Results tagged ‘ Jeff Salazar ’

August 25: Phillies (72-50) @ Pirates (51-71)

18761-White-water-rafting-1.jpgJenifer Langosch/MLB.com

So, I survived this (see idiots, on left, trying to act like they are entirely in control of the situation…though they quite obviously aren’t) on the team’s day off on Monday and am glad to have lived through it to cover another game.

OK, so maybe my white water adventures weren’t this exoctic or adventurous (I can pretend, right?), but I did have a good day out on the river and would recommend rafting the Youghiogheny River to anyone. It’s a nice day trip from Pittsburgh. And don’t worry, there are different portions of the river to raft depending on how much of a thrill you want.

Anyways, onto baseball where the Pirates get a respite from National League Central opponents for a few days. In this current stretch of 27 games (which began with that forgettable 17-2 loss on Aug. 14), the Pirates’ series against the Phillies this week is the only non-division series they’ve got. And it’s not an easy one, as the defending World Series Champs come in having won eight of their last 10 games.

As for today’s news, notes, and randomness…

  • As noted in today’s earlier blog entry, the Arizona Fall League rosters have been announced. More on the selections in detail on pirates.com in a bit.
  • Shortstop Ronny Cedeno is currently in the lineup after missing both games over the weekend with a fractured right pinky finger. He has been out fielding grounders and throwing already and is currently taking BP. Assuming he clears all those activities without being bothered by the finger, he’ll be good to go.
  • RHP Jeff Karstens is back in Pittsburgh, but still on the bereavement list. His grandmother passed away in San Diego on Thursday. Karstens was scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, which will be the first time he’s thrown in eight days. It’s because of that lengthy layoff that the Pirates aren’t yet quite sure when he’ll come off the bereavement list.
  • Outfielder Jeff Salazar, who was designated for assignment a little over a week ago, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis.
  • Since joining the Pirates, Lastings Milledge has gone 8-for-22 with runners in scoring position. After hitting in the cleanup spot on Sunday, Milledge dropped back to hitting sixth. Andy LaRoche returns to hit fourth.
  • Catcher Ryan Doumit has been nominated by the club for the Heart & Hustle Award, an annual award handed out by the MLPAA. More on the nomination and selection process can be found here.
  • The Pirates have quietly had one of the best defensive seasons in the Majors. The team leads the NL in fielding percentage and has made the fewest errors in the Majors this season.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Delwyn Young (2B)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  7. Steve Pearce (1B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS) Luis Cruz
  9. Ross Ohlendorf (RHP)

Phillies lineup:

  1. Jimmy Rollins (SS)
  2. Shane Victorino (CF)
  3. Chase Utley (2B)
  4. Ryan Howard (1B)
  5. Raul Ibanez (LF)
  6. Matt Stairs (RF)
  7. Pedro Feliz (3B)
  8. Carlos Ruiz (C)
  9. Joe Blanton (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

August 15: Pirates (46-69) @ Cubs (59-55); Bixler recalled, Bautista selected, Salazar DFAed, Ascanio to DL

Well, we have quite the checklist to go through on this early morning in Chicago… Since Friday’s 17-2 trouncing by the Cubs, the Pirates have made four roster moves. Right-hander Denny Bautista and shortstop-turned-utilityman Brian Bixler walked into the clubhouse at about 9:30 CT this morning, fresh off a flight from Columbus, Ohio, where the Triple-A Indians are playing a series.

Bautista takes a spot in the bullpen that was freed up by having to place righty Jose Ascanio on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. Manager John Russell said that Ascanio first start feeling some soreness during his Aug. 11 appearance in Colorado and continued to feel the tightness while throwing lightly on Friday.

The Pirates have had all sorts of issues keeping their bullpen arms healthy this year. Craig Hansen hasn’t pitched since April and is out for the year. Tyler Yates is out for the season after having to undergo Tommy John surgery in July. Evan Meek suffered a left oblique strain already on this road trip. Donnie Veal is just returning to throwing after being sidelined with a sprained left index finger. And Phil Dumatrait is finishing up a rehab assignment in Triple-A, though he is expected to join the Pirates’ bullpen next Friday.

Bautista had a 4.88 ERA in 36 appearances with Indianapolis this season. In 48 innings, Bautista struck out 58 and walked 34. It’s that control that plagued Bautista during his time with the Major League club last season.

With Bautista needing to get on the 40-man roster and that roster full, the Pirates were forced to designated outfielder Jeff Salazar for assignment. The Pirates now have 10 days to trade, release or outright Salazar to the Minors if he passes through waivers. Salazar went 1-for-26 with the Pirates, playing primarily as a pinch hitter.

Salazar’s exit led to Bixler’s entrance, as the Pirates needed to call up a position player already on the team’s 40-man roster. Bixler has recently been converted to a utility player, splitting time at short, second and in center field since the beginning of July. In all, Bixler has started 60 games at short, 24 at second and 11 in center since the start of the season.

Bixler is not expected to get substantial playing time, though Russell said he hopes that Bixler’s recent offensive success in Triple-A will be sustained off the bench here. Bixler had a 15-game hitting streak with Indianapolis at the time of the call up and had hit .335 since July 1. He was recently named Indianapolis’ July Player of the Month.

Phew… got all that?

As for today’s other news, notes and randomness…

  • Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and Charlie Morton, who gave up 10 runs in his one-inning start here on Friday, had a lengthy discussion early this morning out on the bullpen mound. They also talked at length Friday afternoon after Morton met with the media postgame.
  • Veal threw his second side session on Saturday, with Russell watching. Veal is still expected to be reexamined in Pittsburgh on Monday. 
  • Catcher Ryan Doumit is back in the lineup after a two-game hiatus. Doumit’s right wrist is said to be just fine.
  • Luis Cruz is getting a start at second and Ramon Vazquez is getting the start at third this afternoon. Just a day off for Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young, so nothing more there.
  • This isn’t a pretty stat: The Pirates are just 4-52 when trailing after six innings. That doesn’t say much for late-inning comeback chances.
  • Saturday is Zach Duke’s fourth go at 10 wins, though had he had some bullpen and offensive help, he’d be well past that mark already. He’s had some success at Wrigley Field, though not recently. In his first five starts here, Duke went 3-1 with a 1.43. In his last two, he’s 0-2 wiht a 6.33 ERA. His last win at Wrigley: May 2, 2006.
  • Double-A third baseman Pedro Alvarez went 3-for-3 with a home run for Altoona on Friday night. The homer was his 23rd of the season. Alvarez has hit .468 in August.
  • Lefty Daniel Moskos pitched eight strong innings in that Double-A game. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out eight. The start was the longest of his career.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Steve Pearce (1B)
  6. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  7. Ramon Vazquez (3B)
  8. Luis Cruz (2B)
  9. Zach Duke (LHP)

Cubs lineup:

  1. Ryan Theriot (SS)
  2. Milton Bradley (RF)
  3. Derrek Lee (1B)
  4. Jake Fox (3B)
  5. Jeff Baker (2B)
  6. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
  7. Geovany Soto (C)
  8. Sam Fuld (CF)
  9. Tom Gorzelanny (LHP) 

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB 

July 1: Cubs (36-38) @ Pirates (36-41); Wilson apologizes for comments

Shortstop Jack Wilson sought out the media on Wednesday so that he could publically apologize for some of his comments made on Tuesday afternoon, just minutes after hearing that teammates Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan had been traded. For those who may have missed it, here is what Wilson said yesterday.

Wilson was understandably frustrated, having seen the Pirates trade away teammates over and over again during his tenure here. But it was the tone he used and what could be perceived as negativity toward Pirates management that he wanted to step away from after reading what he had said the day after…

“I really didn’t sleep last night. I think some of my comments were pretty harsh,” Wilson said. “When you’re here and you’re in the moment and you’re talking to guys and everyone is bummed out, you tend to maybe lose your head a little bit and vent. A lot of things I said, I thought about last night when talking with my wife and they were pretty inaccurate I would say. I definitely don’t want to be that guy who is butting heads with the organization or causing any type of negativity. I apologize for that. I haven’t talked to Neal [Huntington] or anything like that, but that’s not the player I want to be. That’s not the person I want to be for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I’m definitely passionate about winning, about being a Pirate and sometimes it comes out in a negative way. For that, I apologize for going against the organization.”

Other news and notes for the day:

  • Jeff Salazar has arrived at PNC Park, but he has not been added to the roster yet because of what is being described as extenuating cicumstances. Manager John Russell said he couldn’t comment on the situation, but we are expected to be notified closer to game time what’s going on and when/if Salazar will be added. Salazar said he’s under the impression that he’ll be available tonight. UPDATE 6:20 pm: Salazar has been activated and is available to play on Wednesday.
  • Craig Monroe has cleared waivers and been given his unconditional release.
  • The Pirates have signed third-round Draft pick Evan Chambers. He has been assigned to begin his professional career with short season State College. Chambers, 20, is a center fielder drafted from Hillsborough (Fla.) Community College.
  • The Pirates have also signed SS John Gourley (13th round) and RHP Ryan Beckham (18th round). Gourley was drafted out of high school. The Pirates have now agreed to terms with 15 of 51 players. 
  • Joel Hanrahan arrived in the clubhouse at about 3:45 pm today, only to be greeted with a bear hug from Delwyn Young. Hanrahan’s transition should be a bit smoother considering he already knows Young, both LaRoches and John Grabow.
  • Russell is wasting no time getting Garrett Jones into the lineup, putting him in left and in the No. 3 spot on Wednesday. Russell emphasized that Jones will get plenty of opportunity to show that he could be an everyday player, which suggests that he will likely be a more regular starter than Eric Hinske was.
  • Three players from Double-A Altoona have been selected to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game. Those include LHP Daniel Moskos, SS Brian Friday and OF/1B Jason Delaney
  • Andy LaRoche is out of the lineup for nothing more than just a day to rest.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Freddy Sanchez (2B)
  3. Garrett Jones (LF)
  4. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  5. Brandon Moss (RF)
  6. Ramon Vazquez (SS)
  7. Jason Jaramillo (C)
  8. Jack Wilson (SS)
  9. Virgil Vasquez (RHP)

Cubs lineup:

  1. Sam Fuld (LF)
  2. Ryan Theriot (SS)
  3. Derrek Lee (1B)
  4. Milton Bradley (RF)
  5. Jake Fox (3B)
  6. Kosuke Fukodome (CF)
  7. Geovany Soto (C)
  8. Andres Blanco (2B)
  9. Randy Wells (RHP)

Nyjer Morgan next to go?

It appears so.

I’ve confirmed that a deal is in the works between the Pirates and the Nationals that would send Nyjer Morgan to Washington and outfielder Lastings Milledge to Pittsburgh. The deal is NOT a one-for-one exchange, I’ve been told, but it’s not clear who else (from either side) would be included.

The deal, which has not been finalized, could come down as soon as today, though as of about 1:45 p.m., Morgan said he had not been informed of anything.

Also, the rumblings out of Indianapolis are that Jeff Salazar is going to be summoned to Pittsburgh, which would only further confirm that Morgan is on his way out. 

UPDATE 2:38 pm: Two baseball sources have confirmed that Washington’s Joel Hanrahan and Pittsburgh’s Sean Burnett will be a part of the deal, if it is finalized.

Nothing has officially been agreed upon yet, as final details are being worked out. Other names have been discussed by the two teams, though it doesn’t appear as if the trade will get any bigger.

UPDATE 2:47 pm: A few details on Hanrahan and Milledge…

Milledge has been working back to full health after breaking his right index finger and having surgery back in mid-May. He was expected to miss six to eight weeks, so would likely be nearing his return soon.

Though Milledge has appeared in only seven games for Washington this season, he does actually have more Major League experience than Morgan. In 897 at-bats, Milledge has a .261 average, 25 homers and 113 RBIs. Milledge was a first-round Draft pick back in 2003, but has yet to reach the hype that has followed him while with the Mets and with the Nationals.

Milledge just began his rehab work with the GCL Nats over the weekend and played his third game down there on Monday.

Hanrahan, 27, has spent the last three seasons with the Nationals. Though he was used as a starter in 2007, Hanrahan has been used exclusively out of the bullpen in the last two years. He is a combined 11-9 with 5.30 ERA in 115 appearances (11 starts).

This season has not been kind to Hanrahan, who has allowed 28 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings of relief (34 appearances).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pirates lineup:

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

Red Sox lineup:

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

Pitcher: Josh Beckett 
 

Reds 6, Pirates 0

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Stay tuned…

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

The game will be webcast on www.pirates.com

 

Yankees 13, Pirates 10

Walker, Neil 2.jpgRoss Ohlendorf was certainly pleased with his results — four innings pitched, no hits, no runs, two strikeouts — but he owed much credit to the defense that played behind him. Both Nyjer Morgan and Neil Walker (pictured to left) made tough running catches on pop-ups, and Walker also made a stellar back-handed grab at third. And not to be left out, Jeff Salazar contributed with a diving catch in right field.

***

As for Ohlendorf’s day, there were signs of improvements as well. Ohlendorf worked with all three of his pitches — fastball, slider, changeup — and said he was pleased with how he felt throwing each one by the time his outing ended. His breaking pitch is still slowly coming along, though manager John Russell said that it has been crisper in Ohlendorf’s side sessions than in games. The key is now to bring that into the game.  

He also continued to live on the inside corner against New York’s right-handed hitters (which he always has done with success) and against left-handers (something he’s trying to do more often).

“This was probably the second best one,” Ohlendorf said, when asked how this compared to his three previous Spring Training appearances. Ohlendorf said the best was his two-inning outing against the Red Sox on Feb. 26. He faced the minimum in those two innings and struck out three.

“Compared to last September,” Ohlendorf continued, “I feel like I’ve shown [management] that I can do much better than I did.”

Ohlendorf continues to fight for a rotation spot.

“He’s pitching well,” Russell said. “Obviously he’s got the stuff. It’s just the consistency. He’s got a little bit more of a power arm. It might take him a few more innings to get it the way he really wants. I have seen improvements every outing.”    

***

A total of four hitters were hit by pitches in this game, causing the tension to build just a bit. With all these pitchers fighting for Major League jobs, it wasn’t a case of purposeful retaliation. But it was getting a little out of hand regardless.

Jack Wilson got hit by Ian Kennedy; Luis Cruz by Christian Garcia; John Rodriguez by Donnie Veal; Austin Jackson by Jesse Chavez. Rodriguez sustained a bruised right wrist when he was hit and had to exit the game early.

At least Pirates pitchers showed no hesitancy to pitch inside, something that has been a point of emphasis all spring.

***

Talked with Shelby Ford on Saturday and he reported that his right wrist was feeling much better. Ford sprained his right wrist on the field Wednesday. Ford said that there is the possibility he could be cleared to take part in a full workout — fielding and hitting — as early as Sunday. 

Eric Hinske took batting practice with the team before Saturday’s game, the first time he’s done so since sustaining a left rib cage contusion. He’s not ready to play in a game just yet, but has reported no pain as he slowly works his way back. He’ll take BP again on Sunday and will continue to be evaluated each morning. Expect him back in a game by mid-week.

***

Up Next: The Pirates get to visit the newly located Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Sunday for another 1:05 p.m. contest. It’s the first of two games between the Pirates and Rays in two days.

The Pirates moved Jeff Karstens up a day in the pitching rotation in order to get him off the day that Paul Maholm was pitching. And as things turn out, Karstens and Tom Gorzelanny will now both be pitching on the same day for the rest of the spring. With the way things stand now, I could see Karstens and Gorzelanny competing for the final rotation spot, so what better way to judge who’s ready by having them pitch on the same day.

In addition to Karstens and Gorzelanny pitching on Sunday, Jason Davis and Tyler Yates are also both scheduled to take the mound.

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

Pirates 6, Phillies 5


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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

The Yankees will start right-hander Phil Hughes.

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

Pirates 10, Twins 1

Moss 09ST 02-13 (040.jpgObviously the big story/concern of the day is the severity of Brandon Moss’ (pictured left) thumb injury.

There’s a story up on the main site with all the ins and outs of Moss’ injury, so I won’t rehash it here. That story can be found here.

There’s a chance we might know more later Saturday night once the Pirates get the results of Moss’ X-rays. If not, though, the Pirates should know tomorrow how long they can expect their right fielder out for.

We won’t go into worst-case scenarios just yet, since we don’t know anything, but in the meantime, the Pirates outfielders are dropping pretty quickly.

Here’s what we’re looking at on the injury front right now:

  • Eric Hinske has been out since Feb. 26 with a left rib cage strain. He’s progressing, but isn’t expected back until the latter part of next week.
  • Steve Pearce, too, hasn’t appeared in a game since Feb. 26 and is dealing with a strained left calf. Pearce is tentatively expected back late next week as well, but that’s only if everything progresses well.
  • Jose Tabata is slowly working his way back to throwing after being shut down because of some mild inflammation in his right shoulder. Manager John Russell said that Tabata could play as a DH maybe as early as Monday, but his return to the outfield isn’t so imminent.

So with the slew of outfielder injuries, where does that leave the team? The club has five healthy outfielders left in camp — Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Andrew McCutchen, Jeff Salazar and Craig Monroe. However, they also have a number of listed infielders who can play the outfield, too. Garrett Jones, Andy Phillips and Luis Cruz all fall in this category.

Also, don’t be surprised if the Pirates dip into mini-camp for a few extra bodies to hold them over until these injured outfielders start returning.

***

Lost in the news of Moss’ injury and a hit parade by the offense were some notable pitching performances. Starter Zach Duke and Russell both were pleased with the Duke’s third start of the spring. Unlike some of Duke’s rotation counterparts earlier this week, he was successfully able to finish three innings of work.

“I left a couple pitches up in the zone. Other than that I felt pretty good,” Duke said. “I’m definitely where I’d like to be [right now]. My feel for my secondary pitches is a lot further along than it has been at this point in past years. It’s a very encouraging sign for me.”

Duke allowed one run on three hits in his three inning. He didn’t issue a walk and struck out one. Afterward, Duke credited some improved offseason workouts and work with a physical therapist (arm care specialist as he so perfectly put it) to his increased strength and sturdiness up to this point.

“I liked the way the ball was staying down more today,” Russell said. “His breaking ball was more consistent. He used both sides. When he does that, he’s pretty efficient.”

***

Daniel McCutchen, also fighting for a rotation spot like Duke, also made a nice impression with Russell. After struggling a bit in his first two spring appearaces, a more relaxed McCutchen took the mound on Saturday and had notable success.

He allowed just one baserunner in two innings.

“He’s starting to trust what he’s doing more,” Russell said. “He’s looking more comfortable on the mound, and the more outings he gets, the better rhythm he’s getting.”

McCutchen is still likely to start the season in the Triple-A rotation, but he’s giving the Pirates a good look now at what they can expect from him in the Majors down the road.

***

The long line of relievers continue to throw scoreless innings this spring. Craig Hansen, Chris Bootcheck and Tyler Yates all kept that 0.00 Spring Training ERA with scoreless one-inning appearances on Saturday. Each allowed one baserunner.

Hansen has accumulated five scoreless innings, Bootcheck has accumulated six and Yates has accumualted four.

***

World Baseball Classic Update:

  • Lefty reliever Dave Davidson pitched the eighth inning for Team Canada on Saturday in the Canadians’ 6-5 loss to Team USA. Davidson pitched a scoreless frame, allowing one hit, one walk and striking out one.
  • Ramon Vazquez earned the start at third base and is batting second for Team Puerto Rico against Team Panama. However, that game is just getting underway as I sit here typing that, so you’ll be on your own for checking on his final stats. 

***

For those wanting to check in with former Pirate John Van Benschoten, I wanted to pass along a link. My MLB.com colleague in Chicago, Scott Merkin, talked with JVB for this story and pulled out some pretty good thoughts from the always quotable right-hander.   

*** 

Up Next: The Pirates play at home on Sunday against the Astros in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Ross Ohlendorf will make the start for the Pirates and is scheduled to be followed by Jesse Chavez, Matt Capps, Denny Bautista and Donnie Veal. Brandon Backe will start for Houston.

For those coming to McKechnie Field on Sunday, be sure to show up early. The Pirates will be holding their third annual street fair outside the stadium on 9th St. W. Players will be signing free autographs and there will be plenty of activities for kids.

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

Photo Credit: Dave Arrigo (Pirates)  

Pirates 6, Astros 5

So I’m writing this entry for the second time since, much to my disgust, my connection cut out as I was trying to save my original post-game recap and erased it all. On that note, Take 2.

***

While the story on the main site will go into a bit more detail about Paul Maholm’s strong outing on Saturday, I don’t want to leave Jeff Karstens out of the mix either. Karstens made his first appearance and ended up pitching two innings, despite only being originally slated to toss one. But when he got out of his first inning of work with little sweat, the Pirates decided to let him extend his day.

Karstens ended up throwing 27 pitches in all, though it was the sinkers that he threw that were most notable. Under the direction of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, Karstens has lowered his arm slot and has incorporated a sinker into his pitch repertoire. It’s not a pitch that Karstens has used much in the past, but one that he feels will make him more efficient.

“It feels good, and I’m going to keep running with it,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Karstens has taken some time to talk with Maholm this spring about the sinker pitch, which has been key to Maholm’s success. And now Karstens has seen some immediate success of his own — all six of his outs were recorded via groundballs.

Manager John Russell, too, was impressed: “He threw the ball well. He’s a command guy. I think the key to him is being efficient. When he is efficient, just as we saw last year, he can be pretty good. Today kind of showed what he can do.”

***

The wind was blowing out at Osceola County Stadium on Saturday, and the Pirates hitters took full advantage. After coming in with just one team home run in three games, the Pirates knocked four balls out of the park on Saturday. Three were from outfielders — Brandon Moss, Jeff Salazar and Craig Monroe. Catcher Robinzon Diaz also went deep.

The home run barrage was a bit of a surprise on two fronts. One, the Pirates aren’t expected to be a team relying on the long ball. And two, this early in Spring Training, it’s usually the pitchers who have the advantage.

Obviously, the wind could care less about either.

***

First baseman Adam LaRoche came into Spring Training with a new plan of attack, and he’s certainly sticking to it. LaRoche vowed to take a strike in every at-bat before he swings this spring so that he’d be able to see more pitches. The hope is that he can then get his eye trained earlier — i.e. before April.

I’ve kept careful watch and LaRoche has indeed taken a called strike before taking his bat off his shoulders in every game. We’ll just all have to wait to April to see if the approach proves useful.

***

It’s about as meaningless as the outcome of these early Spring Training games, but take note that Pirates starters have not allowed an earned run yet this spring. Chris Bootcheck, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Maholm have all made starts thus far and have combined to log seven innings without an earned run allowed.

It will be up to Jimmy Barthmaier on Sunday to keep the streak alive.

***

Up Next: The Pirates begin a four-game homestand in Bradenton with a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Tigers. Barthmaier will make the start and is scheduled to be followed by Bootcheck, Sean Burnett, Evan Meek and Tyler Yates.

Detroit is scheduled to send the following pitchers to the mound: Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Joel Zumaya and Zach Miner.

For those in Pittsburgh still trying to find a way to spend a Sunday without the Steelers, the game will be broadcast on 104.7 FM.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 573 other followers