Results tagged ‘ Jason Jaramillo ’
A beautiful day for baseball at PNC Park, where the Pirates have to win on Sunday to salvage a series split.
News and notes of the day…
- Manager Clint Hurdle definitively said that the Pirates will not carry three catchers when Chris Snyder returns. That means that Jason Jaramillo is playing on borrowed time. He will be the one sent down to Triple-A to make room for Snyder. One of the reasons for not going the three catcher route is because Ryan Doumit never had the opportunity to play right field this spring. He was going to get some work there beginning right about the time he ended up sidelined with an oblique strain.
- Speaking of Snyder, his rehab assignment is going well with Class A Advanced Bradenton. He drove in six on Friday before striking out three times on Saturday. The important thing, though, is that he is healthy and having no issues with his back. Snyder is scheduled to catch nine innings again on Sunday. The Pirates have not made their timetable for Snyder’s return public.
- The Pirates will turn to Daniel McCutchen on Sunday if the club needs someone in long relief.
- Also available in the ‘pen for sure will be Joel Hanrahan and Mike Crotta. Paul Maholm is on call, as well, since this is his day to throw on the side. He could throw as many as two innings, if needed.
- Asked about the way Saturday’s game had played out, Hurdle had this to offer… if the Pirates had tied the game in the ninth, Kevin Correia would have gone back out for a second inning of work. Hanrahan would have been the next option, followed by Maholm.
- “It’s a flat-out gamble every time you do it,” Hurdle said of his decision to lift Doumit for a pinch runner on Saturday and use his only other catcher to finish the game. If there were a situation when the second Pirates catcher also had to leave the game, Steve Pearce and Matt Diaz would be the emergency options.
- The Brewers will send out RHP Shawn Marcum, LHP Randy Wolf and LHP Chris Narveson out to start in the upcoming three-game series.
- Righty Brad Lincoln will be making his rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday. Expect him to be able to go about four innings (65 pitches) in the effort.
PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), L. Overbay (1B), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Doumit (C), G. Jones (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), J. McDonald (RHP)
ROCKIES: D. Fowler (CF), J. Herrera (2B), J. Giambi (1B), T. Tulowitzki (SS), S. Smith (RF), J. Lopez (3B), T. Wigginton (LF), C. Iannetta (C), J. Chacin (RHP)
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I continue to get a number of questions about Clint Hurdle, specifically from people curious about how he differs from previous manager John Russell. I think their contrasting personalities have come across quite plainly in interviews or public appearances that Hurdle has made already. But let me also offer you this…
Hurdle is omnipresent in the clubhouse. He was at Wrigley Field to greet players (saying good morning or hello or whatever greeting he desired) as each player entered the clubhouse this morning. He sat with them to watch MLB Network highlights with his hat on backward and a bat in hands. He is constantly engaging in conversations with guys and very much a vocal presence.
He also showed little hesitancy in singling out Pedro Alvarez when asked about what went wrong on the two dropped pop-ups in the infield on Friday (more on that in today’s Beat on the main site later).
Hurdle has said he does not want to take over the clubhouse — which is the players’ quarters. But he’s not going to hide, he’s bound to keep his team accountable and he desires to have a relationship with his players.
Other news and notes…
- Hurdle gave Neil Walker the umpires’ lineup card from Friday’s game as a memento for the second baseman’s big game. Speaking of Walker, he is now 17-for-36 in his career against Chicago with six doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs. Walker has hit safely in all 10 games he’s played against the Cubs.
- Jason Jaramillo will start Sunday’s game, Hurdle said on Saturday. Hurdle had mentioned on Friday that he also wants to get Matt Diaz involved this series, so I’d expect to see him in Sunday’s lineup as well. Other than trying to get some of these bench guys involved early in the season, Hurdle intends to fiddle little with his lineup.
- Has anyone forgotten that the Pirates went 17-64 on the road last year? That makes Friday’s road win that much more significant.
- Interesting note on Paul Maholm, who makes the start on Saturday — he has made more starts (153) than any left-hander in the National League since the start of 2006. Look for Maholm to pitch inside today more than you might have seen him do so last year. It’s something the lefty focused on all spring.
- Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf will start the season finale on Sunday and he said he believes some tweaks he has made recently with pitching coach Ray Searage are going to help him get off to a strong start. Those adjustments involve getting a better line to home plate during his delivery (in other words, not letting his body get too rotational during his motion).
PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), L. Overbay (1B), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Doumit (C), G. Jones (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), P. Maholm (LHP)
CUBS: J. Baker (2B), S. Castro (SS), M. Byrd (CF), A. Ramirez (3B), G. Soto (C), C. Pena (1B), A. Soriano (LF), T. Colvin (RF), C. Zambrano (RHP)
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A few newsworthy items to wrap up today’s workout day:
- James McDonald is (barring any unforseen setbacks) going to start April 5 agains the Cardinals. The Pirates feel good letting him get on the mound after McDonald threw 69 pitches in Spring Training camp game on Thursday morning. McDonald was unable to pitch in a Minor League game against the Triple-A Yankees as planned due to rainy weather; but he did get his work in and is flying to Chicago this evening.
- While McDonald will be fine to make his scheduled start on Tuesday, he will be limited in how deep he is able to pitch. Manager Clint Hurdle guessed that the right-hander will be limited to 85-90 pitches in the outing. But the Pirates like their chances with McDonald pitching a solid five innings and then leaving it to the ‘pen rather than having to find someone to make a spot start.
- McDonald’s velocity reached 95 mph on Thursday, Hurdle said. This certainly suggests that McDonald is having no problems with his side.
- The Pirates have not yet determined whether Brad Lincoln (right forearm contusion) will begin the season in extended Spring Training or with Triple-A Indianapolis. With the Triple-A season still a week from beginning, the Pirates have some more time to determine Lincoln’s assignment.
- Catcher Chris Snyder (lower back stiffness) has not returned to game action yet. He can come off the DL as early as April 9, but the Pirates won’t reinstate Snyder until after he can prove he can catch consecutive games without any issue.
- In the meantime, Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo will both get starts behind the plate. Doumit will get the assignment on Opening Day. Hurdle said that decision was made because of Doumit’s experience: “I think we’ve got enough young guys breaking in tomorrow that we’ll rely upon Ryan with some experience behind the plate.” Jaramillo will catch in a game over the weekend.
- The Pirates have signed right-hander Tim Wood to a Minor League contract. No word yet on where he’ll begin the season — though it will not be in the Majors. Wood was released by the Nationals on Thursday morning.
- Outfielder Jose Tabata has no ankle issues — he was taken out of Wednesday’s game strictly for precautionary reasons. He’s just fine.
- Also, something that was announced while I was off yesterday that I thought was worth noting: Major League Baseball is implementing a 7-day DL this season for concussion injuries only. The hope is that this will help players from trying to rush back from a concussion prematurely; and it allows teams the benefit of not having to play shorthanded while a player recovers. You can read more about the new policy here.
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This is it, folks. Later this afternoon the players will board a flight to Philadelphia. And I will board a flight to Pittsburgh. I am so looking forward to getting back home for 48 hours, regardless of how cold it might be.
I will not be covering the pair of games in Philly, though someone will be there to take care of news. I will rejoin the club in Chicago on Thursday for the day-before-Opening-Day workout and then look forward to being with you for the next six months.
One other note: You might have already noticed that pirates.com underwent a site redesign overnight. I hope you find the site easier to navigate. One omission, however, is a link to the blog in the headlines section. I’m not sure if that is going to change, so if you are a frequent blog reader and haven’t already, it might be a good idea to bookmark this page.
As for your last Spring Training morning news/notes…
- Jeff Karstens is scheduled to pitch five innings (80 pitches) today in an effort to make sure that he would be ready to start the year in the rotation if needed. Karstens is a Plan B option in case James McDonald isn’t yet ready on April 5.
- Speaking of McDonald, he threw a bullpen session this morning without any problems. Next for McDonald will be an outing on Thursday. The goal will be five innings. After that game, the Pirates will know whether McDonald will be able to start the season in the big league rotation.
- It looks as if the Pirates will not make their final roster moves until the club is in Philadelphia. That means the bullpen remains unsettled.
- In case you missed it yesterday, Josh Rodriguez is on the team and Pedro Ciriaco will begin the year in Triple-A. Also, because it appears as if Chris Snyder is headed to the DL, outfielder John Bowker and Jason Jaramillo win the final bench spots.
- Might I say that seeing kU lose to VCU yesterday absolutely made my day/weekend/year. That said, our Bucs Bits Bloggers bracket challenge has most of us left with not a single correct Final Four pick (yes, I fit in this category). The current leader is D. Hague.
PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), R. Doumit (DH), S. Pearce (1B), M. Diaz (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), J. Rodriguez (3B), J. Jaramillo (C)
Pitchers: J. Karstens, G. Olson, C. Resop
TWINS: D. Span (CF), T. Nishioka (2B), J. Mauer (C), J. Morneau (1B), J. Kubel (DH), D. Young (LF), M. Cuddyer (RF), D. Valencia (3B), A. Casilla (SS)
Pitchers: F. Liriano
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GM Neal Huntington said it is “very probable” that Chris Snyder will begin the year on the disabled list. Snyder continues to deal with back soreness, and though he said he is improving, the Pirates can’t risk beginning the season with a catcher who isn’t close to 100 percent.
With Snyder headed to the DL, Jason Jaramillo and Ryan Doumit will be the team’s two catchers. This also means that outfielder John Bowker will win the final bench spot, which could have gone to a third catcher if the team had opted to keep one.
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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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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.
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Ryan Doumit has been scratched from the Pirates’ travel roster for Friday after feeling soreness in his right oblique during batting practice on Thursday. He will receive treatment on Friday, and more should be known about his status after that. The Pirates have listed his status as day-to-day, but oblique injuries often linger. If Doumit misses substantial time, that would hurt the Pirates’ ability to trade him and alter the makeup of the bench.
For all that went wrong on the mound for the Pirates on Thursday, Paul Maholm was immune. It was a strong four-inning outing for the left-hander, who I have to believe is the favorite to be the team’s Opening Day starter.
Other than giving up a solo homer to Vladimir Guerrero on a slider that was supposed to be in the dirt and wasn’t, Maholm had a pretty easy night. He was efficient to the point where he had to go throw extra pitches in the bullpen after he exited to get his pitch count up.
“I was aggressive, able to get some groundballs,” Maholm said. “The last two [I] have been [throwing] the kitchen sink and trying to get outs. Just kind of getting into the rhythm of mixing sequences and reading hitters’ swings.”
Maholm allowed just three other hits — all singles — in the outing. He had a lot of success, too, going inside to hitters — and remember, that is something that Maholm is really focusing on this spring. Especially encouraging is that when Maholm is missing on those inside pitches, he’s not missing over the plate. That was an issue for the lefty last year.
“Paul was excellent,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Paul threw very, very well tonight. Command, the cutter, changeup, sinker, he looked good today. Very crisp.”
The Pirates’ aggressive baserunning was on display early in Thursday’s game, and it played a large role in the 4-1 lead the team briefly enjoyed.
Jose Tabata’s gutsy decision (I think it’s still for debate whether it was necessarily a wise one) to try to move from first to third on a groundball to the third baseman paid off in the first. He caught Baltimore off guard, and came all the way around to score when Brandon Snyder’s throw went past the bag at third.
In the second, Ronny Cedeno pushed it to go from first to third on a single, and that led to an errant throw that allowed Gorkys Hernandez move up to second. Both were in position to then score on Jason Jaramillo’s single.
The Pirates are surely going to run into some outs being so aggressive. But Thursday’s early innings also showed the chaos that agressiveness can create.
“We looked good there for a spurt,” Hurdle said. “We ran the bases well. We put the barrel on the ball. We had better at-bats. That’s the kind of game we have to play. Speed, surprise and variety. Use the skills that we have.”
For those of you who might have been watching the game on TV, you saw an interesting occurrence in the bottom of the seventh. Baltimore’s Matt Angle went to steal second and Jaramillo made an attempt to throw him out. Only problem was, no one was covering second. Jaramillo’s throw went straight to the center fielder, allowing one run to score and Angle to move to third.
So what exactly went wrong?
“That’s [Neil] Walker’s ball,” Hurdle explained afterward. “JJ started the play in a bad way. He’s got to peek, stop the runner at third base. The runner is coming like a freight train. There was no look to third, then the throw to second, sloppy.”
Gotta love Spring Training baseball. The O’s and Bucs combined for 19 runs, 27 hits and six errors on Thursday. Not the prettiest of March games, and figures that it would be one of the four TV games.
On the positive side, the Pirates did only strike out seven times in the game. This, after the club fanned 16 times on Wednesday. And give the offense credit for battling to make the game close with a four-run eighth. Most of those who hit in that frame are fighting to make an impression, which meant they had no interest in simply going through the motions and getting to a late dinner.
On the main site tonight, you’ll find a mid-Spring Training report, of sorts. It’s a look at what we’ve learned so far and what questions remain. There are also notes about Joel Hanrahan’s rough night, Doumit’s injury, Cedeno’s work to cut down on his strikeouts and a thorough injury report.
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Tampa Bay now has two spring wins and both have come at the expense of Pittsburgh. Of course, the Pirates also have their own two wins over the Rays. The best-of-seven spring series continues in Port Charlotte on Friday.
One thing that could turn out to be different this year is how long the club waits to announce its final bench spots. That’s because so much hinges on what the team decides to do with Ryan Doumit. And I’m not just talking about whether or not the Pirates deal him elsewhere.
The Pirates still have not decided whether they want to carry two or three catchers into the season. If the club takes three, Jason Jaramillo or Dusty Brown will head north. If not, it doesn’t matter what either one of them do — they will be headed to Triple-A Indianapolis together. How Brown and Jaramillo are handling the unknown was the focus of my main story on pirates.com today, and you can get to that here.
Ross Ohlendorf left balls up in the second of his three innings on Monday and that was to blame for the one shaky inning he endured. After needing only five pitches (all fastballs) to retire the side in the first, Ohlendorf allowed three straight hits and a walk to begin the second.
He got some help getting out of the jam when Manny Ramirez’s foot hit one of the singles. Catcher Chris Snyder also threw out B.J. Upton as Upton tried to swipe third. As a result, Ohlendorf limited the damage to just one run.
Ohlendorf bounced back to pitch a clean third and said afterward that he felt like the start was another step in the right direction.
“I probably felt a little stronger in the first one just because I had a little more adrenaline,” Ohlendorf said. “But I still felt good about today.”
Ohlendorf mixed in a lot more changeups and a few sliders in the outing. Now it’s a matter of sharpening the command of all his pitches.
The Rays were off and running against the Pirates. But in their four attempts to steal bases, they were only successful twice. Snyder threw out two of three runners taking off against him.
The Pirates’ struggles throwing out runners last year has been incessantly noted. But it was a serious issue, and it is one that is being addressed this year. Ohlendorf, in particular, knows he needs to do a better job varying his rhythm and getting the ball to the plate quicker to keep runners more honest.
Could improvements already have been made?
“If I had been slower, he wouldn’t have had a chance,” Ohlendorf said, referring to Snyder’s ability to throw out Upton. “He made as good of a throw as he could have made and it was still pretty close. And Upton is a fast runner. I was quicker [today] than I would have been last year on most of my pitches, especially with a guy on second.”
The pitchers are working on slidesteps and ways to break up the timing of the runner — whether that be holding the ball longer, being quicker to the plate, etc. Be sure that the work is going to continue. But also give credit to Snyder for a pair of great throws.
“They’ve worked hard at it. It’s paying off,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “And both his throws were very, very accurate. He does a good job back there for us.”
A few tidbits:
- Ronny Cedeno returned to the lineup on Monday and got his first hit of the spring. He had been 0-for-11. Cedeno told me he has been dealing with some timing issues, but maybe he was right when he followed that up by saying he felt he would be breaking through soon.
- The Pirates have scored two runs in their last 21 innings. That’s not reason for huge concern right now given that pitchers are typically ahead of hitters early in spring. However, most of the starting position players are playing in Tuesday’s game against the Twins, so that would be a group that you would want to see some offense from.
- None of the three bullpen candidates who pitched on Monday — Jose Veras, Tyler Yates, Daniel Moskos – fared exceptionally well. Veras and Yates each allowed two walks. Moskos walked one but also allowed three hits.
On the main site later, you will find notes about Evan Meek’s spring debut, Pedro Ciriaco’s favorable early impressive and minor injuries to Josh Rodriguez (right quad tightness) and John Bowker (left wrist soreness).
On a side note, I have the day off on Tuesday, so you’ll have to rely on my capable colleague Evan Drellich for your daily news. I will be spending most of the day not at the beach, but working on a lengthy feature story that is set to run on Wednesday. It’s a story that I hope will bring some perspective about how important winning and losing a baseball game really is. I hope you will read and enjoy.
Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB
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.
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