Results tagged ‘ Matt Diaz ’
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.
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)
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With last night a wash out, let’s try this again. Not much news to report on since no game has been played since Sunday afternoon, but here are a few news and notes to run through…
- Because of the rainout, Jeff Karstens will no longer slot into the rotation behind Kevin Correia (Wednesday) and Paul Maholm (Thursday). Now, Charlie Morton will start against the Reds on Friday, with James McDonald slated for Saturday. Right now, the Pirates are keeping Sunday’s starter as TBD — though it’s my guess that Karstens will pitch then.
- That would change if Karstens is needed out of the bullpen one of these next two days. And manager Clint Hurdle said Karstens will be available for relief duty through the end of the series against the Brewers.
- If Karstens is unable to pitch on Tuesday, the Pirates would almost certainly turn to Brian Burres. Sunday will be Burres’ scheduled day to pitch next.
- Hurdle talked for a while today about Texas’ Josh Hamilton’s ill-advised headfirst slide yesterday. Hamilton has landed on the DL because of it, and that prompted Hurdle to talk with the club again today reminding them that they do not need to be sliding headfirst, especially into home plate. The risk of injury outweighs the gamble of being safe.
- Interesting lineup switch in the last 24 hours. On Tuesday, Garrett Jones was slated to play against righty Shaun Marcum. Now, Matt Diaz is inserted into the lineup. Why the change when it’s still Marcum on the mound tonight? Hurdle said after sleeping on it, he opted to go with Diaz for a few reasons. Diaz is swinging the bat better at the moment, and right-handed hitters have actually fared better against Marcum than left-handers.
- The unexpected righty-lefty splits even prompted hitting coach Gregg Ritchie to talk to the team’s switch hitters about possibly hitting from the right side today. Normally, it would be a given that they’d take their swings left-handed against a right-handed pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see what Ryan Doumit and Neil Walker opt to do.
- Evan Meek is cleared and ready to pitch out of the ‘pen today.
- Joe Beimel reported no issues on Wednesday after pitching on back-to-back days earlier in the week. The Pirates are going to see how he is feeling tomorrow, but Hurdle strongly hinted that Beimel could be joining the team as early as Friday. The logisitics would be easy, as Indianapolis is just a two hour drive from Cincinnati.
- Righty Bryan Morris pitched six shutout innings in his second start for Double-A Altoona this season. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three in the outing on Tuesday. Morris was a candidate to start the year in Triple-A and very well could have if the Pirates didn’t need to keep some Major League arms (Burres, Sean Gallagher) there as insurance.
- Catcher Chris Snyder played his sixth game in as many days for Class A Advanced Bradenton on Tuesday. He went 1-for-4 with two runs scored.
PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), L. Overbay (1B), M. Diaz (RF), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Doumit (C), R. Cedeno (SS), K. Correia (RHP)
BREWERS: R. Weeks (2B), C. Gomez (CF), R. Braun (LF), P. Fielder (1B), C. McGehee (3B), M. Kotsay (RF), R. Betancourt (SS), J. Lucroy (C), S. Marcum (RHP)
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Well, it’s not snowing. That’s the nicest thing I can say about the weather at this point. It’s not raining as hard as it was at my house earlier in the day, but there it appears to still be misting on this overcast day. The forecast suggests there could be a window for baseball tonight, so let’s hope.
On a separate subject, don’t forget that the Pirates 5K is set for tomorrow (Saturday) morning. The Pirates announced that 2,500 runners/walkers have already signed up, but there will be limited additional registration from 6:30-7:30 am on Federal Street. All participants get a free t-shirt and ticket voucher, and your money goes to Pirates Charities. Not to mention, you get the honor of running alongside me, assuming I can successfully fight off this virus that has gotten the best of me for the past week.
What more could you ask for.
OK, on to baseball…
- In case you missed it earlier, the news is not good for Tyler Yates. You have to wonder if he’s about ready to call it quits. It’s coming up on two years since he first had right elbow surgery and this latest setback is not the first. Yates told me this spring that his father had talked him out of retiring before, but this could be the last straw.
- Right-hander Ramon Aguero is now with Texas, having been claimed off waivers by the Rangers today. Aguero, who was on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, had been designated for assignment in order to open up a roster spot for Jose Veras right before Opening Day.
- Catcher Chris Snyder (lower back soreness) began his rehab assignment with high-A Bradenton on Thursday and went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI. He caught in the game as well.
- Lefty Joe Beimel is scheduled to pitch for Bradenton on Friday. This will be his first rehab appearance.
- The Pirates face a left-handed starter today for the first time this season. That explains Matt Diaz’s inclusion in the lineup. Also worth noting is the batting order. Manager Clint Hurdle has Diaz hitting fifth and Pedro Alvarez behind him at No. 6. His reasoning for the flip-flop? He wants to go avoid a string of lefty hitters, and by putting Diaz between Lyle Overbay and Alvarez, Hurdle has a left-right-left mix.
- During his pregame meeting with media, Hurdle also emphasized his policy with not using a reliever for more than three days in a row. Period. Exceptions to this rule are going to be rare (if at all) — Hurdle said the reasoning for that comes after lengthy research about how pitching more than three days in a row leads to more injuries and less effectiveness.
PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), L. Overbay (1B), M. Diaz (RF), P. Alvarez (3B), J. Jaramillo (C), R. Cedeno (SS), R. Ohlendorf (RHP)
ROCKIES: D. Fowler (CF), J. Herrera (2B), C. Gonzalez (LF), T. Tulowitzki (SS), T. Helton (1B), S. Smith (RF), T. Wigginton (3B), C. Iannetta (C), J. De La Rosa (LHP)
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I continue to get a number of questions about Clint Hurdle, specifically from people curious about how he differs from previous manager John Russell. I think their contrasting personalities have come across quite plainly in interviews or public appearances that Hurdle has made already. But let me also offer you this…
Hurdle is omnipresent in the clubhouse. He was at Wrigley Field to greet players (saying good morning or hello or whatever greeting he desired) as each player entered the clubhouse this morning. He sat with them to watch MLB Network highlights with his hat on backward and a bat in hands. He is constantly engaging in conversations with guys and very much a vocal presence.
He also showed little hesitancy in singling out Pedro Alvarez when asked about what went wrong on the two dropped pop-ups in the infield on Friday (more on that in today’s Beat on the main site later).
Hurdle has said he does not want to take over the clubhouse — which is the players’ quarters. But he’s not going to hide, he’s bound to keep his team accountable and he desires to have a relationship with his players.
Other news and notes…
- Hurdle gave Neil Walker the umpires’ lineup card from Friday’s game as a memento for the second baseman’s big game. Speaking of Walker, he is now 17-for-36 in his career against Chicago with six doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs. Walker has hit safely in all 10 games he’s played against the Cubs.
- Jason Jaramillo will start Sunday’s game, Hurdle said on Saturday. Hurdle had mentioned on Friday that he also wants to get Matt Diaz involved this series, so I’d expect to see him in Sunday’s lineup as well. Other than trying to get some of these bench guys involved early in the season, Hurdle intends to fiddle little with his lineup.
- Has anyone forgotten that the Pirates went 17-64 on the road last year? That makes Friday’s road win that much more significant.
- Interesting note on Paul Maholm, who makes the start on Saturday — he has made more starts (153) than any left-hander in the National League since the start of 2006. Look for Maholm to pitch inside today more than you might have seen him do so last year. It’s something the lefty focused on all spring.
- Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf will start the season finale on Sunday and he said he believes some tweaks he has made recently with pitching coach Ray Searage are going to help him get off to a strong start. Those adjustments involve getting a better line to home plate during his delivery (in other words, not letting his body get too rotational during his motion).
PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), L. Overbay (1B), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Doumit (C), G. Jones (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), P. Maholm (LHP)
CUBS: J. Baker (2B), S. Castro (SS), M. Byrd (CF), A. Ramirez (3B), G. Soto (C), C. Pena (1B), A. Soriano (LF), T. Colvin (RF), C. Zambrano (RHP)
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Happy Opening Day, folks. Hope you are in a warmer place than I am. I’ll get the bad news out of the way first… and that’s that the rain is coming. Hard to tell if it’s going to be enough to delay or interrupt the Pirates-Cubs Opening Day tilt, but it’s not going to be pleasant for the players on the field either way. Good thing the press box windows remain closed.
For those of you back in Pittsburgh, a reminder that the 2:20 pm ET game will be televised on ROOT Sports (formerly FSN Pittsburgh).
The Pirates come into the season having been victorious on Opening Day in each of the last four years. There have been some exciting Game Ones in that stretch, too — with a pair of extra-inning wins, another last at-bat win and a win over the Dodgers last year that featured two home runs by Garrett Jones. The Pirates haven’t won four straight Opening Day affairs since taking six straight from 1935-40.
Other interesting items of note…
- The Pirates and Cubs last met on Opening Day in 1985. The Cubs won that game, 2-1, at Wrigley Field. Overall, Pittsburgh is 10-9 against Chicago on Opening Day
- As announced yesterday, the Pirates will be wearing No. 7 patches on their jersey this season to honor Chuck Tanner.
- Anyone remember seeing the pitcher bat eighth in last year’s lineup? Yep, I was reminded of that strategy today when I looked back to the 2010 Opening Day lineup. We won’t be seeing that this year — I can assure you of that.
- Spoke with righty James McDonald, who said he felt fine in his Spring Training camp game on Thursday. He’s ready to go on Tuesday in St. Louis and seems to have no concerns about the time he missed this spring affecting him.
- Even though the Pirates will not face a left-hander on this opening six-game road trip, manager Clint Hurdle said that Matt Diaz will get into starting lineup. Diaz is expected to start against lefties this season, though Hurdle does not want the right fielder to sit idly for a week until a left-hander takes the mound.
CUBS: K. Fukudome (RF), S. Castro (SS), M. Byrd (CF), A. Ramirez (3B), C. Pena (1B), G. Soto (C), A. Soriano (LF), D. Barney (2B), R. Dempster (RHP)
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There is an MLB Security meeting (another one of those annual Spring Training meetings) going on currently in the clubhouse. So since players are unavailable, I figured I’d get the blog rolling a little earlier than usual today.
In case you didn’t visit pirates.com on Tuesday because it was an off day, let me draw your attention to this playground build that was led by Pirates outfielder Matt Diaz. Diaz runs a foundation with his wife Leslee, and their latest project was to purchase and build a playground for the Boys and Girls Club of Winter Haven.
He invited teammates to make the 90-minute drive to Winter Haven to help build, though Diaz said he didn’t expect anyone to show up given that Tuesday was the team’s first off day of the spring. And yet four teammates — Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, Justin Thomas, Brian Burres — came to help, as did Triple-A manager Dean Treanor and hitting coach Gregg Ritchie. I showed up, too, to document the event, and I think I was most impacted by the willingness of these Pirates players/coaches to go out of their way to give something back to kids during their precious free time.
Even if you don’t want to read the story about the community work day, I recommend you check out the video.
As for your other morning news…
- Manager Clint Hurdle will not be managing the Major League team on Wednesday. Instead, Woody Huyke, who has spent the last 42 years with the organization, will be taking over managerial duties for the day. Hurdle is observing Minor League camp today.
- The team is supposed to issue injury updates on, at minimum, catchers Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit today. I’m hoping the team also has something to say about James McDonald, though as I’ve mentioned previously, the Pirates’ new policy is to say very, very little about injuries.
- Scott Olsen, who made his spring debut on Monday, will take the mound on Thursday for appearance No. 2. Depending on his efficiency, Olsen will pitch one or two innings.
- Also pitching on Thursday will be: Ross Ohlendorf, Joe Beimel, Daniel McCutchen and Sean Gallagher.
- In case you missed it on Tuesday, former Pirates pitcher Ian Snell announced he is retiring after the Cardinals informed him he was headed to Minor League camp. Details here. I will add that Snell earned over $8 million in a career that spanned five seasons and included a 38-53 record.
- While the Pirates do have a home game against the Orioles on Thursday, the club will be sending a handful of pitchers over to Pirate City to pitch in an intrasquad game. Burres (four innings) and Karstens (three/four innings) will both use this as an opportunity to get stretched out. Tyler Yates and Evan Meek are slated to throw two innings, as well
- Another reminder for those who want to get in on the NCAA Basketball blog challenge. Go to ESPN.com’s tournament page and search for Bucs Bits Bloggers. Join that group and fill out your bracket if you want to get in on the friendly competition.
PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), P. Alvarez (3B), L. Overbay (1B), Garrett Jones (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), D. Brown (C), P. Maholm (LHP)
Pitchers: P. Maholm, J. Hanrahan, C. Resop, J. Veras, M. Crotta
BLUE JAYS: C. Patterson (CF), M. McCoy (SS), E. Encarnacion (3B), E. Thames (LF), J. Molina (C), D. Cooper (1B), J.P. Arencibia (DH), J. Tolisano (RF), J. Diaz (2B)
Pitchers: K. Drabek, C. Villanueva, C. Janssen. S. Henn, Ro. Lewis
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Fastball command came in spurts for starter Ross Ohlendorf on Saturday.
It wasn’t so good in the first inning, which saw the Phillies score four times on four hits and two walks. Ohlendorf was leaving too many pitches up — some for balls and some that were turned into basehits.
Ohlendorf made an effort to throw inside — particularly to left-handers — and fared so-so in the attempt. He admitted to too often throwing a hittable pitch with two strikes, and many of those mistakes were turned into basehits.
If there was some good news, it’s that not all of the five hits he allowed were really all that hard hit. A few groundballs found holes and another of the hits would have been an easy catch had John Bowker not lost it in the sun. Ohlendorf didn’t help his cause, either, with a fielding error.
“The results aren’t necessarily the box score,” Ohlendorf said. “It might be how hard they hit the ball. Like today, most of the hits I didn’t feel like were hit that hard. I definitely wish it would have gone better today. I threw a lot more pitches than I should have.”
Ohlendorf needed about 35 pitches to get through the first inning. He couldn’t come anywhere close to finishing four innings (as scheduled) as his pitch count was already near 60 after facing two hitters in the third. When Ohlendorf couldn’t retire either of those two hitters, he was taken out.
“My arm still feels great, and my stuff still feels good,” Ohlendorf said. “I’m definitely encouraged by that.”
For those who might have missed the late addition to the morning blog, catcher Chris Snyder was scratched from today’s game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin because of back soreness. Snyder received treatment on his back at McKechnie Field on Saturday afternoon, and the team is expected to update Snyder’s status on Sunday.
Right now, the club said Snyder is day-to-day. The Pirates better hope that the ailment doesn’t linger, as it already looks like the team is going to be without Ryan Doumit (strained right oblique) for a while.
Snyder, who last played on Wednesday, is 4-for-15 this spring.
Over in Dunedin, the Pirates blew a 4-1 lead on the way to a 6-4 loss. Rough days were had by Daniel McCutchen and Ramon Aguero, though I wasn’t at the game to give you an accurate report about exactly how rough those outings were. An extra-base hit off the wall and a ball lost in the sun show up the same in the box score, so I hesitate to read too much into the raw stats.
Most encouraging about the game in Dunedin, though, has to be the day had by Andrew McCutchen. One day after complaining of left wrist soreness, McCutchen returned to the lineup on Saturday. He doubled and scored in his first at-bat, only to outdo himself with a two-run blast his next time up.
The wrist apparently is just fine.
A few other random items that caught my attention from the game in Dunedin:
- Lefty Jeff Locke threw 29 of his 41 pitches for strikes in his two-inning outing. He allowed one run on two hits and struck out three.
- Manager Clint Hurdle had this to say about Locke throwing so many first-pitch strikes: “That’s one of the things we have not been doing well overall as a staff. We had a little glitch, bumped it up over 60 percent, closer to 65, then we went south. He came in there and filled up the zone. The first-pitch fastball strikes were impressive and the fact that he was finishing his fastball. He was working both sides and spun the ball pretty effectively. It was a good outing and fun to watch him today.”
- With two hits, Corey Wimberly now has five hits in his last six at-bats. This comes after Wimberly started the spring 0-for-12.
- Michael Crotta tossed another 1 1/3 scoreless innings. He has now not been scored upon in 6 1/3 spring innings.
- With a single, outfielder Matt Diaz has now hit safely in five of his last six games.
- Steve Pearce played third base again, entering the game to take over for Andy Marte in the bottom of the sixth.
Don’t forget to turn your clocks forward before you go to bed. The Pirates are going to have a late morning on Sunday, meaning that the daily morning blog won’t be posted so early. The clubhouse opens at 10:30 and the team is not taking batting practice. There will be some light fielding work before the game against the Red Sox.
On the main site tonight, you can read about Rudy Owens’ chances to be in the Pirates’ rotation by the end of the year. Also, there are notes about McCutchen’s wrist, James McDonald’s side and the four cuts the Pirates made prior to Saturday’s games.
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I’ve written plenty about James McDonald’s season goals. About how he talks about taking the team to a World Series. About how he wants opponents to fear the Pirates’ pitching staff. About how he needs to throw more first-pitch strikes.
Well, here’s a new one for you: McDonald is shooting for the number 10. That is, 10 hits for himself by the end of the year.
It seems a lofty goal for McDonald, who has accrued one hit in 33 career Major League plate appearances. But McDonald is serious when he talks about getting better on the offensive end.
He was legitimately bummed, too, that he did not get to bat Sunday, which was the first spring game the Pirates played without a DH. McDonald would have hit in the bottom of the third, but he had to be pulled with two out in the top half of the inning.
“I vowed that I would get at least 10 hits,” McDonald said. “If I can be decent at hitting and at least get my bunts down, I can help this team.”
I don’t think I can properly emphasize how much McDonald focuses on the team when he talks. His lofty personal goals all go back to wanting to help this club take steps forward. He has mentioned multiple times this spring that his goal is to win a World Series with the Pirates. And he is not at all being facetious.
The Pirates hadn’t been able to will a ball over to Corey Wimberly at short for days now, so much so that general manager Neal Huntington joked about it before Sunday’s game. Well, Wimberly finally got his chances on Sunday. And the outcome, as those of you who watched at home can attest to, wasn’t all that pretty.
On the first ball hit to him at short this spring, Wimberly sailed a throw over Josh Fields’ head at first base. The error eventually led to two unearned runs. Wimberly had another chance in the fifth and made a low throw over to first. The ball took a short hop just in front of Fields, who had to make a terrific pick to record the out.
The Pirates are intrigued by Wimberly’s speed, but it has been noted multiple times that the club has to carry a middle infielder who can play short well. That was the Pirates’ biggest concern with Wimberly coming in, and it’s a concern that has not been alleviated to this point.
It’s impossible to get into a player’s mind, but it sure looks as if Wimberly might be trying too hard to make an impression. He is also 0-for-12 at the plate.
“We’re just going to keep working with him,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We ran him out for a bunch of innings and couldn’t get him a groundball and they came in bunches today. We’ve got to loosen him up a little bit so he’ll be able to pick up some rhythm and timing at short. At the end of the day, we’ve got to be able to have him at short. We’ve got to be able to have him at centerfield.”
At the same time, Pedro Ciriaco has impressed He has been sure handed on defense and has handled the bat pretty well, too. The latter was the bigger concern coming into spring. Shortstop is not a position where the Pirates can make defensive sacrifices, so you have to like Ciriaco’s chances of winning a spot on the bench as the team’s backup middle infielder.
Some odds and ends:
- The Pirates struck out 13 times on Sunday, though no position player struck out more than once. That’s hard to do.
- Outfielder Matt Diaz went 0-for-3 and stranded five runners on base. He has made mention about his tendency to be slow out of the gate and it’s shown so far.
- A good bounce back outing by Joel Hanrahan, who pitched a perfect fourth. The Blue Jays took some solid swings against him, though, and drove a few balls just foul. It was also evident that Hanrahan was making it a point to pitch inside.
- Not the sharpest of appearances for Chris Resop or Daniel McCutchen today. McCutchen worked out of trouble successfully, but two of his three outings now have been less than stellar.
- Pedro Alvarez is quietly having himself an impressive start to the spring. With two more hits on Sunday, Alvarez is now 7-for-20 with four RBIs. He hit in the clean-up spot again.
On the main site tonight, you will find a look at which players are out of options and how those option concerns could play a role in the battles for roster spots. Also, there will be items about the work being done to improve the road record, the so-so outing by McDonald and the time Steve Pearce continues to put in at third base.
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On the main site tonight, you can find a look at Josh Rodriguez, the Pirates’ Rule 5 pick who is trying to make the club as a backup middle infielder. To this point, Rodriguez has looked like he is trying a bit too hard to make an impression. We’ll see if he can get his nerves in check and just allow himself to relax and play as camp continues on.
I’m not really sure who among Rodriguez, Corey Wimberly or Pedro Ciriaco would be considered the favorite for that bench spot yet. Ciriaco is the best defensively of the three, but there are concerns about his bat. Wimberly and Rodriguez have to show that they are strong enough to play short at the Major League level. Wimberly has intriguing speed. Rodriguez probably has the best long-term potential with the bat.
Could be an interesting race over the next three weeks.
Also on the main site, you’ll find notes about Paul Maholm wanting the Opening Day start, Kevin Correia commenting about his outing Friday, Ronny Cedeno being scratched with a finger injury, and Minor League pitcher Michael Dubee talking about the chance to pitch in front of his dad — Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee.
Also, don’t hesitate to send over some fresh Inbox questions over the weekend. If I can get enough good ones, I’ll put out an Inbox sometime next week. Remember to include your first name, last initial and hometown when you send your email to email@example.com.
As for your leftovers…
Manager Clint Hurdle’s call for aggressive baserunning have been answered. Today, Neil Walker was thrown out trying to go first-to-third on a hard hit single to right. Phillies outfielder Wilson Valdez made a perfect throw to get Walker by a few steps. The attempt to take the extra base stalled a rally in the inning, but it’s what Hurdle wants to see at this point in spring.
Matt Diaz stole his first base of the spring after getting a single in the second. The Pirates now have 11 steals, a Grapefruit League high. The club has had three runners thrown out attempting to swipe a base.
Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ top position player prospect and a first-round pick, finally got to see some Grapefruit League action. Sanchez had been solely watching from the bench since playing against the college kids, but Hurdle got him in to DH for the final few innings on Friday.
Despite not having played, Sanchez put together two pretty impressive at-bats. He fell into an 0-2 count his first time up, stayed alive and eventually ripped a ball down the left-field line for a double.
He fell into an 0-2 hole in his second at-bat, too, before taking three pitches to work the count full. Though Sanchez eventually was called out on strikes, his ability to work his way back into both at-bats was encouraging.
“Tony is going to be a good player,” Hurdle said afterward. “He is going to be a good hitter. He likes making things happen when he’s on offense. He is fun to watch.”
Fernando Nieve is not doing himself any favors in trying to earn a spot in the bullpen. He had another terrible outing on Friday. Nieve gave up five hits, four runs and walked one in 1 1/3 innings. This comes after he allowed three earned runs on five hits in one inning on February 28.
The Pirates signed Nieve to a Minor League deal over the winter. Much can still change, but at this point, plenty of other relief candidates have performed much better early.
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Ladies and gentleman, you have your closer.
Manager Clint Hurdle informed us after workouts today that Joel Hanrahan has been named the team’s closer to begin the season. This means, of course, that Evan Meek slots into a set-up role.
You can find the full story and reaction from both players here. Reading Meek’s face, the disappointment was evident. He wanted to close. Any good reliever does. I think he realizes that his chances will come (who knows how soon), but the competitor in him believes he is ready now. The question is, how will being passed up for this spot fuel his motivation for this year? We’ll find out soon enough.
As for the rest of your workout updates:
- Matt Diaz and Pedro Ciriaco are now accounted for in camp. Both worked out with the position players on Wednesday. That means we are missing just four position players — Alex Presley, John Bowker, Ronny Cedeno and Brian Friday.
- Jose Ascanio remains MIA as well due to visa issues. Word is that he might still get here as early as Thursday, though he has to wait for his passport to be returned. This delay certainly puts him behind the rest of the pitchers.
- Not that it is big news, but Hurdle strongly hinted that Joe Beimel will be the team’s left-handed set-up man. It’s probably best to compare Beimel’s situation to what D.J. Carrasco went through last year. Just as Carrasco signed a Minor League deal fully knowing he would be added to the roster, Beimel is here knowing that unless something crazy happens, he’s on the club.
- Keep an eye on the name Jose Veras. He is a non-roster invitee, but one who is turning heads early. His experience (176 Major League relief appearances) is something that is going to help his case for a bullpen spot.
- President Frank Coonelly attended workouts on Wednesday, before speaking to the Bradenton Boosters during a luncheon. Coonelly had been in Pittsburgh to attend Chuck Tanner’s viewing on Tuesday. Kent Tekulve has also arrived to help as an instructor. He, too, was at the viewing.
- A private funeral was held for Tanner in New Castle on Wednesday.
- Andrew McCutchen and first base/baserunning/outfield coach Luis Silverio spent considerable time together discussing baserunning. The two talked about McCutchen’s tendencies when he is getting ready to steal and his first step. Hurdle has said the team is going to be aggressive on the basepath this year, so baserunning will continue to be an emphasis throughout camp.
- The pitchers had their own baserunning session as well. They also all took time to practice squaring to bunt and then pulling back to hit. Other fielding drills were mixed in.
- Hitters were focused on situational hitting during batting practice today. Thus, we did not see as many home runs as we have in recent days.
- The following 15 pitchers threw their second side session on Wednesday: Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Hanrahan, Veras, Beimel, Aaron Thompson, Justin Wilson, Ross Ohlendorf, James McDonald, Evan Meek, Scott Olsen, Kyle McPherson, Rudy Owens, Michael Crotta and Jeff Locke.
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