Results tagged ‘ John Raynor ’

May 4: Cubs (13-13) @ Pirates (10-15)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

I had brief flashbacks to Spring Training this afternoon as the entire Pirates team took the field for extra work at 3:20 pm. It didn’t help us (the media) since we typically have a small window (beginning at 3:30) to talk to players pregame… but manager John Russell felt that after a 3-7 road trip, some extra work is needed.

The work ran the gamut — pickoffs, fielding drills, cutoffs, etc — much like it does in the spring. It’s not all that often that there is this type of full-team workout on the field during the season, but the Pirates have done it from time to time to time before, especially when they’re at home.

The most notable observation of the session was that Andrew McCutchen (mild right ankle sprain) stood on the side watching. He was out on the warning track talking with the team’s trainers for a while before moving toward the dugout and playing spectator. McCutchen is out of the lineup tonight, saying that the ankle was still feeling a bit tender when he tested it out. 

McCutchen is optimistic that he’ll be back in the lineup on Wednesday. 

Here’s the rest of your news and notes…

  • Reliever Brendan Donnelly has been placed on the DL with a left oblique strain. Donnelly has not pitched since April 27, which is when he suffered the injury. He expects to be off as soon as he’s eligible (May 13).
  • With Donnelly on the DL, the Pirates have recalled 1B/OF Steve Pearce from Triple-A. Pearce has been raking down there this season, hitting .349 with 16 extra-base hits before the call-up. The question is whether that production can finally translate at the Major League level. To this point, it hasn’t. In 342 big-league at-bats, Pearce has a .237 average, eight homers and 37 RBIs with the Pirates.
  • Pearce isn’t starting against RHP Ryan Dempster tonight, but Russell said to expect Pearce to play first against a left-handed starter tomorrow night. If Jeff Clement continues to struggle and Pearce produces, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a platoon situation evolve. That will be something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.
  • GM Neal Huntington has not yet gotten word about Kevin Hart’s surgery, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews this morning. Assuming all goes well, Hart is looking at about a nine-month recovery period.
  • The Pirates have lost outfielder John Raynor. Raynor was claimed back by the Marlins, who had to pay the Pirates $25,000 for the purchase. Huntington confirmed that a trade attempt was made, but the Marlins’ asking price was too high.
  • LHP Brian Burres has been named Thursday’s starter.
  • Ross Ohlendorf will make his second Minor League rehab start tomorrow with Altoona. If all goes well, he will start for the Pirates on May 10.
  • Congratulations to Octavio Dotel and his wife Massiel, who welcomed their first child, Eduardo, on Monday. Dotel was beaming today when asked about the new addition.
  • Chris Jakubauskas (head contusion and concussion) remains in good spirits as he continues to slowly work his way back. He was able to begin light exercises on Monday and reported no recent headaches or dizziness.
  • You’ll notice again that Russell has the pitcher batting ninth again, which makes sense given McCutchen’s absence. Remember that the reasoning behind having the pitcher bat eighth was to get three hitters in front of McCutchen.
  • So here’s a good one: Paul Maholm got his ERA to drop from 4.83 to 4.26 before ever throwing a pitch on Tuesday night. How, you might ask? Well, Houston’s official scorer went back and changed a hit to an error in Maholm’s start there on the April 23, and that took away two earned runs from Maholm’s line.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  3. Ryan Doumit (C)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Ryan Church (CF)
  6. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  7. Jeff Clement (1B)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Paul Maholm (LHP)

Cubs lineup:

  1. Ryan Theriot (SS)
  2. Jeff Baker (2B)
  3. Derrek Lee (1B)
  4. Marlon Byrd (CF)
  5. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
  6. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
  7. Xavier Nady (RF)
  8. Geovany Soto (C)
  9. Ryan Dempster (RHP)

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04/05: Dodgers @ Pirates

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Interestingly enough, the Pirates and LA Dodgers have never met in a season opener. Now, the Brooklyn Dodgers did beat the Pirates twice on Opening Day (1953 and 1955), so there is some history there.

But before the 2010 season kicks off with a pitch from Zach Duke, let’s hit some pregame notes…

  • The Pirates’ batting order is as expected. Duke is hitting eighth and Andrew McCutchen is batting behind leadoff hitter Aki Iwamura. And though the Pirates never officially announced it, Jeff Clement is your first baseman du jour. He’s going to have to keep improving defensively, though, to keep that spot.
  • Six Pirates are on an Opening Day roster for the first time: McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Clement, John Raynor, Daniel McCutchen, Charlie Morton.
  • Octavio Dotel’s nine appearances on an Opening Day roster represents the club high.
  • Manager John Russell reported continued progress with right-hander Joel Hanrahan (right elbow injury). Hanrahan is eligible to come off the DL as early as April 10, but Russell said that Hanrahan’s pitching schedule has him lined up to come off on April 12. The Pirates haven’t publically said this, but you can expect Daniel McCutchen (who is pitching on April 11) to be sent down when Hanrahan comes off. Those dates sure do conveniently match up, huh?
  • By sending McCutchen down, the Pirates can keep him starting regularly. You’ll remember that his next two turns in the rotation were going to be skipped anyways. The Pirates can then use an eight-member bullpen for two weeks until another starter (could very well be Kevin Hart) is needed. This would also give the Pirates a total of three weeks to evaluate Hayden Penn.
  • For now, the Pirates plan on keeping Penn and D.J. Carrasco stretched out. Both would be long relief options if a starter is knocked out early.
  • There are no limitations with Dotel, who ended up pitching five innings in Grapefruit League play this spring after being slowed early by an oblique injury.
  • For anyone coming to the park today, gates open at 11:30 and on-field festivities will begin a bit before 1 pm. That includes a presentation to Andrew McCutchen, who was named Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year in 2009. Team introductions will begin shortly after 1.
  • The USA Today came out with its annual listing of Opening Day payrolls and has the Pirates sitting at $34.9 million. That is a 28 percent decrease from last year and the lowest payroll in the league. The season-ending payroll is obviously the bigger deal, but I know many of you were curious as to the current figure.
  • The Pirates have won three straight season openers. A fourth would give the club its longest string of season-opening wins since the Pirates won six straight from 1935-40.
  • This is the first time the Pirates have opened up at home since 2005. Overall, it’s just the 28th time the team has opened at home. In comparison, the Pirates have played 96 season openers on the road.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Zach Duke (LHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS)

Dodgers lineup:

  1. Rafael Furcal (SS)
  2. Russell Martin (C)
  3. Andre Ethier (RF)
  4. Manny Ramirez (LF)
  5. Matt Kemp (CF)
  6. James Loney (1B)
  7. Casey Blake (3B)
  8. Blake DeWitt (2B)
  9. Vicente Padilla (RHP)

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Day 41: Pirates @ Phillies

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me (and this blog) through the entirety of Spring Training. Seems like ages ago that I drove past 40-inch piles of snow in Pittsburgh and arrived in an unseasonably cold Florida for the start of another baseball season. Now, 2,300 miles on the rental car and too many updates about an oblique injury later, we’re about done.

I won’t be joining the team in Philadelphia over the weekend, but will be back with you for Opening Day on Monday. Here’s to hoping that this season is full of wins (for you) and full of compelling storylines (for me). The blog will continue to be an integral part of your Pirates coverage, so I hope you make it a daily Web stop throughout the season.

Here are your final set of pregame notes from Florida, where the weather has finally turned, well, Florida-like:

  • Shortstop Ronny Cedeno (tightness in lower back) is back in the lineup for the first time since Saturday. Cedeno took batting practice and fielded groundballs in Minor League camp on Wednesday to test out his back and everything was fine. He’s slotted to hit ninth, which is where he will bat this season.
  • Right-hander Hayden Penn — who is making a fast and furious attempt at earning a spot on the Opening Day roster — is scheduled to pitch today. Penn will pitch at least one inning in relief, though manager John Russell said that if that first inning is efficient and clean, Penn could come out and throw a second. Penn threw 10 pitches in a one-inning Minor League appearance on Tuesday.
  • The Pirates will be joined by a handful of Minor Leaguers today and through the weekend in Philly. About a dozen players who will start the season with Double-A Altoona will make the trip north with the big leaguers to serve as extras over the weekend.
  • Fifth starter Daniel McCutchen will make his final start of the spring today. I don’t have the listed pitch count for him, though I’d guess it would be about 70-80. Since he is not scheduled to make his first regular season appearance until Saturday, April 10, McCutchen will throw again in between.
  • Both Joel Hanrahan and Charlie Morton will stay behind in Florida as the rest of the club boards a charter flight to Philly tonight. Morton will throw in a Minor League game down here on Sunday to stay on schedule. Hanrahan will continue to throw in Minor League games to get the innings in that he missed earlier this spring because of an elbow injury.
  • The Pirates haven’t ruled out going all the way until 3 pm ET on Sunday to make their final roster decisions. That’s the deadline to do so. Right now the wild card is Penn. If the Pirates decide to put him in the ‘pen, then one of Ramon Vazquez, John Raynor and Steve Pearce will fill out the bench. If Penn doesn’t make the club, two of those three position players will likely begin the season on the team. And don’t count out the Pirates swinging a trade in the next few days, especially one involving Vazquez.
  • Ross Ohlendorf (Friday) and Paul Maholm (Saturday) will make the two exhibition starts in Philadelphia. That will be the final spring tuneup for both.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  3. Ryan Church (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Daniel McCutchen (RHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS)

Phillies lineup:

  1. Jimmy Rollins (SS)
  2. Placido Polanco (3B)
  3. Chase Utley (2B)
  4. Ryan Howard (1B)
  5. Jayson Werth (RF)
  6. Raul Ibanez (LF)
  7. Shane Victorino (CF)
  8. Carlos Ruiz (C)
  9. Jamie Moyer (LHP)

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Tigers 8, Pirates 5

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

It was not a pretty line for LHP Zach Duke – 3 2/3 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 B, 1 K. But watching him pitch, it wasn’t one of those outings that made you cringe either. Sure, way too many runners crossed the plate. But unlike Ross Ohlendorf’s recent games, Duke wasn’t particularly beat up.

He allowed seven singles, a double and a solo home run. Had Jeff Clement been able to scoop a low, bouncing throw from Bobby Crosby (who made a terrific play to even get to Ryan Raburn’s grounder in the second), Duke would have allowed three fewer runs in the inning. I’m not mentioning all this to make excuses for Duke, but simply to point out that I don’t think there is reason for concern in his results.

Duke’s next outing will come Monday as the Pirates open the season against the Dodgers.

“The important thing is I felt good,” he said afterward. “A couple pitch selections, if I could have them back, I’d take them back. But I felt fine and I’m definitely ready to go. I felt good. I felt like I got stronger as the spring went on. I feel like my pitches are crisp now and I’m right where I need to be.”

Oh, and Duke the hitter went 1-for-2 with a double. That’s three doubles in his last four at-bats for those of you scoring at home. That means Duke has as many doubles in the past week as Brandon Moss had hits (all singles) this spring.

***

Since I mentioned Ohlendorf’s recent struggles, I should note that manager John Russell lauded Ohlendorf’s recent side session. This is made even more of an impression on me because yesterday, bench coach Gary Varsho (unsolicited, I might add) said the same thing. Ohlendorf, who will face Philadelphia in an exhibition game on Friday has allowed 12 earned runs in his last 7 2/3 innings. Command and flatness to his pitches have been the issue.

***

Outfielder John Raynor got most of Wednesday off, but he did have one late-game at-bat to try and end his hitless streak. Didn’t happen. With a groundout in the ninth, Raynor is now hitless in his last 16 at-bats.

He still seems to have the upper hand for the fifth bench spot, though that’s no given considering his recent offensive woes. The Rule 5 draftee would have to be offered back to the Marlins for $25,000 if he does not make the Pirates’ Opening Day roster.

Asked about Raynor’s recent problems at the plate, Russell had this to say: “He’s still trying to keep a pretty good approach. Some of the pitchers have been pretty tough on him. We’ll see. But he’s still fighting. He’s still working hard. We’ve got a few days left, obviously. Spring Training evaluation you always take into account who they face and how things go. We’ll continue to look at it.”

***

I shouldn’t have to remind you, but …. four more days until Opening Day. And it looks like the weather is even going to cooperate.

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Sifting through the options…

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

So, the goodbye to Brandon Moss cleared up one question the Pirates had remaining this spring, but it sure seems to have clarified little else. In fact, I’m actually finding more questions than before at this point.

Let’s roll through some of them really quickly, keeping in mind that the club has until 3 pm ET on Sunday to solidify its Opening Day roster…

  • Where does RHP Hayden Penn fit?

General manager Neal Huntington made it clear on Monday that Penn, who the team claimed off waivers, will have every chance to make the club. He’s likely to only get two to three appearances at most this week before the decision has to be made, so his chance at making the Opening Day roster will largely lie on how he fares. His numbers this spring haven’t been exceptional; in fact, in his last two outings, Penn has allowed nine earned runs in a combined 4 2/3 innings. 

One thing that muddies Penn’s future is the fact that he is out of options. That means that if the Pirates start him on the 25-man roster and decide to move him out (either because of ineffectiveness or to make room for Joel Hanrahan), the club would risk losing him on waivers. You would think that the Pirates didn’t make this waiver claim without planning on it being beneficial for more than a week or so.

  • What does this mean for the Jack Taschner?

Yesterday, I was pretty certain that Jack Taschner was going to be the sixth man in the Pirates’ bullpen to begin the season. Knowing that Hanrahan will be available beginning the second week of the season, this sixth spot was effectively the last long-term one to fill. With Penn in the mix now, this all changes.

Sure, there’s always the option of keeping both Taschner and Penn, though Hanrahan would squeeze someone out of a spot a week later. The problem is that Taschner and Penn are both out of options. So if you start one in the Majors and then want to send him down, you’re dealing with waivers again. And with the way Taschner has pitched this spring, I don’t see him getting through unclaimed.

The likely scenario is that one of these two starts in the Minors so you don’t have to worry about the lack of an option right away. Or could the Pirates have something else in mind — say, sending someone like Evan Meek down when Hanrahan returns since he does have an option remaining.

Oh, so many scenarios…

  • How about the rest of the relief candidates?

Clearly, the acquisition of Penn is not good news for the other non-roster relievers trying to make this club. Guys like Jeff Karstens, Vinnie Chulk and Brian Bass were seen as legitimate candidates to be a placeholder for Hanrahan. It would seem that their chances of being on the Opening  Day roster, though, just took a hit.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean they won’t be up at some point. Relievers always come and go throughout the season, and the Pirates need the depth.

  • Is this good news for John Raynor?

With Moss out of the outfielder mix, this would seem to suggest that the Pirates are leaning toward making Raynor their fifth bench player. With Raynor, you have a player that is still raw in a lot of areas, but the Pirates obviously see long-term potential if they’ve kept him around this long.

The Pirates’ bench right now has Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, Delwyn Young and a backup catcher on it. That would seem to leave one spot open for Raynor, Ramon Vazquez and Steve Pearce. Because Pearce has an option left, my guess is he’ll be squeezed out of consideration and will start in Triple-A. Vazquez is owed $2 million, but he won’t be around past this year anyways, so Raynor is the better investment for the long term.

It would sure seem that things are looking good for the Rule 5 pick to at least start the season on the Major League roster.

  • Will the Pirates open with six or seven relievers?

Good question, and it’s one the Pirates are still asking themselves. How Penn does this week could play a role in this. Where Hanrahan is in his rehab could affect it as well. It would seem, though, that if the Pirates start with just six relievers (and, in turn, a six-man bench), it would only be until Hanrahan is ready to return. Then in order to make room for Hanrahan, the Pirates could eliminate one of the extra bench guys or Daniel McCutchen.

My guess is that it would be McCutchen, simply because the Pirates don’t need him to start the second and third times through the order. He could get his first start in, go back to Triple-A and start regularly there and then be ready for a call up once the Pirates need a fifth starter again. At that time, the club could go with McCutchen or Kevin Hart, but we won’t get into that discussion just yet.

If you do this, you’d be able to keep the six-man bench and have seven relievers.

There could be a benefit to a six-man bench. It could give the Pirates an additional few weeks to try and trade Vazquez, instead of releasing him and eating his $2 million salary. It could also give the organization additional time to evaluate Raynor and decide if he can stick all year.

Obviously, I asked plenty more questions than I answered. But I just wanted to think outloud here for a few minutes to try and get you thinking about what decisions management is left pondering. There are so many different ways things can go, and keep in mind that the team could make a trade or waiver claim tomorrow that changes the dyanmics of everything.

If nothing else, this all gives you something to follow during this final week of spring.

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Pirates 9, Red Sox 7

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Brandon Moss got a hit on Friday. And yes, that is a big deal. That’s why you could see him smiling in relief as he reached coach Carlos Garcia at first. Moss had been 0-for-22 before his seventh-inning single, which was legitimately knocked into right field.

Relief?

“Absolutely,” Moss said afterward. “Who wants to go 0-for-freakin’-96 to start Spring Training? It was a relief. I’ve hit some balls well. I’ve hit some balls bad. I’ve struck out. I’ve walked. It sucks. But it is what it is. You know that if you put the ball in play eventually one will fall.

“I told everybody that if this was the season, I’d be on death watch. But since it’s Spring Training and I feel like I’m having decent at-bats, I wasn’t too worried about it. I feel good. I’m seeing the ball well. I wasn’t really worried about it.”

Moss said he couldn’t remember anything close to a similar hitless stretch at any other point in his career. He’s tried to maintain a consistent swing through this dismal two-week stretch, though both he and manager John Russell have noticed some pressing. Though who wouldn’t be?

Moss and hitting coach Don Long worked in the cage on Friday morning and really focused on making sure Moss stayed through the ball on his swing. Maybe Friday’s hit is a sign that the slight adjustment they made will be a good one.

“I feel like I’ve been seeing the ball well, but I feel like I’ve been kind of pulling away from the ball a little bit,” Moss said. “I was seeing the ball great and laying off pitches, and then I’d see a pitch that I could drive and wouldn’t hit it very well. It was just a minor adjustment and hopefully the hits will come along a little more frequently. I’d like to get the next one before May.”

Despite his lack of production this spring, Moss remains very much in the mix to win a spot on the bench.

Oh, and Moss said he never considered laying down a bunt and trying to beat it out for a basehit. It’s hard to get that desperate in spring.

***

The Neil Walker versatility test continues as Walker made his outfield debut on Friday. He didn’t get all that much defensive action, though Walker did take a bit of a circuitous path to a a ball that eventually dropped in front of him for a hit.

So how did it feel out there?

“Weird,” Walker said. “It’s strange being out there, but I’ve been doing a lot of work in the last couple weeks to try and make the adjustment as easy as possible. But game situations are different than working on stuff during batting practice.

“It was a high sky today, so I don’t think that really helped. I thought everything was going over my head. It was something to build off of. It was a confidence builder. It was something different. It was something to look forward to building on and getting better at.”

The Pirates continue to get him infield work at both third and second, though he hasn’t played second in a Grapefruit League game yet this spring. Walker typically works with outfield coach Gary Varsho on outfield drills every day during BP.

Walker has also quietly put together a nice spring showing at the plate. After going 1-for-2 on Friday, he is now 5-for-11.

***

Pittsburgh had three two-run homers to thank for Friday’s win, which was the club’s first since Sunday. Garrett Jones (3), Delwyn Young (5) and Steve Pearce (2) were your three contributors. Young could make a run at the Pirates’ Spring Training record of eight homers, most recently matched by Craig Monroe last year. With No. 5 on Friday, Young is tied with Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez for the most among any player in Spring Training.

Jones has gotten off to a bit of a slow start at the plate, but when he has connected, he is driving the ball. Six of Jones’ seven spring hits have gone for extra-bases. And after having so much trouble driving in runs last year with the Pirates, Jones is trailing only Young with 10 RBIs so far this spring.

Rule 5 pick John Raynor also went deep with a solo shot in the eighth.

***

For all you faithful readers, I will be off on Saturday, so there won’t be any fresh blogging until Sunday. Spending the day with my parents who are visiting from Georgia and celebrating a big Mizzou Tigers win on Friday.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 28: Red Sox @ Pirates

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The big news of the morning, obviously, was that Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata were among eight players cut. I’ve already dedicated a blog entry to the news and there will be a story up on pirates.com soon to go into more detail.

The eight subtractions leave the Pirates with 45 players participating in Major League camp. You can really make that number 44 considering Jose Ascanio is still listed but obviously will start the year on the DL. And two more — Joel Hanrahan and Wil Ledezma – haven’t thrown a pitch in a game yet because of injuries.

All this aside, the Pirates still have plenty of questions to answer in the next two weeks…

  • Who gets the final two bullpen spots?
  • What will the Pirates do with the fifth spot in the rotation?
  • Who will be on the bench?
  • Where will Ramon Vazquez end up?
  • Will Rule 5 pick John Raynor be returned to Florida?
  • How will the Pirates line up the rotation and who gets the nod for Opening Day?

Though this has been a very slow camp in terms of news, there is reason to pay attention these next two weeks. There will be some important decisions to make and a handful of guys here will soon find out if they have a long-term future with Pittsburgh.

Other stuff…

  • Not much else to report. In case you didn’t see it yesterday, Octavio Dotel threw one inning in a Minor League game on Thursday and will make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday. I saw Dotel this morning and he reported feeling really good.
  • And in breaking news, it looks like Paul Maholm won’t have to start against the Yankees or Red Sox again his next time out. He drew Friday’s start against Boston, which means that all of his four starts so far have been against the American League East’s big guns. 
  • Working on an Inbox to run on the off day Monday. If you have a question, please send it to jenifer.langosch@mlb.com and include your first name, last initial and hometown. If you could put “Inbox” in the subject line, that will keep it from getting lost. Thanks!

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  3. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  4. Garrett Jones (DH)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  7. Jeff Clement (1B)
  8. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  9. Delwyn Young (RF)

Pitchers: Paul Maholm, Vinnie Chulk, Brendan Donnelly, Evan Meek, Brian Burres

Red Sox lineup:

  1. Mike Cameron (CF)
  2. Dustin Pedroia (2B)
  3. Victor Martinez (1B)
  4. David Ortiz (DH)
  5. Jason Varitek (C)
  6. Jeremy Hermida (LF)
  7. Bill Hall (SS)
  8. Tug Hulett (3B)
  9. Josh Reddick (RF)

Pitchers: Josh Beckett, Scott Atchison, Brian Shouse, Junichi Tazawa

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Pirates 15, Twins 5

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Figures that I would go on a radio station early Sunday morning and talk about how these early Spring Training games often favor pitchers over hitters because they are further along in spring work. And then the Pirates follow that up by slugging 15 hits and 15 runs by the end of the day. Oh well…

As for your offensive highlights…

  • Multi-hit games: Ryan Doumit, Pedro Alvarez, Bobby Crosby, Hector Gimenez and John Raynor
  • Multi-RBI games: Garrett Jones (two-run blast), Delwyn Young (bases-loaded double), Crosby (three-run homer), Raynor (RBI double and triple)

“We’re starting to swing the bat better,” manager John Russell said. “We’re looking to put together quality at-bats. Guys are starting to get a better feel for it. It’s good to see.”

***

Jones got a ball out of McKechnie Field about as quickly as you can with his line-drive shot just over the right-field wall. Barely had time to watch the ball take flight. The homer was actually Jones’ first hit at all this spring, as he came to bat in the fourth, 0-for-7.

Said Jones: “I’ve been getting a little long with my swing trying to find my timing. I just tried to get short, and with that swing I felt nice and short and back to where I was feeling last year. I am feeling a little bit better every day.”

***

Ross Ohlendorf made the start and served up a long two-run blast to Minnesota’s Justin Morneau. That came after Ohlendorf had started the first inning with six of his first seven pitches outside the zone. Russell commented afterward that Ohlendorf’s shaky start was largely due to the right-hander not being able to keep his feet under him on a slippery mound. Ohlendorf never mentioned that, instead pointing the finger to pitch selection.

Ohlendorf has made it known that he is going to throw more changeups than usual this year to try and keep improving the pitch. He threw two in his first four pitches, which cost him the ability to establish fastball command early like he would in a normal game.

“Just from the get-go, my control just wasn’t very good,” Ohlendorf said. “But I was happy that I did make some adjustments in the second inning and I feel like I threw better.”

Ohlendorf allowed just one hit in the second. We don’t get official pitch counts here, but by Ohlendorf’s count, he threw 33 in his first two-inning outing of the spring.

“He’s throwing the ball well,” Russell said. “The breaking ball is really good. The second inning he had good life on his fastball. We’re not worried at all.”

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Day 4: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Sanchez,T (2) 02-20 _230.jpgOne thing I learned in journalism school was that you know you’ve done your job as a reporter when you have so many notes for one story that you are forced to throw three-fourths of them out because you don’t have enough space. That was close to the case this afternoon as I was working on a feature about Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ first-round Draft pick last year.

First off, Sanchez is a delight to talk with. Very engaging. Very cordial. Seems genuinely appreciative for the chance to be at Major League camp. But the praise he has already been receving from others was what really struck me. You’ll find much of that in the story on the main pirates.com site shortly.

But because I wasn’t able to use half of the information I collected, I wanted to share one thing from Sanchez that didn’t make it into my main story. We got to talking about his opportunity to join the high-A Lynchburg team at the very end of its season (Sanchez had been playing for low-A West Virginia) just in time to help the team in the playoffs.

Yes, he talked about how neat it was to win the Carolina League Championship. But Sanchez spent most of the time lamenting the fact that because he got called up for the playoffs, the catchers who had helped Lynchburg get there were forced to sit on the bench:

“It wasn’t the position I wanted to be in, though I know it’s a business now. Those catchers have caught those guys for 142 games. They were putting in the work to get to the playoffs. Then I showed up and ended up catching the playoffs. It was kind of bittersweet. I loved to move up and I loved to help that team win a championship, but I know that those catchers had worked so hard for their team to get to the playoffs. I kind of felt bad. But I did whatever I could to help them win.”

This seems to speak to Sanchez character very much. With him, you’re not going to find a guy who feels entitled to anything even though he was a top Draft pick. He wants to earn everything. And he wants to do things right.

Anyways, here’s the rest of your daily squeeze:

  • Gorgeous day here at Pirate City. First real good weather day yet.
  • The 16-pitcher group that threw side sessions on Friday were back throwing off the mounds on Sunday. As you can read here, they have pink strings and strips of rubber to help them out.
  • Position players had the option of taking the day off (remember, there is no official full squad workout until Tuesday) and many of them did. However, the following 10 players still showed up to take part in fielding practice and BP: Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, Doug Bernier, Brian Myrow, Jeff Clement, Brian Friday, Brandon Jones, Aki Iwamura and John Raynor. Of that group, only Iwamura and Jones have already been guaranteed Opening Day starting spots.
  • Bullpen catcher Heberto Andrande has still not been able to arrive to help out with camp. He is stuck in Venezuela with visa issues.
  • I asked Manny Sanguillen, who works with the catchers, how the group looked this year. He answered by singling out Ryan Doumit: “Ryan has really come a long way. I’m happy with his attitude, and he looks good.”
  • When asked if he had given any thought to who might be the team’s Opening Day starting pitcher, manager John Russell succinctly answered: “No.” My guess? Paul Maholm, followed by Ross Ohlendorf, Zach Duke and Charlie Morton. Pure speculation on my part.
  • Did I mention the weather was beautiful today?
  • For those of you who have been asking when another video will be posted, be patient. I’m working on one right now that is going to include a handful of interviews. Hopefully I’ll have it up by the end of the week.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Bucs claim OF Brandon Jones off waivers

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

UPDATE 5:19: Huntington on Jones: “In some cases players need a chance of scenery to reach their potential and we thought this could be an opportunity for Brandon Jones to get that.”

***

UPDATE 4:24: The Pirates have officially announced the claim. For now, the club does not have to remove anyone off the 40-man roster because another of the Pirates’ recent signings (likely Brendan Donnelly) has not yet been confirmed by MLB and the Player’s Association. That confirmation is just a formality at this point, but it allows the Pirates a little extra time before making another roster move.   

***

The Pirates have claimed Atlanta outfielder Brandon Jones off waivers, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Jones had been designated for assignment so the Braves could make room for free agent Eric Hinske.

It’s unknown at this point who will come off the Pirates’ 40-man roster in order to make room for Jones. Given the Pirates’ recent signing of Ryan Church and the club’s bevy of other outfield options — including Brandon MossJohn Raynor, Delwyn Young (limited), Steve Pearce, and eventually Jose Tabata – it is a bit surprising that the Pirates added yet another outfielder to the roster.

Jones has made brief appearances in the Majors each of the last three seasons. All combined, Jones has a .257 batting average, one homer and 22 RBIs in 148 big league at-bats. Jones hit .281 in 107 games with Triple-A Gwinnett (Ga.) last season.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB 

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