we can go get a base, we’re planning on going and getting a base.

“We’ve got to take some chances. Pedro is a power hitter in growth. It’s not like we’re running with [Albert] Pujols up at the plate. It’s a whole different complex, a whole different dynamic. We want to keep this mindset of going, of being aggressive, especially with Andrew. I do think that’s a part of his game that he can continue to open up more and we don’t want to take that away at all if he ends up in the three spot.”

Keep in mind, too, that if McCutchen is a threat to run with Alvarez at the plate, it is likely to increase the number of fastballs Alvarez sees. That is a really good thing for the Pirates.

***

Kevin Correia became the first Pirates starter to throw five innings in a start this spring, and the right-hander was pretty efficient (less than 70 pitches) in doing so. He breezed through three innings before running into some trouble in the fourth — trouble, Correia said, that was brought about mostly because he found himself rushing his delivery to try to keep runners from stealing.

“I know that’s something that I tend to do when guys get on base so I need to work on it before the season starts,” Correia said. “I was quick to the plate and just didn’t get the ball to that [inside] side of the plate. That was the one thing today that I don’t think I did very well. But everything else I felt pretty good on.”

Correia had a particularly good curveball, though he seemed most pleased by how he threw his changeup, since that is a pitch that has not come along as quickly this spring. The slider was so-so, but Correia expects it to come around soon.

In all, the Orioles tallied seven hits and four earned runs against Correia. He didn’t walk a batter after issuing three in his previous start.

***

Back at Pirate City, right-hander Charlie Morton threw four innings (63 pitches) in a Minor League game. He gave up three runs — all on a home run — in an outing that I heard was otherwise sharp. Morton needed to get the work in after not having pitched since last Wednesday.

I got a report from that game that things did not go so smoothly for Tim Alderson. You’ll remember that he is the pitcher the Pirates got straight up for Freddy Sanchez. Alderson has lost velocity and confidence and it’s looking highly unlikely that he’ll ever live up to the prospect status he once enjoyed.

***

Infielder Pedro Ciriaco continues to impress and, in my opinion, distance himself from the other middle infield competition. He made a terrific relay throw to get a runner trying to go to third, and he continues to hit. With two more hits on Monday, Ciriaco is now 10-for-27 this spring.

“He’s got a gun,” Hurdle said. “The arm strength is there. It’s a big arm. And it took a big arm to make that play. That’s one thing we’ve seen from Pedro.”

Ciriaco has already gotten work at second, third and short in Grapefruit League games. Now, the Pirates have him doing a little work in center field in the mornings to get comfortable there. Before the end of Spring Training, look for Ciriaco to play some outfield in an actual game.

***

Steve Pearce and Jason Jaramillo joined Ciriaco and McCutchen with multi-hit games on Monday. For Pearce, the pair of hits comes just after he eliminated his leg kick in order to have have a more compact swing.

Jaramillo has quietly had one of the best offensive springs in camp. Now 8-for-15, the catcher is hoping to hush concerns about the lack of offensive punch he showed last year.

***

Another reminder that if you want to join the Bucs Bits Bloggers NCAA tourney challenge, the group is open and taking competitors now. You can sign up here and type in Bucs Bits Bloggers to find/join our group.

On the main site today, you will find Daniel Moskos’ reaction (and the team’s explanation) to the decision that he will begin the year in Triple-A, rather than the Pirates’ bullpen. That story is here. There will also be items about Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel making their debuts; James McDonald missing his next start; Alex Presley bummed by being sent out of camp; and what positions some of these Triple-A players are going to fill.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Pirates 9, Red Sox 4

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

As the largest crowd in McKechnie Field history shuffles out of here, let’s get to some postgame leftovers…

***

Manager Clint Hurdle continues to experiment with a variety of lineups this spring. Hardly any two ever seem to be alike. He said he’ll continue to shuffle players around to see how guys fit in different spots until there are about 8-10 days left in Spring Training. At that point, Hurdle plans to use a batting order that will resemble the one he begins the season with.

Right now, the biggest question seems to be: Where will Andrew McCutchen bat? I continue to get the sense that Hurdle really likes McCutchen in the No. 3 spot, so don’t be surprised if he ends up there and Jose Tabata bats lead off to begin the year. Tabata hit from that top spot again on Sunday and drew his second walk of the spring.

“I’ve really liked his approach leading off,” Hurdle said of Tabata. “He’s shown some discipline. He’s had some walks. He can hit the ball the other way. He’s got speed when he gets on. He looks like that’s something that he’s able to do.”

***

It sounds as if the Pirates have already determined who the Opening Day starter will be, but that doesn’t mean Hurdle is ready to make an announcement. It didn’t sound like Hurdle plans to make anything official until about 10 days left in camp.

In the meantime, he seems to be having fun keeping the secret: “We might already have it lined up and you just don’t know it.”

I still have my money on Paul Maholm.

***

Over the last few weeks of Spring Training, the Pirates are going to continue to shuffle position players around to get them work at any position they might be called upon to play in emergency duty during the season. That’s why Tabata was out in center on Sunday and Pedro Ciriaco spent the final four innings playing third.

Also, look for Garrett Jones to get a little work at first base (insurance in case anything were to happen to Lyle Overbay) and for Josh Rodriguez to get some innings at third.

***

Brad Lincoln had a relatively easy first two innings on Sunday before struggling a bit in the third. The Red Sox scored twice against Lincoln, who also threw away the ball on an attempted pick-off, in that final frame he pitched. To Lincoln’s credit, he did bounce back and finish off the inning without letting it get any more out of control.

As much as Lincoln is set on proving he deserves that fifth spot in the rotation, I just get the feeling he’s headed back to Triple-A. And that’s not a feeling caused by anything Lincoln is or is not doing.

Assuming James McDonald doesn’t have a lingering injury, the Pirates still have just one rotation opening. Charlie Morton and Brian Burres have stood out this spring and are both serious contenders for that spot. And the Pirates aren’t counting out Scott Olsen just yet.

Lincoln could simply be hurt by having an option year left, meaning the Pirates can shuttle him back and forth from Triple-A to the Majors without the risk of losing him. The Pirates don’t enjoy that same flexibility with Morton.

One of the big things the Pirates said that they wanted to see from Lincoln this spring was continued development of and confidence to throw the changeup. How is the pitch coming along to this point?

“I like the fact that he is throwing it more,” Hurdle said. “He’s going to have to have a third pitch. He’s going to have to throw it in some offensive counts. I thought he got in some good rhythm today at times, and I thought there were a few times when he rushed. Happy the way he pinched off the one inning. He’s working in the right direction.”

***

The team is off to the new-and-improved Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Monday. I’ve heard the facelift done to the ballpark is terrific, so I’m excited to see it for myself. On the main site tonight, you’ll find notes about Olsen and Joe Beimel (who are making their respective spring debuts on Monday), another about Joel Hanrahan’s elusive slider and a third about Daniel McCutchen’s efforts to try and fit in.

Also, I’ve been asked already if I plan to run another Bucs Bits Bloggers Bracket Buster (say-that-five-times-fast) Challenge. And, indeed, I do. The college basketball selection show is tonight, so either tonight or tomorrow, I will create a friendly (but, of course, competitive) bracket tournament for any interested blog readers. Check back on the blog tomorrow for details on how to join.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Yankees 4, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Charlie Morton had another strong outing on Wednesday, and he continues to give the Pirates every reason to consider him for that final spot in the rotation. Actually, I think it’s fair to call him th favorite at this point — both because of what he has done and what Scott Olsen has not been able to do.

Morton did serve up a homer to Andruw Jones on a sinker, but the right-hander was otherwise efficient and effective. In his three innings of work, Morton gave up only one other hit — that a harmless single.

Keep in mind that by coming in mid-game, Morton didn’t face all the same heavy hitters that Kevin Correia did early. But as manager Clint Hurdle noted afterward, it’s Morton’s demeanor that is especially encouraging so far. He looks confident, and he looks like he’s enjoying baseball again. Don’t discount the importance of the latter.

“Very aggressive with all of his pitches,” Hurdle said. “I think the comfort is picking up. You’re watching him get on the mound, get set over the mound, get a sign and deliver. There’s not a lot of fidgeting. He’s very confident out there. He’s been very, very aggressive.”

Morton has now made three starts and has been efficient enough to pitch his scheduled number of innings in each. The sinker continues to be a good go-to pitch for Morton — of the nine outs he recorded on Wednesday, six were on groundballs.

“For the most part I felt pretty aggressive,” Morton said. “I fell behind in some counts, but I managed to stay in those counts and not allow a bunch of baserunners. That’s good. There are some things that I’m working on, but I feel fine. I’m just glad to get out there and compete instead of hanging out in Bradenton like I was all winter.”

***

Kevin Correia pointed out something interesting during his postgame session with the media — something that I think warrants mentioning because it gets forgotten by those who read so much into results. He talked about his preparation for a game like this, and how that preparation doesn’t involve studying video or flipping through scouting reports.

Unlike regular season starts, pitchers don’t typically go through their same intense pregame preparation before Spring Training games. Pitchers make starts with certain goals in mind — wanting to work on a certain pitch, etc. — and not as concerned with pitching to so-and-so’s weakness. It’s not an excuse (and Correia wasn’t using it as one), but is just something to keep in mind any time you see a shaky line from one of the pitchers.

Curious, I asked Correia if he’d start relying on scouting reports more heavily as it gets closer to Opening Day, just to simulate a normal routine. Correia’s answer:

“If it’s a team that we’re going to play during the year, I’ll definitely talk to some guys,” he said. “Yeah, you definitely will start doing that because it’s a little more of a real start. Now you can start pitching to guys’ weaknesses instead of just working on something.”

***

Since it doesn’t make the box score, here are some defensive observations from the night:

  • Pedro Alvarez made two terrific plays at third base. He showed good range and made a really nice back-handed pick.
  • Andrew Lambo gunned down Eduardo Nunez as he tried to go second-to-third on a flyball that wasn’t by any means shallow. Lambo made a great throwing right to third to get Nunez and help Jose Veras wiggle out of trouble in the eighth.
  • It wasn’t as stellar a defensive night for Corey Wimberly, who got handcuffed on two groundballs at short. Neither were routine plays, but Wimberly hasn’t helped himself in proving to management that he can be a backup shortstop.

***

On the main site tonight, you’ll find the story of A.J. Johnson, which, as noted in the blog earlier, is a story that I hope will give everyone some perspective on, well, life. In the notes you’ll find more on Correia’s start, Hurdle’s thoughts about the Pirates’ 16 (yes, 16) strikeouts at the plate and what the Minor Leaguers are saying about the rising talent in the organization.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Pirates 4, Blue Jays 1

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The competition is heating up for the fifth spot in the rotation. And that’s a really encouraging thing. You might remember that last year it became a matter of who wasn’t going to pitch themselves out of the spot. Kevin Hart had a terrible spring, and Daniel McCutchen – kind of by default — slid into the fifth spot to begin the season.

Though Scott Olsen hasn’t gotten on the mound yet, Brad Lincoln and Charlie Morton are putting their best foot forward through two outings apiece.

“They both want to pitch in the big leagues,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They both want to put a foot down. They both feel they have something to prove. They want rebound seasons. They’re both healthy. Pitching is contagious.”

Morton has looked really sharp — and confident, too. Anyone who watched him pitch last year knows how important that confidence is. You can read more on a separate story on the main site, but it appears that Morton’s solid start has a lot to do with him using his sinker again.

Morton didn’t point any fingers, but he noted that he stopped throwing the sinker altogether last season. The right-hander didn’t have to place the blame on anyone, though it’s known that the decision to take the pitch away from Morton was Joe Kerrigan’s. How much the absence of the pitch had to do with Morton’s momentous struggles is something we’ll never quite know. But you have to believe that it played a significant role.

With that sinker working already, Morton is in a much better place than he was a year ago.

He was so efficient, too, on Thursday (25 pitches; 19 strikes) that he had to go to the bullpen to throw some more pitches after his three innings were up.

***

Credit Lincoln with an efficient and effective outing, too. On paper, Lincoln was scheduled to throw two innings. He needed only 19 pitches to get through those two frames and he came out for a third inning. Lincoln finished that inning with no trouble, too.

Lincoln retired all nine hitters he faced and allowed only one ball to get out of the infield.

“Brad was very good today,” Hurdle said. “Much better with his command than his first time out. The ball was coming out of his hand a little more crisper. He had some sink to the ball. He pitched very efficiently as well.”

Lincoln certainly appears on a mission.

***

Catcher Jason Jaramillo was rewarded with being aggressive in Thursday’s win — and be sure that Hurdle noticed the hustle. Jaramillo popped a ball up in front of the plate for what should have been a fairly easy grab for the catcher. Well, should have been…

The ball ended up landing on the grass between home plate and the mound. And by the time it did, Jaramillo was on second. He hustled all the way out of the batter’s box.

“Most hitters hit that ball and they’re disappointed in the at-bat,” noted Hurdle. “Will that ball be dropped all the time? No. But the one time it is, you need to be on second. That’s what we’ve encouraged them. He was there. How good does it look when he’s on second?”

Credit Steve Pearce with showing some aggression, too. Pearce tried to stretch a single to left-center into a two-base hit in his second at-bat. From the press box, it looked like Pearce did beat out the throw. The umpire said otherwise, but it’s good to see him taking such chances.

***

You can find the rest of the day’s content on pirates.com early this evening. There will be an in-depth look at the relationship Neil Walker and Bill Mazeroski have forged this spring — with a focus on how much this is going to benefit Walker’s defense. There will also be short items on Morton’s sinker, Hurdle’s strong statement about the starters and Jeremy Farrell’s chance to play in front of Dad.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Rays 9, Pirates 5

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Grapefruit League is officially underway, as is my countdown to Opening Day. (It’s at 34, if you’re playing along at home). A few housekeeping items to give you an idea of how I anticipate using the blog during the next month of exhibition games…

Expect there to be a pregame blog entry every morning that includes lineups as well as any news that comes out of the clubhouse that morning. Some days will be full of early-morning news (think: cut days). Others, not so much.

In addition to an early blog, you can look for a postgame, as well. Now, I am going to write up a number of game-related items for the Bucs Beat (which you will find each evening on pirates.com). That should serve as your primary content, and I’ll fill in the loose ends here with any other observations that I found notable.

In today’s Beat, you’ll find notes about the lineup (Is Clint Hurdle going to bat Jose Tabata at leadoff?), fifth starter competition (How did Brad Lincoln/Charlie Morton look?) and a fun note about former Vanderbilt teammates squaring off (Did Pedro Alvarez get the better of David Price?). You will also find a feature on Daniel Moskos, and his aim at winning a spot on the Opening Day roster.

I’m not going to rehash any of that information on the blog, but I will supplement it with the following…

***

There is so much work done in Spring Training on pickoffs, and the Pirates wasted little time executing one to perfection on Saturday. It was obvious that Brad Lincoln had his eye on Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez almost as soon as he advanced to second in the third inning. Lincoln threw to the base once and bluffed on another turn toward the bag. He saw shortstop Ronny Cedeno sneak over again and got Rodriguez easily on try No. 3.

“It was the right timing, and I was fortunate enough to make a good throw,” Lincoln said. “It got me out of a big situation right there.”

At the time, Tampa Bay had runners at first and second with two out and Johnny Damon at the plate.

Don’t think the perfect execution was lost on anyone in the dugout either. Coaches were visibly pumped up as Rodriguez was called out. Little things like that make an impression at this time of the year.

***

It got ugly here late in Saturday’s game, as the Pirates allowed seven runs in the Rays’ final two innings at the plate. Two things, in particular, stood out:

  • Daniel McCutchen had a chance to get out of the seventh without allowing a run to score and jumped ahead, 0-2, to Robinson Chirinos. But his 0-2 offering missed, and Chirinos punished it for a three-run double.
  • The Pirates had a chance to get out of the eighth without a run scoring, but Josh Fields’ inability to cleanly field a grounder gave the Rays an extra out to play with. Four runs ended up scoring in the frame.

Results really mean little in Spring Training, but executing on these little things are always a point of emphasis and won’t earn you brownie points with the manager if the mistakes become a pattern.

***

Up Next: The Pirates will have their home opener at McKechnie against this same Rays team at 1:05 p.m. The following pitchers are scheduled to throw: Kevin Correia, Brian Burres, Joel Hanrahan, Joe Beimel, Jose Veras, Tony Watson and Chris Leroux.

The game will be broadcast back in Pittsburgh on 104.7 FM. It will also be available on the Pirates Radio Network.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 572 other followers