Results tagged ‘ Lyle Overbay ’

Game 22: Nationals (10-10) @ Pirates (9-12)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

So let us revisit Sunday for a few minutes before we look ahead to tonight’s makeup game since manager Clint Hurdle took some time to do so this afternoon.

I just can’t shake Hurdle’s response on Sunday afternoon when he was asked if it was smart to have Andrew McCutchen try to score on a sacrifice fly with two out in the ninth. For those of you who were off enjoying your Easter and not in front of the television… the context was this: McCutchen was on third with one out and the Pirates trailing, 6-3. Jose Tabata lifted a fly ball to middle right field. Jayson Werth camped under it for out No. 2. McCutchen tagged, took off for home and was tagged out on Werth’s terrific throw. Game over. With Lyle Overbay on-deck and Neil Walker waiting behind him.

The key to this situation is the club was down by three runs. With two outs. In the ninth.

I thought it was plenty appropriate to ask why McCutchen would run in that situation, so the first question I directed at Hurdle was — “Given that you were down by three runs, would you have preferred that McCutchen stay on third in that situation?”

Hurdle’s response: “No.”

Really?

Hurdle then began his defense: “The only reason we’re asked that question is because he’s out. I bet everybody in the ballpark, including you, thought we were going to send him.”

Actually, I didn’t think McCutchen would be sent. But I thought it might be rude to mention that in a press conference.

More from Hurdle: “You never want to make the last out at home, but sometimes those things are going to happen. It’s not a perfect world. It’s not a perfect game. Our mentality is to play aggressive. That’s going to win us more games. We get one there, who knows where it takes us. We’re going to send that guy.”

I’m still entirely unconvinced. McCutchen’s run in that situation means so little. He should not take off for home unless he is 100 percent — no, 150 percent — positive he is going to be safe. I agree that 9 times out of 10 that fly ball scores McCutchen. I’d advocate for him to run in that situation in innings one through eight. I’d advocate for him to run in the ninth if the team is down by one.  But not when the club was going to need at least two more hitters to come to the plate for the chance to tie the game.

Hurdle’s final comment on the play: “Look what kind of throw it took. There are probably two guys in the league that can make that throw. He’s one of them.”

Hurdle is absolutely correct. But since it’s obviously no secret that Werth has a heck of an arm, isn’t that even more reason not to try and run on him?

I never got the impression Hurdle was giving these answers in an effort not to call out third base coach Nick Leyva or McCutchen for the decision to run. He firmly agrees with it. And he backed that up with what he said on Monday.

“It’s about doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. And I do believe all of those were in place. We got the wrong outcome. … I expected him to go. I would have been more shocked if he wouldn’t have gone. I don’t ever want to wonder if he would have been safe.

“We’re not a conventional team. Things happen within this game that are instinctive and impulsive. Yes, in hindsight, when it’s 30 seconds later, that shouldn’t have happened. But in the heat of the moment with adrenaline fueling and excitement and an aggressive mentality…

“I think now we have a better yard mark on when we go and when we don’t go as far as distance into right field. Was it a gamble? Absolutely. Did it not work out? Absolutely. Am I happy with the aggressive mentality? Absolutely.”

For the record, Leyva told me on Monday that he told McCutchen to run: “It’s very easy to say that wasn’t the right situation, but I thought he could make it. It’s a judgement call. They don’t give you a do-over. He’s probably the fastest guy on the team. I thought the ball carried far enough. I know Werth’s got as good as arm as anybody. I know [Rick] Ankiel has as good an arm as anybody. If I didn’t think he could make it, I wouldn’t have sent him.”

And with that, we turn the page to Monday’s news and notes…

  • Lyle Overbay and Pedro Alvarez are out of the lineup, with Steve Pearce and Brandon Wood taking their places. Hurdle said he wanted to get Overbay a day off simply because the first baseman has started every game of the season so far. Hurdle also wanted Wood to get some playing time and figured sitting Alvarez against a lefty could be a good idea.
  • Sitting Overbay and Alvarez also loads the lineup with right-handed hitters. Nationals pitcher John Lannan is allowing righties to hit .360 against him this season. Left-handed hitters are batting .167. Lannan’s career splits aren’t so drastic, however (.273 batting average for right-handed hitters; .272 mark for left-handed ones).
  • A number of Pirates players have had success against Lannan, led by Matt Diaz (11-for-22)
  • Evan Meek is still sick. It’s a viral thing, he says, but the guy has been under the weather for weeks now. Not that it’s going to stop him from pitching.

Lineups:

PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), J. Tabata (LF), M. Diaz (RF), N. Walker (2B), S. Pearce (1B), B. Wood (3B), C. Snyder (C), R. Cedeno (SS), P. Maholm (LHP)

NATIONALS: D. Espinosa (2B), I. Desmond (SS), J. Werth (RF), A. LaRoche (1B), M. Morse (LF), W. Ramos (C), J. Hairston (CF), B. Bixler (3B), J. Lannan (LHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB 

Game 14: Pirates (6-7) @ Reds (8-5)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The placard above Andrew McCutchen’s locker read: McKKKKutchen this morning. Great humor, though two of those Ks should have been backward for accuracy sake. McCutchen took the gag in good spirits.

For those curious, McCutchen would have needed to strike out one more time to tie a club record and Major League record for a nine-inning game. The two Pirates who have struck out five times in a game? Bert Blyleven (1979) and Pep Young (1935).

Some news and notes:

  • While McCutchen is still looking for his first stolen base of the year, Jose Tabata already has seven. We’ve talked a lot about Tabata’s hitting, but his basestealing (and 7-of-8 success rate) is notable. Tabata worked hard to refine this part of the game during Spring Training and the work is most notable in three areas. He’s readiug pitchers better, taking slightly bigger leads and keeping his body in a position to get a better jump. More on this on the main site later.
  • The Reds changed their pitching order late last night to give Edinson Volquez an extra day to recover from a stiff neck. That means Mike Leake will oppose James McDonald this afternoon.
  • It wasn’t until May 14 that the Pirates picked up their sixth road win last season. They have a chance to do so today.
  • Interesting tidbit from Elias Sports Bureau: The last Pirates pitcher to lose a shutout by allowing a solo homer with two out in the ninth inning of a complete-game performance was Bronson Arroyo (2001). This is ironic given that it was Arroyo who opposed Charlie Morton last night.
  • I get a lot of questions about how much credit is due Ray Searage for Morton’s bounceback. Certainly, there is some. But give Morton the credit he deserves, too. Here’s a guy who hit the lowest of lows last year and is now looking like an early-season favorite for comeback player of the year consideration. His confidence is as high as I have ever seen it, and he is now taking the mound believing that his stuff is good enough to get out anyone.
  • Lyle Overbay has a .411 lifetime average against the Reds and even better numbers (28-for-66) at Great American Ball Park.

Lineups:

PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), J. Tabata (LF), L. Overbay (1B), N. Walker (2B), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Doumit (C), G. Jones (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), J. McDonald (RHP)

REDS: D. Stubbs (CF), M. Cairo (2B), J. Votto (1B), J. Gomes (LF), J. Bruce (RF), J. Francisco (3B), R. Hernandez (C), P. Janish (SS), M. Leake (RHP)

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Game 12: Brewers (6-5) @ Pirates (5-6)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Since manager Clint Hurdle seemed a tad disappointed that no one asked the question during the media’s pregame session, let me begin by sharing his unsolicited thoughts about Jose Tabata. Hurdle was specifically impressed with Tabata’s plate discipline and willingness to take a six-pitch walk  in final at-bat on Wednesday. Tabata entered the night with a 10-game hitting streak but was 0-for-2 with a walk when he came to the plate in the eighth.

By taking a walk, he lost his chance at adding another game to his personal streak.

I’m not saying it’s normal, but you’ll find players at times that will put individual accomplishments in front of the game from time to time,” Hurdle said. “A young man going up there, knowing what he needed to do and got down early in the count… took a walk. He’ll have other 10-game hitting streaks. He’ll have longer ones than that. But it was very encouraging to see that that’s his mindset. His mindset is not that he can have an 11-game hitting streak.”

Tabata can begin a new hitting streak tonight. Obviously, he has still reached base in every game this year.

Other pregame news and notes…

  • Catcher Chris Snyder is back and is in the lineup. This means that Ryan Doumit will not see nearly the playing time he had through 11 games. Hurdle didn’t specify what proportion of games Snyder will catch, but it’s clear that Snyder is the team’s primary catcher. He is likely to get a few more days off early on just to ease him back into action.
  • For all the flak Doumit took last year about not being able to throw out runners, he has been much, much better so far this year. Doumit has thrown out three of six runners trying to steal against him and has just looked more comfortable in the process. The pitchers appear to be helping, too, as the stopwatches show that balls are getting from the mound to the plate quicker than they were a year ago.
  • Expect lefty Joe Beimel to be joining the club in Cincinnati on Friday. He has completed his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis. A move will have to be made to put Beimel on the 40-man roster.
  • Righty Jeff Karstens is available in the bullpen again tonight, but this is the last night he will be a ‘pen option. The Pirates haven’t announced him as Sunday’s starter, but you can expect Karstens to step in for the start assuming he isn’t needed in long relief tonight.
  • Third baseman Pedro Alvarez gets the night off on Thursday. He arrived at the ballpark early to take some extra swings, and Hurdle said there are some specific mechanical tweaks that were focused on during the session. Hurdle didn’t get into details, but he did suggest that Alvarez’s confidence could be boosted by him being able to start back at the basics.
  • Taking Alvarez’s place at third base will be Steve Pearce. This will be Pearce’s first start at third in the Majors. He was a late-inning substitution there on Saturday.
  • Matt Diaz moves into the cleanup spot, which would seem warranted given his 5-for-19 start. Who would have guessed, though, that all of Diaz’s hits to this point would be off righties? He is 0-for-4 against lefties.
  • Lyle Overbay, who dropped to the sixth spot in the order, is also looking for his first hit against a left-hander.

Lineups:

PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), M. Diaz (RF), S. Pearce (RF), L. Overbay (1B), C. Snyder (C), R. Cedeno (SS), P. Maholm (LHP)

BREWERS: R. Weeks (2B), C. Gomez (CF), R. Braun (LF), P. Fielder (1B), C. McGehee (3B), Y. Betancourt (SS), E. Almonte (RF), J. Lucroy (C), R. Wolf (LHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Yankees 4, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

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:

 ***

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.”

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Astros 10, Pirates 6

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Manager Clint Hurdle and hitting coach Gregg Ritchie had Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Ronny Cedeno all on the field after the game today taking extra swings. Hurdle didn’t want to make that big of a deal about the extra batting practice (which three players, including Alvarez, participated in on Monday). But that doesn’t mean that the extra work shouldn’t be pointed out.

“It’s something I’ve always done,” said Hurdle, a former hitting coach. “I would have preferred to have done it a few times earlier, but we waited because of the workload these guys have been carrying. It’s just more practice is all it is.”

You can read more on pirates.com tonight specifically about what Alvarez is targeting in these extra sessions.

***

It wasn’t a great day for lefty Brian Burres, who had previously not been scored upon this spring. On Wednesday, Burres was knocked around for 10 hits and six earned runs in five innings. The good news was that Burres was able to get his pitch count up. The bad news is that a lot of those pitches were up and over the plate. Command was the biggest issue.

“Even when I was throwing strikes, it wasn’t where I wanted them all the time,” Burres said. “Little bit wild with the strike zone today. I wasn’t keeping the ball over the plate enough and when I was, it was up and they did a pretty good job taking advantage of it.”

Burres and Jeff Karstens, as Hurdle pointed out again on Wednesday, are being built up as starters as part of a Plan B. In other words, either would be ready to step in if the Pirates need another starter the first time through the rotation. This could be the case if James McDonald is not ready to begin the year in the rotation.

Otherwise, Burres still has a shot at a bullpen role. The Pirates lack left-handed options, though I have a hard time seeing Karstens and Burres (both of whom fill very similar roles) both in the bullpen.

Burres said he’s trying not to think about such roster decisions, though that’s obviously easier said than done.

“You try every time to go out there and just take it outing by outing,” Burres said. “The other stuff is going to take care of itself after you’re done pitching so you want to make it as simple as possible with how you pitch and go out there and throw as many strikes as you can and not think about what will happen afterward.”

***

Speaking of McDonald, he is scheduled to return to game action on Saturday. Hurdle said the return will likely be in a Minor League game. By pitching McDonald in a Minor League game, the Pirates would be able to place McDonald on the 15-day disabled list to start the season but could do so with a retroactive date that would allow him to miss just one start.

Players who do not appear in an “A” game after March 22 can be backdated to the 22nd for DL purposes. That means that a player would eligible to come off the DL on April 6.

Burres or Karstens could step in for that one start and then McDonald could jump back into the rotation.

I bring this up as a possibility simply because McDonald has yet to pitch more than 2 2/3 innings in any of his three starts. He has time for just two outings (Saturday and then another late next week) before he’d be up in the rotation, and I just wonder if that’s enough time to get his pitch count up to where it needs to be.

***

Catcher Chris Snyder had 10 at-bats in a Minor League game on Wednesday, Hurdle reported, and will return behind the plate for the Pirates’ game against the Orioles on Thursday.

***

With another two hits and a walk, Lyle Overbay just keeps on producing this spring. He’s now batting .425 (17-for-40) and has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games.

Spring Training results often mean little, but the Pirates are hopeful that these recent results are a product of Overbay’s changed approach at the plate. If so, the success could carry over into the season.

“We started talking about him being more aggressive in the count early,” Hurdle said. “He’s had a good eye. Last season, we talked about the reason for some of the numbers. I think last season was more of an aberration.

“This man is determined this spring. He has made a conscious effort of getting out of the blocks clean. The confidence should have been built up. I think he’s found an approach that is going to work. It’s good to see.”

***

On the main site tonight, you can find notes about Alvarez’s extra work, Matt Diaz’s determination to get off to a better start, John Bowker’s push for a bench spot and Snyder’s expected return.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 24: Pirates @ Yankees

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Pirates have their first of three spring night games tonight and it comes against the Yankees up here in Tampa. The contrast between the Yankees’ Spring Training park — George M. Steinbrenner Field, to be precise — and every other one strikes me every year. It’s as grandiose as a Florida Spring Training facility gets, though I’m not sure that’s something to brag about.

One of the neatest aspects of Spring Training, in my opinion, is the intimacy of the ballparks. Fans who come to Pirate City or McKechnie Field stand just feet away from Pirates players. The access is tremendous. Here, not so much. The ballpark is nice, yes, but also a bit stuffy. But I guess old charm isn’t what a team like New York is going for.

On an entirely different note… I know that when you get online each day you are have a limited amount of minutes to spend reading the news. I understand that you don’t have time to read everything — I’m in the same boat — but I do want to turn your attention to a story I wrote today about A.J. Johnson.

My hope is that you’ll read it, not because I wrote it, but rather to get some perspective. Instead of reading about Scott Olsen’s hamstring or Joe Beimel’s elbow for one day, I hope you enjoy a story about a young man whose story will make you think twice about how much a baseball game really matters. And I just hope I was able to give A.J.’s story the justice it is due.

You can find the story here.

As for the rest of your news…

  • I was not at Tuesday’s game against the Twins, but I hear that Steve Pearce looked just fine at third base. Now that Pearce has gotten some game time in during a “B” game, you’d have to expect that he will play some third in a regular Grapefruit League game sometime soon.
  • Speaking of corner utility players, I would have to believe that the Pirates are going to have to start whittling down their list soon. With Pearce, Andy Marte, Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins all essentially fighting for one bench spot, there is not going to be enough playing time to go around. Especially not when you consider that Lyle Overbay and Pedro Alvarez need to get their work in, too. Don’t be surprised if one of the four bench candidates gets sent out of camp soon.
  • Back at McKechnie Field, Gillette and ESPN are filming some national TV commercial today/tonight. Among those appearing in the commercial are ESPN personality Kenny Mayne and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
  • Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel both threw at Pirate City on Tuesday and everything went without incident. The club has not announced what the next step is for either. Olsen, at least, should be ready to start pitching in games soon. That is especially necessary if the Pirates still want time to build him up as a starter.
  • The following pitchers will throw for the Pirates in Thursday’s night game against the Orioles: Paul Maholm (four innings), Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Jeff Karstens, Tony Watson.
  • That game on Thursday is also a night game (7:05 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch) and will be televised back in Pittsburgh on FSN.
  • Tonight’s game can be heard on 104.7 FM for those of you back in the ‘Burgh.
  • Remember Brendan Donnelly, the veteran reliever who spent a few months with Pittsburgh last year? He has told MLB.com that he has officially retired.

Lineups:

PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), C. d’Arnaud (2B), P. Alvarez (3B), M. Diaz (LF), G. Jones (RF), S. Pearce (1B), C. Snyder (C), P. Ciriaco (SS), K. Correia (RHP)

Pitchers: K. Correia (four innings), C. Morton (three), D. McCutchen, J. Veras

YANKEES: D. Jeter (SS), R. Martin (C), M. Teixeira (1B), A. Rodriguez (DH), R. Cano (2B), A. Jones (LF), E. Chavez (3B), J. Maxwell (RF), M. Mesa (CF)

Pitchers: B. Colon, M. Banuelos, R. Soriano, P. Feliciano, D. Turpen, L. Ayala

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Pirates 4, Phillies 3

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Starter Paul Maholm had a decent second outing, marred only by Ben Francisco’s solo homer. Maholm has said he is making it a point to pitch inside this spring (and then into the season), but Francisco reminded Maholm there is still work to do.

A pitch that was supposed to be on the inside corner caught too much of the plate, and Francisco drilled it over the left field wall.

“Just more reason to continue to pound in,” Maholm said afterward. “If you miss, you [want to] miss more inside.”

Maholm scattered three other hits, but he didn’t allow a walk or another run in the three-inning outing. He did make a noticeable effort to throw inside and did so pretty effectively. Maholm also mixed in more breaking pitches than he had in his first outing and was pleased with the command of those pitches.

“I got ahead of guys,” Maholm said. “I had some groundballs. I’m right where I want to be. It’s getting more comfortable each time out. I felt a lot more comfortable today throwing inside. I missed a couple of them, but that’s part of getting through it. Now, for me, it’s flipping the switch. It’s time to make sure you mix all your pitches and get outs and go toward the season ready to go.”

Maholm had allowed two runs in a two-inning start his first time on the mound. The left-hander should make four or five more spring appearances before he takes the mound for his 2011 season debut.

“I thought Paul improved also this start,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He used both sides of the plate. He spun some breaking balls pretty well. It was a nice step forward for him.”

***

Scott Olsen threw a bullpen session on Saturday without any issue. Olsen, who is behind because of a mild left hamstring strain he suffered early in camp, has not had any setbacks in his return-to-pitch program. The club has not announced what Olsen’s next step will be in his progression back.

***

As pleased as Overbay was with his 3-for-3 day at the plate, he was just as disgusted at himself for not making a catch in foul territory that he should have had. This is a guy who wants to improve on the offensive end, but one who really takes pride in his defensive ability.

***

Corey Wimberly finally flashed the speed we’ve all been waiting to see, though he hasn’t been on base enough to have many chances. After walking in the seventh, Wimberly almost immediately swiped second and then third. The guy can run.

As a team, the club had four stolen bases on Saturday. That pushes the team total to 15.

“You’ve got to encourage them to go,” Hurdle said. “When the season comes, they’ll probably need a little more encouragement because in their minds, there might be a little more at stake. But one thing we have to do is utilize the skill sets we have with the personnel we have.”

Wimberly still doesn’t have a hit this spring (0-for-10) but he has drawn three walks. He also made a terrific defensive play in the hole the other day that deserved blog mentioning but didn’t get any previously. The key is that he needs to show the Pirates he can fill in capably at short.

***

On the main site, you can find more about the Pirates’ cuts from the morning. Also coming later this afternoon: Overbay talks about the adjustment he made before his three-hit day; and Dusty Brown and Jason Jaramillo chime in about the team’s pitching.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Twins 4, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Not too much to add here in addition to what is going on the main site. The pirates.com mainbar today looks at Lyle Overbay, who took me aback a bit with how critical he is of himself. Not that that’s a bad thing. But he made it clear that his numbers over the last few seasons are nowhere near where he believes they can be.

Maybe the most telling comment from him came as I was asking about his struggles against left-handed pitching and potential adjustments he’d make to hit southpaws better. Overbay’s answer: “I looked at my average against righties and it was horrible. I have to get better on both ends.”

Fair enough.

In the Bucs Beat on the site, you’ll find a Joe Beimel injury update, thoughts from Ross Ohlendorf about his outing, an injury update on Kevin Hart and some team promotional news.

As for the leftovers…

***

In addition to what is in the main Ohlendorf piece, here are a few other nuggets:

  • Ohlendorf did not throw a changeup to a lefty in this outing, but did try a few out to right-handers. He threw a heavy dose of fastballs and sliders, though that should come as no surprise to anyone.
  • Up here in the press box, we could hear Ohlendorf occassionally grunting as he released his pitches. Ohlendorf explained afterward that he used to grunt more frequently, but hadn’t done it so much over the last few years. He doesn’t believe he does it only on certain pitches, so it shouldn’t give anything away to hitters. I noticed him doing it during his live BP sessions earlier in camp, so maybe the habit is returning for good. Just a random observation…
  • Ohlendorf is making a pointed effort to do a better job getting the ball to the plate quicker this year so he can limit the amount of stolen bases he gives up. Last year, it took Ohlendorf about 1.6-1.7 seconds to get the ball home. He needs to get that time closer to the 1.3-1.4 mark to really stop the running behind him. He’s working on slide steps this spring, too, though he didn’t use any on Wednesday.

***

Michael Crotta isn’t a name that you hear floated around as a potential starter in Pittsburgh this year. But he has now made two decent appearances this spring. On Wednesday, Crotta scattered two hits in a two-inning outing.

He lives on his heavy sinker, a pitch that was especially sharp in his first inning of work. He battled through the second inning without as an effective a sinker, but Crotta got out of the inning unscathed nonetheless.

“He’s definitely got the attention of some people,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s pitching with purpose.”

***

The Pirates went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, a stat that obviously highlights a lot of missed chances. Corey Wimberly was unable to execute on a bunt attempt, and there were a handful of times when attempts to advance runners one base were unsuccessful.

Even still, Hurdle commended the effort.

“When you’ve got at-bats and things need to happen at the plate – whether you need to move runners or get bunts down – you don’t always perform,” Hurdle said. “You don’t always execute and get the result, but the intent is there. We had a couple of guys try to work the ball to right with a runner at second base. We tried to get a bunt down and the execution was a little shabby, but the commitment was there.”

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Day 7: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Nutting, Bob.jpgThere was at least one new spectator roaming around the Pirate City fields on Sunday — that being owner Bob Nutting. Nutting arrived in Bradenton on Saturday night and will be in town for about two weeks. He is scheduled to address the team on Monday morning, prior to workouts. He will speak to the media afterward.

This is an annual event in Pirates camp, though I was told that president Frank Coonelly will not bejoining Nutting as a speaker as he has in the past.

The rest of your news…

  • The morning started with photo day, which is a Spring Training tradition. There’s always one morning set aside for baseball card companies and media outlets to come out and snap shots of the players to be used all year. This routine didn’t stop many of the players from getting early work in, though. There is extra hitting, fielding and baserunning work going on each day before workouts begin at 10 am.
  • One of the first fundamentals the players practiced as a group on Sunday were rundown plays. The outfielders stood in as baserunners and pitchers joined infielders to mimic pickoffs and rundowns. This was going on on two fields, and it’s pretty evident that the infielders were split up based on where they fall on the depth chart. On the one field you had Lyle Overbay and Garrett Atkins at first, Neil Walker at second, Ronny Cedeno and Pedro Ciriaco at short and Pedro Alvarez at third.
  • There was also work on baserunning — with the runners determining when to advance on a grounder and when to stay still. Baserunning has been (and will continue to be) a huge emphasis in camp. Manager Clint Hurdle wants these guys to test out their leads and to advance first to third, second to home with regularity. I would expect to see much aggressive baserunning during Grapefruit League play as players test their limits.
  • Pitchers worked more on bunting and slug bunting — another facet of the game that is being heavily emphasized so far.
  • There were 16 pitchers who threw live batting practice to hitters. Those pitchers were Charlie Morton, Tony Watson, Jeff Karstens, Chris Resop, Brad Lincoln, Chris Leroux, Brian Burres, Daniel McCutchen, Sean Gallagher, Cesar Valdez, Daniel Moskos, Tyler Yates, Justin Thomas, Ramon Aguero, Fernando Nieve and Bryan Morris.
  • Jose Ascanio also threw on Sunday, though his session was a 35-pitch bullpen session (not to hitters). Ascanio is a few days behind after being held up in Venezuela with visa issues.
  • In addition to taking some swings off pitchers, hitters took additional batting practice off throws from coaches. After those rounds finished, all position players went through some short baserunning work.
  • Hurdle spent a good amount of time talking about Corey Wimberly after practice today. Wimberly, who is most known for his speed, is fighting for a bench spot this spring. When asked about Wimberly’s inability to breakthrough to the Majors in the past, Hurdle said: “This could be Corey’s time. That’s why we went out and got him. We had talked him in a couple different avenues over the winter and then we were able to make a trade for him. To his credit, delay doesn’t mean denial. He has persevered. He hasn’t taken feeling being passed over on the field with him. He’s continued to go out and do what he needs to do to make himself attractive to whatever organization has him.” 
  • As expected, the Pirates will get Jeff Karstens plenty of multi-inning appearances during Spring Training games. While it’s unlikely that Karstens breaks camp in the Pirates’ rotation, the club will want him to be ready to spot start or come in as a long reliever, if needed.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 2: Daily Squeeze

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Hart, Kevin.jpgLet me start off today’s post-workout recap with a question for you: What’s the biggest challenge facing Clint Hurdle as he begins the task as this team’s next manager?

That was the question posed to me recently and the subject of a story I wrote for the main site today. You can find my answer to that inquiry here. And, of course, I would love to hear your thoughts as well, if you so desire to share.

Plenty else to run through at the end of another workout day, so let’s get rolling:

  • First baseman Lyle Overbay arrived in Bradenton last night and made his first appearance at Pirate City on Tuesday. Overbay helped out during the pitchers’ fielding practice, and he took some cuts during batting practice. With Overbay in uniform, the Pirates are now just missing seven of their 62 players.
  • Right-hander Kevin Hart was out on the field before workouts going through his long toss program. Hart had been shut down for 10 days and given a cortisone shot to help reduce inflammation in his surgically-repaired shoulder. All went well on Tuesday as he got to throwing again. The Pirates aren’t going to rush Hart’s progression, though, so it will be a while before he takes the mound again.
  • Congratulations are in order for Manny Sanguillen, who was recently inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame. He was part of the second class of inductees and was joined by Edgar Martinez, Luis Tiant, Andres Galarraga, Rico Carty, Dennis Martinez and Fernando Valenzuela. The ceremony was held this past Saturday in the Dominican Republic.
  • I had the opportunity to meet pitching prospect Luis Heredia today, as he spent the morning watching the Major League Spring Training workouts. He asked to leave the Pirate City dorms and watch. Heredia also threw a long toss session in the afternoon. He is scheduled to throw off the mound on Thursday. My first impression: very cordial kid, and very tall! And to think that he is already 6-foot-6 and only 16, with time to continue growing.
  • The following 16 players threw their scheduled bullpen sessions on Tuesday: Charlie Morton, Brian Burres, Fernando Nieve, Chris Resop, Sean Gallagher, Tony Watson, Cesar Valdez, Tyler Yates, Jeff Karstens, Justin Thomas, Brad Lincoln, Chris Leroux, Daniel McCutchen, Ramon Aguero, Daniel Moskos and Bryan Morris.
  • The final number of side session was then pushed to 17 when Donnie Veal took the mound for a short side after the rest of the group had finished. Veal is on a different track than the rest of the pitchers, since he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • Pitching coach Ray Searage (unsolicited) specifically praised three pitchers for looking particularly sharp in their first official bullpen session — Yates, Evan Meek, and Michael Crotta. Speaking of Meek, Searage said: “That was the best ‘pen I’ve ever seen out of Meek. Good gosh, it was solid.”
  • You can find more about this in the lengthy Pirates Beat that will be posted on the main site later this afternoon, but lefty Scott Olsen is being particularly cautious in his Spring Training progression this year. The goal is to ensure that the left shoulder, which has caused him injury issues over the past two years, does not flare up. A slower progression won’t affect his ability to compete for a rotation spot.
  • You won’t be seeing any strings during the side sessions any more. The strings that former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan used to put across home plate as a marker for pitch location are gone. The dummies are still around, but they will not be used all that much anymore, either.
  • Right-hander Brad Lincoln has reported to camp a few pounds lighter after some tough offseason conditioning work. His breaking ball isn’t all that sharp yet, though that’s obviously common at this point in the spring. As for his mechanics — which were badly tinkered with last season — Searage said they are back to where they need to be. Searage also promised that he would not be forcing any new mechancial changes on Lincoln moving forward.
  • Don’t expect the Pirates to name an Opening Day starter until at least midway through the Grapefruit League schedule. Hurdle said he already has some candidates, but he wants to see these starters pitch in games before a final schedule is mapped out.
  • Congratulations are also in order for James McDonald, who got engaged down here on Monday night.
  • The Pirates remain mum on their closer decision. It should be made this week, though.
  • Outfielder Matt Diaz is looking for 120 volunteers to help him build a playground for the Winter Haven Boys and Girls club on March 15. If you want more information, go here.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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