Results tagged ‘ Corey Wimberly ’
Most everything you are going to want to read today is written fairly in-depth on the main site. So let me give you those links first:
- Catcher Chris Snyder is at risk to miss the start of the season after a reoccurrence of back soreness. If Snyder is out, Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo will open the year as the team’s two catchers.
- With Andy Marte among those dismissed from camp, Steve Pearce appears to have himself a big league bench spot.
- Brian Burres was sent down, leaving three relievers fighting for two bullpen spots.
- James McDonald successfully threw three innings in a Triple-A game on Saturday, which sets him up to pitch again on Thursday.
- With Corey Wimberly and Dusty Brown out of the mix, the bench is coming into better focus. John Bowker, Pedro Ciriaco and Josh Rodriguez are competing for two spots (assuming Jaramillo begins the year as Doumit’s backup).
- Manager Clint Hurdle has solidified his lineup. And it has Jose Tabata batting first, Andrew McCutchen hitting third, Lyle Overbay in the fourth spot and Pedro Alvarez at No. 5.
You won’t find Kevin Correia complaining much about his start on Saturday — a start in which he threw 92 pitches (59 strikes) in six innings. This was his first six-inning outing of the spring, and it puts Correia in perfect position to be ready for his Opening Day start next Friday.
The results were pretty good, too. He served up a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the first inning after narrowly missing with a two-strike slider to Mark Teixeira right before. Correia then limited the Yankees (who played mostly their “A” lineup) to just four more hits and one other run in his last six innings.
“I thought it was definitely my best outing in spring,” Correia. “I felt strong the whole time. You want your last Spring Training outing to be good. You don’t want to go into the season thinking about how you didn’t pitch well the time before. I felt pretty good about this one.”
The one thing the Pirates don’t have to worry about is Correia not being stretched out to begin the year. He has done as well as anyone on the staff in terms of getting in the spring innings necessary to pitch deep at the onset of the regular season. With 92 pitches on Saturday, Correia should be good to go over 100, as needed, on Opening Day.
“I thought he got stronger as he went on,” Hurdle said. “He expects a lot of himself. He never shuts himself down on an inning or an outing. He takes a lot of pride in getting the ball and pitching deep and getting as many innings as he can get. I thought it was a very good way for him to finish up.”
Correia will get five days of rest (instead of the normal four) before his next outing.
Michael Crotta allowed one run on two hits in an inning of relief, but he remains very much in the mix for a bullpen spot in Pittsburgh. One of three relievers fighting for two openings in the bullpen, Crotta hadn’t allowed an earned run (10 innings) until this game.
“He is a big guy,” Hurdle said. “He repeats his delivery pretty well. He’s got good downhill plane. It’s hard sink and he’s added a complementary breaking ball to it at times. He’s pounded the strikezone. He has done everything that he can possibly do to at least build his confidence.”
Don’t look now, but the Pirates have dropped five in a row and nine of the last 11. That’s not exactly the way I’d imagine the club wants to head into the regular season. Hurdle, however, downplayed the importance of needing some wins this week when asked about the losing afterward.
“We play every game to win but if we don’t, we don’t,” he said. “We’re going to start the season and we’re not going to have any. You’ve got to play good baseball to win and we haven’t played complete games for the last 10-11 games. You have to throw a complete package out there. I’ll be more concerned when we’re running our regular team out there. Winning is always the intent, but again the focus will obviously shift to a higher degree of that once the season starts.”
With four spring games remaining, the Pirates are 10-19.
“We’ve got to go out and win ballgames and find ways to win ballgames,” first baseman Lyle Overbay said. “I think we need to do a little better job of picking each other up when things go wrong. It seems like it starts snowballing, and someone needs to pick us up – whether it’s a pitcher or a great defensive play – to snap us right out of it.”
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Fastball command came in spurts for starter Ross Ohlendorf on Saturday.
It wasn’t so good in the first inning, which saw the Phillies score four times on four hits and two walks. Ohlendorf was leaving too many pitches up — some for balls and some that were turned into basehits.
Ohlendorf made an effort to throw inside — particularly to left-handers — and fared so-so in the attempt. He admitted to too often throwing a hittable pitch with two strikes, and many of those mistakes were turned into basehits.
If there was some good news, it’s that not all of the five hits he allowed were really all that hard hit. A few groundballs found holes and another of the hits would have been an easy catch had John Bowker not lost it in the sun. Ohlendorf didn’t help his cause, either, with a fielding error.
“The results aren’t necessarily the box score,” Ohlendorf said. “It might be how hard they hit the ball. Like today, most of the hits I didn’t feel like were hit that hard. I definitely wish it would have gone better today. I threw a lot more pitches than I should have.”
Ohlendorf needed about 35 pitches to get through the first inning. He couldn’t come anywhere close to finishing four innings (as scheduled) as his pitch count was already near 60 after facing two hitters in the third. When Ohlendorf couldn’t retire either of those two hitters, he was taken out.
“My arm still feels great, and my stuff still feels good,” Ohlendorf said. “I’m definitely encouraged by that.”
For those who might have missed the late addition to the morning blog, catcher Chris Snyder was scratched from today’s game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin because of back soreness. Snyder received treatment on his back at McKechnie Field on Saturday afternoon, and the team is expected to update Snyder’s status on Sunday.
Right now, the club said Snyder is day-to-day. The Pirates better hope that the ailment doesn’t linger, as it already looks like the team is going to be without Ryan Doumit (strained right oblique) for a while.
Snyder, who last played on Wednesday, is 4-for-15 this spring.
Over in Dunedin, the Pirates blew a 4-1 lead on the way to a 6-4 loss. Rough days were had by Daniel McCutchen and Ramon Aguero, though I wasn’t at the game to give you an accurate report about exactly how rough those outings were. An extra-base hit off the wall and a ball lost in the sun show up the same in the box score, so I hesitate to read too much into the raw stats.
Most encouraging about the game in Dunedin, though, has to be the day had by Andrew McCutchen. One day after complaining of left wrist soreness, McCutchen returned to the lineup on Saturday. He doubled and scored in his first at-bat, only to outdo himself with a two-run blast his next time up.
The wrist apparently is just fine.
A few other random items that caught my attention from the game in Dunedin:
- Lefty Jeff Locke threw 29 of his 41 pitches for strikes in his two-inning outing. He allowed one run on two hits and struck out three.
- Manager Clint Hurdle had this to say about Locke throwing so many first-pitch strikes: “That’s one of the things we have not been doing well overall as a staff. We had a little glitch, bumped it up over 60 percent, closer to 65, then we went south. He came in there and filled up the zone. The first-pitch fastball strikes were impressive and the fact that he was finishing his fastball. He was working both sides and spun the ball pretty effectively. It was a good outing and fun to watch him today.”
- With two hits, Corey Wimberly now has five hits in his last six at-bats. This comes after Wimberly started the spring 0-for-12.
- Michael Crotta tossed another 1 1/3 scoreless innings. He has now not been scored upon in 6 1/3 spring innings.
- With a single, outfielder Matt Diaz has now hit safely in five of his last six games.
- Steve Pearce played third base again, entering the game to take over for Andy Marte in the bottom of the sixth.
Don’t forget to turn your clocks forward before you go to bed. The Pirates are going to have a late morning on Sunday, meaning that the daily morning blog won’t be posted so early. The clubhouse opens at 10:30 and the team is not taking batting practice. There will be some light fielding work before the game against the Red Sox.
On the main site tonight, you can read about Rudy Owens’ chances to be in the Pirates’ rotation by the end of the year. Also, there are notes about McCutchen’s wrist, James McDonald’s side and the four cuts the Pirates made prior to Saturday’s games.
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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.
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I’ve written plenty about James McDonald’s season goals. About how he talks about taking the team to a World Series. About how he wants opponents to fear the Pirates’ pitching staff. About how he needs to throw more first-pitch strikes.
Well, here’s a new one for you: McDonald is shooting for the number 10. That is, 10 hits for himself by the end of the year.
It seems a lofty goal for McDonald, who has accrued one hit in 33 career Major League plate appearances. But McDonald is serious when he talks about getting better on the offensive end.
He was legitimately bummed, too, that he did not get to bat Sunday, which was the first spring game the Pirates played without a DH. McDonald would have hit in the bottom of the third, but he had to be pulled with two out in the top half of the inning.
“I vowed that I would get at least 10 hits,” McDonald said. “If I can be decent at hitting and at least get my bunts down, I can help this team.”
I don’t think I can properly emphasize how much McDonald focuses on the team when he talks. His lofty personal goals all go back to wanting to help this club take steps forward. He has mentioned multiple times this spring that his goal is to win a World Series with the Pirates. And he is not at all being facetious.
The Pirates hadn’t been able to will a ball over to Corey Wimberly at short for days now, so much so that general manager Neal Huntington joked about it before Sunday’s game. Well, Wimberly finally got his chances on Sunday. And the outcome, as those of you who watched at home can attest to, wasn’t all that pretty.
On the first ball hit to him at short this spring, Wimberly sailed a throw over Josh Fields’ head at first base. The error eventually led to two unearned runs. Wimberly had another chance in the fifth and made a low throw over to first. The ball took a short hop just in front of Fields, who had to make a terrific pick to record the out.
The Pirates are intrigued by Wimberly’s speed, but it has been noted multiple times that the club has to carry a middle infielder who can play short well. That was the Pirates’ biggest concern with Wimberly coming in, and it’s a concern that has not been alleviated to this point.
It’s impossible to get into a player’s mind, but it sure looks as if Wimberly might be trying too hard to make an impression. He is also 0-for-12 at the plate.
“We’re just going to keep working with him,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We ran him out for a bunch of innings and couldn’t get him a groundball and they came in bunches today. We’ve got to loosen him up a little bit so he’ll be able to pick up some rhythm and timing at short. At the end of the day, we’ve got to be able to have him at short. We’ve got to be able to have him at centerfield.”
At the same time, Pedro Ciriaco has impressed He has been sure handed on defense and has handled the bat pretty well, too. The latter was the bigger concern coming into spring. Shortstop is not a position where the Pirates can make defensive sacrifices, so you have to like Ciriaco’s chances of winning a spot on the bench as the team’s backup middle infielder.
Some odds and ends:
- The Pirates struck out 13 times on Sunday, though no position player struck out more than once. That’s hard to do.
- Outfielder Matt Diaz went 0-for-3 and stranded five runners on base. He has made mention about his tendency to be slow out of the gate and it’s shown so far.
- A good bounce back outing by Joel Hanrahan, who pitched a perfect fourth. The Blue Jays took some solid swings against him, though, and drove a few balls just foul. It was also evident that Hanrahan was making it a point to pitch inside.
- Not the sharpest of appearances for Chris Resop or Daniel McCutchen today. McCutchen worked out of trouble successfully, but two of his three outings now have been less than stellar.
- Pedro Alvarez is quietly having himself an impressive start to the spring. With two more hits on Sunday, Alvarez is now 7-for-20 with four RBIs. He hit in the clean-up spot again.
On the main site tonight, you will find a look at which players are out of options and how those option concerns could play a role in the battles for roster spots. Also, there will be items about the work being done to improve the road record, the so-so outing by McDonald and the time Steve Pearce continues to put in at third base.
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Starter Paul Maholm had a decent second outing, marred only by Ben Francisco’s solo homer. Maholm has said he is making it a point to pitch inside this spring (and then into the season), but Francisco reminded Maholm there is still work to do.
A pitch that was supposed to be on the inside corner caught too much of the plate, and Francisco drilled it over the left field wall.
“Just more reason to continue to pound in,” Maholm said afterward. “If you miss, you [want to] miss more inside.”
Maholm scattered three other hits, but he didn’t allow a walk or another run in the three-inning outing. He did make a noticeable effort to throw inside and did so pretty effectively. Maholm also mixed in more breaking pitches than he had in his first outing and was pleased with the command of those pitches.
“I got ahead of guys,” Maholm said. “I had some groundballs. I’m right where I want to be. It’s getting more comfortable each time out. I felt a lot more comfortable today throwing inside. I missed a couple of them, but that’s part of getting through it. Now, for me, it’s flipping the switch. It’s time to make sure you mix all your pitches and get outs and go toward the season ready to go.”
Maholm had allowed two runs in a two-inning start his first time on the mound. The left-hander should make four or five more spring appearances before he takes the mound for his 2011 season debut.
“I thought Paul improved also this start,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He used both sides of the plate. He spun some breaking balls pretty well. It was a nice step forward for him.”
Scott Olsen threw a bullpen session on Saturday without any issue. Olsen, who is behind because of a mild left hamstring strain he suffered early in camp, has not had any setbacks in his return-to-pitch program. The club has not announced what Olsen’s next step will be in his progression back.
As pleased as Overbay was with his 3-for-3 day at the plate, he was just as disgusted at himself for not making a catch in foul territory that he should have had. This is a guy who wants to improve on the offensive end, but one who really takes pride in his defensive ability.
Corey Wimberly finally flashed the speed we’ve all been waiting to see, though he hasn’t been on base enough to have many chances. After walking in the seventh, Wimberly almost immediately swiped second and then third. The guy can run.
As a team, the club had four stolen bases on Saturday. That pushes the team total to 15.
“You’ve got to encourage them to go,” Hurdle said. “When the season comes, they’ll probably need a little more encouragement because in their minds, there might be a little more at stake. But one thing we have to do is utilize the skill sets we have with the personnel we have.”
Wimberly still doesn’t have a hit this spring (0-for-10) but he has drawn three walks. He also made a terrific defensive play in the hole the other day that deserved blog mentioning but didn’t get any previously. The key is that he needs to show the Pirates he can fill in capably at short.
On the main site, you can find more about the Pirates’ cuts from the morning. Also coming later this afternoon: Overbay talks about the adjustment he made before his three-hit day; and Dusty Brown and Jason Jaramillo chime in about the team’s pitching.
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On the main site tonight, you can find a look at Josh Rodriguez, the Pirates’ Rule 5 pick who is trying to make the club as a backup middle infielder. To this point, Rodriguez has looked like he is trying a bit too hard to make an impression. We’ll see if he can get his nerves in check and just allow himself to relax and play as camp continues on.
I’m not really sure who among Rodriguez, Corey Wimberly or Pedro Ciriaco would be considered the favorite for that bench spot yet. Ciriaco is the best defensively of the three, but there are concerns about his bat. Wimberly and Rodriguez have to show that they are strong enough to play short at the Major League level. Wimberly has intriguing speed. Rodriguez probably has the best long-term potential with the bat.
Could be an interesting race over the next three weeks.
Also on the main site, you’ll find notes about Paul Maholm wanting the Opening Day start, Kevin Correia commenting about his outing Friday, Ronny Cedeno being scratched with a finger injury, and Minor League pitcher Michael Dubee talking about the chance to pitch in front of his dad — Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee.
Also, don’t hesitate to send over some fresh Inbox questions over the weekend. If I can get enough good ones, I’ll put out an Inbox sometime next week. Remember to include your first name, last initial and hometown when you send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for your leftovers…
Manager Clint Hurdle’s call for aggressive baserunning have been answered. Today, Neil Walker was thrown out trying to go first-to-third on a hard hit single to right. Phillies outfielder Wilson Valdez made a perfect throw to get Walker by a few steps. The attempt to take the extra base stalled a rally in the inning, but it’s what Hurdle wants to see at this point in spring.
Matt Diaz stole his first base of the spring after getting a single in the second. The Pirates now have 11 steals, a Grapefruit League high. The club has had three runners thrown out attempting to swipe a base.
Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ top position player prospect and a first-round pick, finally got to see some Grapefruit League action. Sanchez had been solely watching from the bench since playing against the college kids, but Hurdle got him in to DH for the final few innings on Friday.
Despite not having played, Sanchez put together two pretty impressive at-bats. He fell into an 0-2 count his first time up, stayed alive and eventually ripped a ball down the left-field line for a double.
He fell into an 0-2 hole in his second at-bat, too, before taking three pitches to work the count full. Though Sanchez eventually was called out on strikes, his ability to work his way back into both at-bats was encouraging.
“Tony is going to be a good player,” Hurdle said afterward. “He is going to be a good hitter. He likes making things happen when he’s on offense. He is fun to watch.”
Fernando Nieve is not doing himself any favors in trying to earn a spot in the bullpen. He had another terrible outing on Friday. Nieve gave up five hits, four runs and walked one in 1 1/3 innings. This comes after he allowed three earned runs on five hits in one inning on February 28.
The Pirates signed Nieve to a Minor League deal over the winter. Much can still change, but at this point, plenty of other relief candidates have performed much better early.
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Not too much to add here in addition to what is going on the main site. The pirates.com mainbar today looks at Lyle Overbay, who took me aback a bit with how critical he is of himself. Not that that’s a bad thing. But he made it clear that his numbers over the last few seasons are nowhere near where he believes they can be.
Maybe the most telling comment from him came as I was asking about his struggles against left-handed pitching and potential adjustments he’d make to hit southpaws better. Overbay’s answer: “I looked at my average against righties and it was horrible. I have to get better on both ends.”
In the Bucs Beat on the site, you’ll find a Joe Beimel injury update, thoughts from Ross Ohlendorf about his outing, an injury update on Kevin Hart and some team promotional news.
As for the leftovers…
In addition to what is in the main Ohlendorf piece, here are a few other nuggets:
- Ohlendorf did not throw a changeup to a lefty in this outing, but did try a few out to right-handers. He threw a heavy dose of fastballs and sliders, though that should come as no surprise to anyone.
- Up here in the press box, we could hear Ohlendorf occassionally grunting as he released his pitches. Ohlendorf explained afterward that he used to grunt more frequently, but hadn’t done it so much over the last few years. He doesn’t believe he does it only on certain pitches, so it shouldn’t give anything away to hitters. I noticed him doing it during his live BP sessions earlier in camp, so maybe the habit is returning for good. Just a random observation…
- Ohlendorf is making a pointed effort to do a better job getting the ball to the plate quicker this year so he can limit the amount of stolen bases he gives up. Last year, it took Ohlendorf about 1.6-1.7 seconds to get the ball home. He needs to get that time closer to the 1.3-1.4 mark to really stop the running behind him. He’s working on slide steps this spring, too, though he didn’t use any on Wednesday.
Michael Crotta isn’t a name that you hear floated around as a potential starter in Pittsburgh this year. But he has now made two decent appearances this spring. On Wednesday, Crotta scattered two hits in a two-inning outing.
He lives on his heavy sinker, a pitch that was especially sharp in his first inning of work. He battled through the second inning without as an effective a sinker, but Crotta got out of the inning unscathed nonetheless.
“He’s definitely got the attention of some people,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s pitching with purpose.”
The Pirates went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, a stat that obviously highlights a lot of missed chances. Corey Wimberly was unable to execute on a bunt attempt, and there were a handful of times when attempts to advance runners one base were unsuccessful.
Even still, Hurdle commended the effort.
“When you’ve got at-bats and things need to happen at the plate – whether you need to move runners or get bunts down – you don’t always perform,” Hurdle said. “You don’t always execute and get the result, but the intent is there. We had a couple of guys try to work the ball to right with a runner at second base. We tried to get a bunt down and the execution was a little shabby, but the commitment was there.”
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The Pirates have Grapefruit League win No. 1 under their belt now after a lenthy three hour, 27 minute affair here at McKechnie Field on Sunday.
You can find a short game recap here, with a box score attached. Other content coming on the site soon:
- Feature on Joe Beimel and how his Pittsburgh ties drew him back to the city this offseason
- Bucs Beat: Former manager John Russell talks about his time in Pittsburgh on the eve before he returns to McKechnie Field; Kevin Correia discusses how fastball command issues bothered him on Sunday; Scott Olsen (hamstring) continues to progress; Trade talks have simmered involving Ryan Doumit
And now for the loose ends…
Since it’s not the main focus of the Beimel story on pirates.com, I want to mention again here that Beimel missed his scheduled appearance on Sunday due to some soreness in his left elbow. This was apparently something that crept up on Sunday, though Beimel had left the ballpark before the club notified reporters of the injury. That said, it will certainly be something I will check into on Monday.
With the lack of left-handed relief options, the Pirates really cannot afford for this to be an ailment that lingers. Right now, Beimel is listed as day-to-day.
It was a big day for Andrew McCutchen on Sunday, as he finished 3-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs. This marked the second day manager Clint Hurdle put McCutchen into the third spot in the lineup, a slot that Hurdle is considering for the center fielder this season.
Two of McCutchen’s three hits went for extra bases — a first-inning home run and a double in his final at-bat. Though it might not be his calling card, the power that McCutchen has shown makes it even more appealing to think about him in that No. 3 hole.
“He’s got usable power,” Hurdle said. “I just want to look at it. I think it would be silly not to look at something different after what we went through last year. Why would you come to Spring Training and not move some people around and see how we can find an offense that can score some more runs? We’re going to move some other guys around to take some different looks. This is the one, probably, that is as important as any look that I’m going to take.”
McCutchen hasn’t lobbied one way or another for where he wants to hit this season. As he noted on Sunday, “As long as I’m hitting, that’s all that matters.”
You can also anticipate seeing McCutchen run more in the coming weeks. He swiped second after singling in the fourth and continues to work on refining his baserunning technique.
“See what I can or cannot do,” McCutchen said. “The only way you can work on it is to try it. Not to give anything away, but when the opportunity is there, I’m going to try and go.”
After watching 10 days of practice, it is certainly encouraging to see the team execute some of those fundamental drills early in the Grapefruit League season. A few instances, in particular, stood out…
- At least one session during workouts last week was spent practicing dirt ball reads — in other words, players tried to read how far away a ball in the dirt got from the catcher and whether or not a baserunner could advance 90 feet. It’s not that exciting of a drill to watch, but Garrett Jones made a perfect dirt ball read on Sunday that allowed him to move to second on a ball that didn’t get that far away from the catcher. Had he not been on the move immediately, Jones would have been thrown out easily.
- The coaching staff has talked about being aggressive on the basepath, and Chase d’Arnaud followed on cue. With a hit-and-run called, d’Arnaud took off from second as Steve Pearce grounded out to short. D’Arnaud never slowed down, rounded third and scored at home on a bang-bang play. Moving from second to home on a groundout isn’t something you saw the Pirates attempt much (if at all) last year.
- In addition to McCutchen stealing second, the Pirates also later executed a double steal with Jones and Doumit running.
All of these are encouraging signs of implementing instruction and attempting to be more aggressive.
Some odds and ends:
- The Pirates went 6-for-19 with runners in scoring position, while the team’s pitchers held the Rays hitless in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
- Joel Hanrahan made his first appearance and pitched a scoreless inning. He had two strikeouts and walked one.
- It doesn’t shine much in the boxscore, but credit Corey Wimberly with a terrific at-bat in the eighth. He fouled off a number of pitches before drawing a two-out walk.
- By my count, Neil Walker and Ronny Cedeno have turned three double plays in three chances and have looked very comfortable doing so.
- Asked to pick out what he was most impressed with on Sunday, Hurdle had this to say: “Probably the number of at-bats (more than 20) we had with two strikes and finished the day with three strikeouts. We made better adjustments at the plate yesterday. We need to pay attention on deck. Today, I thought we were just in a better place. It looked like our focus was just a little bit better.”
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I’ll admit that watching fielding drills day after day can get a bit monotonous after a while. But there can be times when something catches your eye — which was the case in the relay/cutoff throw drill that third base coach Nick Leyva ran yesterday. There was something different in the instructions than I remember there being last year.
The detail is small, but, after talking with Leyva about it today, he believes it could also be significant. In a situation where a runner is on second and a ball is hit up the middle, Leyva is instructing the first baseman (Lyle Overbay, in most cases) to come to the middle of the infield and be the cutoff man. Last year, that was the third baseman’s duty.
Leyva said that his reasoning for making the change is simple — and he added that 90-95 percent of clubs already position their players this way for cutoffs. By keeping the third baseman on the bag, that forces the baserunner to be more honest. He can’t sneak down the line as far as he might if it was just the shortstop running over to cover. Those few extra feet can make a big impact.
Just something for you to keep an eye on once games begin…
- Third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who missed Monday’s workouts with a muscle spasm in his neck, was back to work early Tuesday morning. He went out to take some swings in the batting cage and then joined his teammates for defensive drills. He appeared to be just fine, though he did not go through a full day’s workout.
- A total of 13 pitchers threw live batting practice to hitters. Kevin Correia, James McDonald, Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf all took mounds simultaneously to kick things off. Don’t think that grouping was on accident, either. Hurdle had praise for the four members of the Pirates’ rotation afterward, too.
- One person that was missing from the pack today was right-hander Jose Ascanio. GM Neal Huntington confirmed that Ascanio felt some tightness in his right elbow on Monday and is, as a precautionary measure, taking it easy for a few days. Ascanio had thrown his first bullpen session on Sunday. The good news is that the Pirates don’t believe the discomfort is anything more serious than a day-to-day issue, and Ascanio was already ahead enough in his workload (he pitched in winter ball through December) that this won’t set him back at all.
- The position players’ first drill of the day was working on hit and runs, delayed steals and reading balls in the dirt. The emphasis on the hit-and-run play was for a player to keep his lead consistent so as not to give away that he’s running. The coaching staff is pushing players to try to move first to third on a single this year, in what is being defined as “disciplined aggression.” For the most part, if the ball touches grass on the way through the infield, the expectation is that a player advances to third. The coaches also talked about the importance of knowing where the outfielders are in order to get the best read on the ball.
- “Shin guards tell the story,” Hurdle said, as he walked over while the Pirates position players were deciding whether to advance on balls in the dirt. “This is a game changer right here and anyone can do it.” You better believe Hurdle is going to expect his players to.
- Catchers spent some time practicing blocking balls in the dirt, as their priority was on the other side of the play.
- Pitchers and position players worked together through signs to know who covers on a stolen base attempt. Then the groups split up for some individual work. The infielders took grounders, with Neil Walker working specifically on taking a double play feed from the shortstop. Outfielders tracked fly balls. Pitchers practiced covering first base on a grounder to the right side.
- Garrett Atkins was taking his infield work at first base after working at third on Monday. Corey Wimberly, who is getting work in the outfield and infield, spent time at both second and short. Moving these utility players around will continue to be a key component of workouts: “They don’t seem like a high priority position, but when you can stabilize your roster with a guy that is versatile, they are very valuable,” Hurdle said. “We have a handful of guys that we’re looking at in that situation.”
- Hurdle announced after practice that he will be using seven pitchers for one inning apiece in Friday’s exhibition game against the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Aaron Thompson will make the start and be followed by Tyler Yates, Jeff Locke, Michael Crotta, Justin Wilson, Kyle McPherson and Rudy Owens.
- Hurdle said he will announce the beginning of his Grapefruit League pitching assignments on Wednesday.
- Yates is not throwing live batting practice with the rest of the group, though he has not had any sort of setback. Pitching coach Ray Searage thought Yates would instead be better served having a supervised side session on Wednesday where the focus could be on the right-hander’s mechanics. Yates was actually so far ahead in his throwing program that he had thrown batting practice before the start of Spring Training.
- On the field as guests today were members of the Manatee adult baseball league. They fielded balls in the outfield during batting practice. Tomorrow, the Manatee High School baseball team will be at Pirate City to do that.
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There was at least one new spectator roaming around the Pirate City fields on Sunday — that being owner Bob Nutting. Nutting arrived in Bradenton on Saturday night and will be in town for about two weeks. He is scheduled to address the team on Monday morning, prior to workouts. He will speak to the media afterward.
This is an annual event in Pirates camp, though I was told that president Frank Coonelly will not bejoining Nutting as a speaker as he has in the past.
The rest of your news…
- The morning started with photo day, which is a Spring Training tradition. There’s always one morning set aside for baseball card companies and media outlets to come out and snap shots of the players to be used all year. This routine didn’t stop many of the players from getting early work in, though. There is extra hitting, fielding and baserunning work going on each day before workouts begin at 10 am.
- One of the first fundamentals the players practiced as a group on Sunday were rundown plays. The outfielders stood in as baserunners and pitchers joined infielders to mimic pickoffs and rundowns. This was going on on two fields, and it’s pretty evident that the infielders were split up based on where they fall on the depth chart. On the one field you had Lyle Overbay and Garrett Atkins at first, Neil Walker at second, Ronny Cedeno and Pedro Ciriaco at short and Pedro Alvarez at third.
- There was also work on baserunning — with the runners determining when to advance on a grounder and when to stay still. Baserunning has been (and will continue to be) a huge emphasis in camp. Manager Clint Hurdle wants these guys to test out their leads and to advance first to third, second to home with regularity. I would expect to see much aggressive baserunning during Grapefruit League play as players test their limits.
- Pitchers worked more on bunting and slug bunting — another facet of the game that is being heavily emphasized so far.
- There were 16 pitchers who threw live batting practice to hitters. Those pitchers were Charlie Morton, Tony Watson, Jeff Karstens, Chris Resop, Brad Lincoln, Chris Leroux, Brian Burres, Daniel McCutchen, Sean Gallagher, Cesar Valdez, Daniel Moskos, Tyler Yates, Justin Thomas, Ramon Aguero, Fernando Nieve and Bryan Morris.
- Jose Ascanio also threw on Sunday, though his session was a 35-pitch bullpen session (not to hitters). Ascanio is a few days behind after being held up in Venezuela with visa issues.
- In addition to taking some swings off pitchers, hitters took additional batting practice off throws from coaches. After those rounds finished, all position players went through some short baserunning work.
- Hurdle spent a good amount of time talking about Corey Wimberly after practice today. Wimberly, who is most known for his speed, is fighting for a bench spot this spring. When asked about Wimberly’s inability to breakthrough to the Majors in the past, Hurdle said: “This could be Corey’s time. That’s why we went out and got him. We had talked him in a couple different avenues over the winter and then we were able to make a trade for him. To his credit, delay doesn’t mean denial. He has persevered. He hasn’t taken feeling being passed over on the field with him. He’s continued to go out and do what he needs to do to make himself attractive to whatever organization has him.”
- As expected, the Pirates will get Jeff Karstens plenty of multi-inning appearances during Spring Training games. While it’s unlikely that Karstens breaks camp in the Pirates’ rotation, the club will want him to be ready to spot start or come in as a long reliever, if needed.
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