Results tagged ‘ Garrett Atkins ’
Infielder Garrett Atkins has been unconditionally released by the Pirates, thereby ending his chances to make the team as a backup corner infielder. Atkins was apparently given the news on Sunday and was not in the clubhouse on Monday morning for comment.
Atkins, who signed a Minor League deal with Pittsburgh over the winter, went 4-for-31 and struck out 11 times. It’s unknown whether Atkins is going to try to sign elsewhere or if this will mark the end of his MLB career.
In addition to sending Atkins out, the Pirates reassigned Justin Thomas and Fernando Nieve to Minor League camp. Both signed Minor League deals over the winter and should start out the year in Triple-A Indianapolis’ bullpen. Thomas’ departure means that there is one less left-hander vying for a spot in the Pirates’ bullpen.
The Pirates now have 41 players left in camp.
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Most of what you’re going to want to read today is going to be on the pirates.com tonight, so I’ll refrain from rewriting all of that here. On the main site, you can read about…
- The Pirates claimed lefty Garrett Olson off waivers and added him to the list of lefties trying to make the bullpen. GM Neal Huntington said the addition was to increase competition. I happen to believe it’s also the the result of the Pirates being worried about their other left-handed relief options.
- Brad Lincoln left Friday’s game with a right forearm contusion, sustained when he was nailed by a line drive. We’ll know more about the injury on Saturday, but Lincoln didn’t seem to believe the ailment was anything serious. He got lucky that the ball did not hit any bone.
- Kevin Hart will not be pitching in Pittsburgh until at least June. He has been placed on the 60-day disabled list as the slow recovery from right shoulder surgery continues.
- Ryan Doumit went 0-for-2, was hit by a pitch and caught five innings in Friday’s game. He reported feeling just fine, so that oblique strain seems to be an issue of the past.
And below are the leftovers, which you will not find on the main site…
The Pirates lost this one on a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. Not that the loss means anything, but the club has now dropped six of its last seven games. Results, manager Clint Hurdle said afterward, will start meaning a little more pretty soon.
“I think right now we need to know what our personnel is,” Hurdle said. “We need to make sure that we get the questions answered that we have for ourselves coming in. The last week … there probably will be a heightened awareness of finishing games off at that point in time.”
As mentioned in the early blog, today was a day for those fighting for a bench spot to step up. Josh Rodriguez had a nice 2-for-3 day and Steve Pearce would have had two hits if he hadn’t been robbed on a terrific running catch in the sixth. But otherwise, there was little to get excited about offensively.
With an 0-for-3 day, Garrett Atkins has just one hit in his last 21 at-bats. That certainly is not helping his case in a four-man competition for the corner utility job. Andy Marte, on the other hand, had another hit on Friday and is now 9-for-23 this spring.
“I think we’re evaluating internally and we’ll keep it internal,” Hurdle said, when asked if anyone has stood out. “We’ll let people know as we do that. Obviously at this point in time, we’re close to having another round-them-up meeting to decide what we’re going to do with our personnel. I like the way everybody has gone about their work. I like that we have been able to move those guys fighting for the bench positions around.”
In other words, with 44 players in camp, expect another round of cuts to be coming soon. We are t-minus 14 days away from Opening Day.
I probably haven’t been giving Michael Crotta enough due this spring, but he has pitched quite well. Now, it should be mentioned that he has mostly faced reserves and Minor Leaguers since he’s been pitching late in games. But Crotta has gotten the ball down and made an impression.
With another scoreless inning on Friday, he has now not allowed a run in eight Grapefruit League innings. I don’t expect him to be in the Pirates’ bullpen right out of camp, but he could be a fit at some point during the season.
“He’s throwing strikes,” Hurdle said. “He continues to hold his own this spring. He’s done well.”
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The Pirates have their first of three spring night games tonight and it comes against the Yankees up here in Tampa. The contrast between the Yankees’ Spring Training park — George M. Steinbrenner Field, to be precise — and every other one strikes me every year. It’s as grandiose as a Florida Spring Training facility gets, though I’m not sure that’s something to brag about.
One of the neatest aspects of Spring Training, in my opinion, is the intimacy of the ballparks. Fans who come to Pirate City or McKechnie Field stand just feet away from Pirates players. The access is tremendous. Here, not so much. The ballpark is nice, yes, but also a bit stuffy. But I guess old charm isn’t what a team like New York is going for.
On an entirely different note… I know that when you get online each day you are have a limited amount of minutes to spend reading the news. I understand that you don’t have time to read everything — I’m in the same boat — but I do want to turn your attention to a story I wrote today about A.J. Johnson.
My hope is that you’ll read it, not because I wrote it, but rather to get some perspective. Instead of reading about Scott Olsen’s hamstring or Joe Beimel’s elbow for one day, I hope you enjoy a story about a young man whose story will make you think twice about how much a baseball game really matters. And I just hope I was able to give A.J.’s story the justice it is due.
You can find the story here.
As for the rest of your news…
- I was not at Tuesday’s game against the Twins, but I hear that Steve Pearce looked just fine at third base. Now that Pearce has gotten some game time in during a “B” game, you’d have to expect that he will play some third in a regular Grapefruit League game sometime soon.
- Speaking of corner utility players, I would have to believe that the Pirates are going to have to start whittling down their list soon. With Pearce, Andy Marte, Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins all essentially fighting for one bench spot, there is not going to be enough playing time to go around. Especially not when you consider that Lyle Overbay and Pedro Alvarez need to get their work in, too. Don’t be surprised if one of the four bench candidates gets sent out of camp soon.
- Back at McKechnie Field, Gillette and ESPN are filming some national TV commercial today/tonight. Among those appearing in the commercial are ESPN personality Kenny Mayne and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
- Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel both threw at Pirate City on Tuesday and everything went without incident. The club has not announced what the next step is for either. Olsen, at least, should be ready to start pitching in games soon. That is especially necessary if the Pirates still want time to build him up as a starter.
- The following pitchers will throw for the Pirates in Thursday’s night game against the Orioles: Paul Maholm (four innings), Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Jeff Karstens, Tony Watson.
- That game on Thursday is also a night game (7:05 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch) and will be televised back in Pittsburgh on FSN.
- Tonight’s game can be heard on 104.7 FM for those of you back in the ‘Burgh.
- Remember Brendan Donnelly, the veteran reliever who spent a few months with Pittsburgh last year? He has told MLB.com that he has officially retired.
PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), C. d’Arnaud (2B), P. Alvarez (3B), M. Diaz (LF), G. Jones (RF), S. Pearce (1B), C. Snyder (C), P. Ciriaco (SS), K. Correia (RHP)
Pitchers: K. Correia (four innings), C. Morton (three), D. McCutchen, J. Veras
YANKEES: D. Jeter (SS), R. Martin (C), M. Teixeira (1B), A. Rodriguez (DH), R. Cano (2B), A. Jones (LF), E. Chavez (3B), J. Maxwell (RF), M. Mesa (CF)
Pitchers: B. Colon, M. Banuelos, R. Soriano, P. Feliciano, D. Turpen, L. Ayala
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The Pirates split the split-squad affairs, with the road group claiming a victory against the Rays in Port Charlotte. I didn’t see that game, obviously, but a few things stand out in the box score:
- Garrett Atkins had a three-run homer, his second homer of the spring if you count the one he hit off the college kids on Friday. Both of Atkins’ hits in Grapefruit League play have been for extra bases.
- The line wasn’t pretty for Fernando Nieve, one of many guys fighting for a bullpen spot. He was scheduled to pitch two innings and only made it through one. In that frame, Nieve allowed five hits and three earned runs. Two of those hits were doubles and four of the knocks were line drive hits.
- Bryan Morris appeared to have a strong first inning and worked his way out of trouble in his second inning of work. He struck out Evan Longoria in a 1-2-3 first and induced a key double play in the second. A wild pitch allowed one run to score against him.
The most important development in Paul Maholm’s outing on Monday — and what I highlighted in the Beat item on the left-hander – was his attention to throwing inside. Be sure that this is going to be key not just for Maholm, but for this entire rotation to take significant steps forward. This and first-pitch strikes are going to be crucial.
Maholm learned long ago the importance of setting aside spring results and focusing on particulars. That said, he seemed hardly concerned about his final line — which included four hits and two runs.
“I would say I’m getting a lot more comfortable on the mound right now and getting in better rhythm,” Maholm said. “My rhythm is good. Everything is good. It’s just being able to do it consistently for a long stretch. For me, that’s what spring is for.”
Spring Training is also a pretty loose environment, and Maholm made sure to give Orioles catcher Craig Tatum some friendly flack. Maholm and Tatum were battery mates at Mississippi State, and Tatum tagged Maholm for a single when they faced each other in the second inning on Monday. Maholm responded by promptly picking Tatum off first.
“He can only pull the ball. I made him look good by throwing him a fastball in,” Maholm said, grinning. “I picked him off to make him look bad. We’re somewhat even. I’ll send him a text later asking him what he was thinking.”
Split-squad days, in particular, allow a handful of players from Minor League camp to get an opportunity in front of the Major League coaching staff. A number of those players spend the day with the big-league club and serve as late-inning substitutions when the starters take their early exits.
On Monday, Mel Rojas Jr., Miles Durham and Jim Negrych had their chance to make a first impression on new manager Clint Hurdle. For Durham, the impression was an especially good one.
Durham came to the plate twice, drawing one walk and launching a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth.
“First day and I just wanted to come here and help them out a little bit, and I did pretty well,” Durham said afterward. “[Hurdle] had never seen me play before, so it’s good to get a good first impression.”
The homer came after Durham fell just short on what would have been a sensational diving catch in the eighth. Durham laid out as the ball just missed his glove.
“I got real close,” Durham said. “It hit off the end of my glove and once I hit the ground, I lost it.”
Durham was the Pirates’ 22nd-round pick in 2006. He hit .259 with Double-A Altoona last season and went 3-for-10 in six Major League Spring Training games last year.
On the main site, you will find the following tonight:
- The main story takes a look at Pedro Alvarez, who has showcased a terrific work ethic and has a serious motivation to not rely solely on his natural talent to be good. Let me emphasize for the last time that a report about Alvarez gaining 15 pounds this winter was entirely inaccurate. Alvarez did gain muscle this offseason (not nearly 15 pounds worth), but it’s been unfair that he has had to answer questions this spring about a weight issue that isn’t an issue at all.
- Bucs Beat has an update on Joe Beimel, as well as a closer look at Maholm’s outing. From Port Charlotte, MLB.com’s Evan Drellich contributes a note about Morris’ outing. Interesting, too, that Morris faced Manny Ramirez, who was a part of that three-team trade that sent Morris to Pittsburgh and Ramirez to the Dodgers back in 2008.
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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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I wasn’t going to miss pop-up drills to the catchers today. No way. Even after being warned by one of the catchers (who will remain unnamed) not to report my observations here on the blog. That comment, of course, is all about context. For those who were here last year on the first day of pop-up drills, you probably remember the disaster.
To be fair, 25-30 mph winds were partially to blame last year. But so many balls were dropped that Manny Sanguillen was left shaking his head and fans behind the fence were left applauding when a ball was actually caught.
Well, I’m pleased to report that today’s exhibition on how to catch pop-ups was extremely impressive all around. There was wind factoring in today, too, so that made the drill’s success even more notable. The catchers (seven in all) hardly dropped a ball, including when Minor League manager Tom Prince shot up two or three in succession.
As for the rest of your daily squeeze…
- Pedro Alvarez was out of workouts today with a muscle spasm in his neck. He woke up feeling sore and had treatment while the team was on the field. The Pirates list Alvarez’s status as day to day.
- With Alvarez inside, Garrett Atkins stepped in at third base during defensive work with the rest of the starting infielders. That gives you some idea of the initial depth chart.
- Lefty Scott Olsen (mild left hamstring strain) was out throwing long toss for a while on Monday. When asked how Olsen was progressing, GM Neal Huntington said only that the team would update his status later in the week. The club has been quiet on how Olsen’s setback will affect his ability to get ready for the season.
- Olsen’s status obviously affects that of Charlie Morton, who is also competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. Manager Clint Hurdle spoke briefly about Morton today: “I don’t think there is any doubt he has learned some things. He’s another guy who has taken ownership of poor performance. He knows what he’s capable of. What I’m encouraged by in what I’ve seen from Charlie is he’s honestly self-evaluating. He has visited the places where he could maybe have done better in some situations. From here on in, it’s taking the actions.”
- One of the first defensive drills of the day was working on cutoffs and relay throws. Time was also spent having pitchers field grounders and cover first on groundballs gloved by the first baseman or second baseman. Communication was key in these drills.
- Pitchers also spent time fielding comebackers and practicing their bunting. Hitters took batting practice, though it was thrown by coaches today.
- Effort continues to be an emphasis in each and every drill. Said Hurdle: “That’s one of the elements we’re really trying to challenge the players with this spring — if you want to play in the game, you’ve got to work at practice. Sometimes, it’s done the other way. I’ve been guilty of it. What we’ve tried to do is make practice more challenging.”
- Live batting practice will resume on Tuesday and Wednesday. Pitchers will throw two innings (one inning is 18 pitches) and will throw half of those pitches out of the wind-up and half out of the stretch. There will also be an emphasis on slide step moves.
- Owner Bob Nutting addressed players in a morning meeting and spoke to reporters afterward. For a full transcript on what Nutting had to say, go here.
- The National College Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2011 class, of which former Pirates shortstop Dick Groat is a member. Groat played two seasons at Duke University, where he was also a standout on the basketball team. The induction ceremony will be July 3 in Lubbock, Texas.
- There are always plenty of meetings and procedures early in camp, and today was no different. Players and staff attended the MLB Umpires Meeting after workouts. In the morning, everyone went in for blood work.
- Hurdle has still not announced his pitching assignments for Friday’s exhibition game against those fightin’ Manatees or for the start of Grapefruit League play. Once he does, I’ll be sure to post it here.
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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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Got my hands on some additional pieces of contract information, this time for Garrett Atkins and Brian Burres. If you’re wondering what either player could make if on the Major League roster, here’s your answer:
- Base salary if in in the Majors: $800,000
- Plate appearance incentives: $25,000 for 300, 350 and 400 plate appearances; $50,000 for 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances
- Awards incentives: $100,000 for MVP ($100,000 for second; $75,000 for third); $25,000 if MVP of World Series, LCS or DS; $25,000 for Gold Glove, $50,000 for Silver Slugger; $25,000 for All-Star; $250,000 if Comeback Player of the Year
- If Atkins is not on the 25-man roster on April 1 or June 1, he can request his release
- Base salary if in the Majors: $600,000
- Burres may sign with an Asian team for $50,000 between now and Opening Day; he may sign with an Asian team for $100,000 during the regular season
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The Pirates have signed infielder Garrett Atkins to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Also on Thursday, Pittsburgh claimed lefty Aaron Thompson off waivers from the Nationals. Left-hander Wil Ledezma was designated for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for Thompson.
The Pirates have 10 days to trade, release or outright Ledezma to the Minors, if he clears waivers. The club had already signed Ledezma to a 2011 contract in order to avoid arbitration with the left-hander. He was expected to compete for a spot in the team’s bullpen this spring.
Thompson spent almost all of the 2010 season in Double-A, where he went 4-13 with a 5.80 ERA in 26 starts. The 23-year-old struck out 95 and walked 53 in 136 2/3 innings. He also made one start in Triple-A.
By agreeing to terms on a Minor League contract, Atkins is reunited with his former Colorado manager, Clint Hurdle. Atkins played for the Rockies from 2003-09, before signing as a free agent with the Orioles last December.
Atkins appeared in 44 games for Baltimore before getting released in July. He batted .214 with seven doubles, one homer and nine RBIs in 140 at-bats. In his seven seasons with the Rockies, Atkins hit .289 with a .354 on-base percentage. He hit 98 homers and 162 doubles in those 773 games.
Of the 781 games Atkins, 31, has played in his career, 642 of them have come as a third baseman. He has played 135 games at first, three in the outfield and one at second. The right-handed hitter will be competing to earn a spot on the Pirates’ roster as a back-up corner infielder.
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