Results tagged ‘ Michael Crotta ’
Most everything you are going to want to read today is written fairly in-depth on the main site. So let me give you those links first:
- Catcher Chris Snyder is at risk to miss the start of the season after a reoccurrence of back soreness. If Snyder is out, Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo will open the year as the team’s two catchers.
- With Andy Marte among those dismissed from camp, Steve Pearce appears to have himself a big league bench spot.
- Brian Burres was sent down, leaving three relievers fighting for two bullpen spots.
- James McDonald successfully threw three innings in a Triple-A game on Saturday, which sets him up to pitch again on Thursday.
- With Corey Wimberly and Dusty Brown out of the mix, the bench is coming into better focus. John Bowker, Pedro Ciriaco and Josh Rodriguez are competing for two spots (assuming Jaramillo begins the year as Doumit’s backup).
- Manager Clint Hurdle has solidified his lineup. And it has Jose Tabata batting first, Andrew McCutchen hitting third, Lyle Overbay in the fourth spot and Pedro Alvarez at No. 5.
You won’t find Kevin Correia complaining much about his start on Saturday — a start in which he threw 92 pitches (59 strikes) in six innings. This was his first six-inning outing of the spring, and it puts Correia in perfect position to be ready for his Opening Day start next Friday.
The results were pretty good, too. He served up a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the first inning after narrowly missing with a two-strike slider to Mark Teixeira right before. Correia then limited the Yankees (who played mostly their “A” lineup) to just four more hits and one other run in his last six innings.
“I thought it was definitely my best outing in spring,” Correia. “I felt strong the whole time. You want your last Spring Training outing to be good. You don’t want to go into the season thinking about how you didn’t pitch well the time before. I felt pretty good about this one.”
The one thing the Pirates don’t have to worry about is Correia not being stretched out to begin the year. He has done as well as anyone on the staff in terms of getting in the spring innings necessary to pitch deep at the onset of the regular season. With 92 pitches on Saturday, Correia should be good to go over 100, as needed, on Opening Day.
“I thought he got stronger as he went on,” Hurdle said. “He expects a lot of himself. He never shuts himself down on an inning or an outing. He takes a lot of pride in getting the ball and pitching deep and getting as many innings as he can get. I thought it was a very good way for him to finish up.”
Correia will get five days of rest (instead of the normal four) before his next outing.
Michael Crotta allowed one run on two hits in an inning of relief, but he remains very much in the mix for a bullpen spot in Pittsburgh. One of three relievers fighting for two openings in the bullpen, Crotta hadn’t allowed an earned run (10 innings) until this game.
“He is a big guy,” Hurdle said. “He repeats his delivery pretty well. He’s got good downhill plane. It’s hard sink and he’s added a complementary breaking ball to it at times. He’s pounded the strikezone. He has done everything that he can possibly do to at least build his confidence.”
Don’t look now, but the Pirates have dropped five in a row and nine of the last 11. That’s not exactly the way I’d imagine the club wants to head into the regular season. Hurdle, however, downplayed the importance of needing some wins this week when asked about the losing afterward.
“We play every game to win but if we don’t, we don’t,” he said. “We’re going to start the season and we’re not going to have any. You’ve got to play good baseball to win and we haven’t played complete games for the last 10-11 games. You have to throw a complete package out there. I’ll be more concerned when we’re running our regular team out there. Winning is always the intent, but again the focus will obviously shift to a higher degree of that once the season starts.”
With four spring games remaining, the Pirates are 10-19.
“We’ve got to go out and win ballgames and find ways to win ballgames,” first baseman Lyle Overbay said. “I think we need to do a little better job of picking each other up when things go wrong. It seems like it starts snowballing, and someone needs to pick us up – whether it’s a pitcher or a great defensive play – to snap us right out of it.”
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Most of what you’re going to want to read today is going to be on the pirates.com tonight, so I’ll refrain from rewriting all of that here. On the main site, you can read about…
- The Pirates claimed lefty Garrett Olson off waivers and added him to the list of lefties trying to make the bullpen. GM Neal Huntington said the addition was to increase competition. I happen to believe it’s also the the result of the Pirates being worried about their other left-handed relief options.
- Brad Lincoln left Friday’s game with a right forearm contusion, sustained when he was nailed by a line drive. We’ll know more about the injury on Saturday, but Lincoln didn’t seem to believe the ailment was anything serious. He got lucky that the ball did not hit any bone.
- Kevin Hart will not be pitching in Pittsburgh until at least June. He has been placed on the 60-day disabled list as the slow recovery from right shoulder surgery continues.
- Ryan Doumit went 0-for-2, was hit by a pitch and caught five innings in Friday’s game. He reported feeling just fine, so that oblique strain seems to be an issue of the past.
And below are the leftovers, which you will not find on the main site…
The Pirates lost this one on a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. Not that the loss means anything, but the club has now dropped six of its last seven games. Results, manager Clint Hurdle said afterward, will start meaning a little more pretty soon.
“I think right now we need to know what our personnel is,” Hurdle said. “We need to make sure that we get the questions answered that we have for ourselves coming in. The last week … there probably will be a heightened awareness of finishing games off at that point in time.”
As mentioned in the early blog, today was a day for those fighting for a bench spot to step up. Josh Rodriguez had a nice 2-for-3 day and Steve Pearce would have had two hits if he hadn’t been robbed on a terrific running catch in the sixth. But otherwise, there was little to get excited about offensively.
With an 0-for-3 day, Garrett Atkins has just one hit in his last 21 at-bats. That certainly is not helping his case in a four-man competition for the corner utility job. Andy Marte, on the other hand, had another hit on Friday and is now 9-for-23 this spring.
“I think we’re evaluating internally and we’ll keep it internal,” Hurdle said, when asked if anyone has stood out. “We’ll let people know as we do that. Obviously at this point in time, we’re close to having another round-them-up meeting to decide what we’re going to do with our personnel. I like the way everybody has gone about their work. I like that we have been able to move those guys fighting for the bench positions around.”
In other words, with 44 players in camp, expect another round of cuts to be coming soon. We are t-minus 14 days away from Opening Day.
I probably haven’t been giving Michael Crotta enough due this spring, but he has pitched quite well. Now, it should be mentioned that he has mostly faced reserves and Minor Leaguers since he’s been pitching late in games. But Crotta has gotten the ball down and made an impression.
With another scoreless inning on Friday, he has now not allowed a run in eight Grapefruit League innings. I don’t expect him to be in the Pirates’ bullpen right out of camp, but he could be a fit at some point during the season.
“He’s throwing strikes,” Hurdle said. “He continues to hold his own this spring. He’s done well.”
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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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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.”
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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I’ll admit that watching fielding drills day after day can get a bit monotonous after a while. But there can be times when something catches your eye — which was the case in the relay/cutoff throw drill that third base coach Nick Leyva ran yesterday. There was something different in the instructions than I remember there being last year.
The detail is small, but, after talking with Leyva about it today, he believes it could also be significant. In a situation where a runner is on second and a ball is hit up the middle, Leyva is instructing the first baseman (Lyle Overbay, in most cases) to come to the middle of the infield and be the cutoff man. Last year, that was the third baseman’s duty.
Leyva said that his reasoning for making the change is simple — and he added that 90-95 percent of clubs already position their players this way for cutoffs. By keeping the third baseman on the bag, that forces the baserunner to be more honest. He can’t sneak down the line as far as he might if it was just the shortstop running over to cover. Those few extra feet can make a big impact.
Just something for you to keep an eye on once games begin…
- Third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who missed Monday’s workouts with a muscle spasm in his neck, was back to work early Tuesday morning. He went out to take some swings in the batting cage and then joined his teammates for defensive drills. He appeared to be just fine, though he did not go through a full day’s workout.
- A total of 13 pitchers threw live batting practice to hitters. Kevin Correia, James McDonald, Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf all took mounds simultaneously to kick things off. Don’t think that grouping was on accident, either. Hurdle had praise for the four members of the Pirates’ rotation afterward, too.
- One person that was missing from the pack today was right-hander Jose Ascanio. GM Neal Huntington confirmed that Ascanio felt some tightness in his right elbow on Monday and is, as a precautionary measure, taking it easy for a few days. Ascanio had thrown his first bullpen session on Sunday. The good news is that the Pirates don’t believe the discomfort is anything more serious than a day-to-day issue, and Ascanio was already ahead enough in his workload (he pitched in winter ball through December) that this won’t set him back at all.
- The position players’ first drill of the day was working on hit and runs, delayed steals and reading balls in the dirt. The emphasis on the hit-and-run play was for a player to keep his lead consistent so as not to give away that he’s running. The coaching staff is pushing players to try to move first to third on a single this year, in what is being defined as “disciplined aggression.” For the most part, if the ball touches grass on the way through the infield, the expectation is that a player advances to third. The coaches also talked about the importance of knowing where the outfielders are in order to get the best read on the ball.
- “Shin guards tell the story,” Hurdle said, as he walked over while the Pirates position players were deciding whether to advance on balls in the dirt. “This is a game changer right here and anyone can do it.” You better believe Hurdle is going to expect his players to.
- Catchers spent some time practicing blocking balls in the dirt, as their priority was on the other side of the play.
- Pitchers and position players worked together through signs to know who covers on a stolen base attempt. Then the groups split up for some individual work. The infielders took grounders, with Neil Walker working specifically on taking a double play feed from the shortstop. Outfielders tracked fly balls. Pitchers practiced covering first base on a grounder to the right side.
- Garrett Atkins was taking his infield work at first base after working at third on Monday. Corey Wimberly, who is getting work in the outfield and infield, spent time at both second and short. Moving these utility players around will continue to be a key component of workouts: “They don’t seem like a high priority position, but when you can stabilize your roster with a guy that is versatile, they are very valuable,” Hurdle said. “We have a handful of guys that we’re looking at in that situation.”
- Hurdle announced after practice that he will be using seven pitchers for one inning apiece in Friday’s exhibition game against the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Aaron Thompson will make the start and be followed by Tyler Yates, Jeff Locke, Michael Crotta, Justin Wilson, Kyle McPherson and Rudy Owens.
- Hurdle said he will announce the beginning of his Grapefruit League pitching assignments on Wednesday.
- Yates is not throwing live batting practice with the rest of the group, though he has not had any sort of setback. Pitching coach Ray Searage thought Yates would instead be better served having a supervised side session on Wednesday where the focus could be on the right-hander’s mechanics. Yates was actually so far ahead in his throwing program that he had thrown batting practice before the start of Spring Training.
- On the field as guests today were members of the Manatee adult baseball league. They fielded balls in the outfield during batting practice. Tomorrow, the Manatee High School baseball team will be at Pirate City to do that.
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Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young were all designated for assignment on Friday in order to open up room on the 40-man roster for the Pirates to protect players in advance of the Rule 5 Draft.
The three were all eligible for arbitration. The Pirates obviously decided not to tender contracts to any of the three, and by designating them for assignment now, Pittsburgh cleared the space it needed to protect the players it wanted to.
Michael Crotta, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Daniel Moskos and Tony Watson have all been added to the 40-man roster. That roster is now full.
UPDATE: Just spoke with GM Neal Huntington, who said that the Pirates did try to negotiate a contract with Zach and were unsuccessful. The team did not feel he was worth what he was going to make in arbitration (probably around $5 million). The club also explored trade opportunities with no success.
This from Duke: “I am truly thankful for the opportunity the Pirates have given me and genuinely enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh. I understand this business decision and wish the Pirates and my friends still on the team the best of luck in the future.”
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Dodger Stadium is proving to be a much more pleasant work setting today than it was yesterday. In addition to having issues with the blog software on Thursday (sorry, that’s why there was no usual pregame blog), the wind here yesterday was brutal. With winds apparently close to 40 mph, even laptops were being moved by the biggest gusts. It’s always a challenge when you’re trying to hold down your scorebook, notebooks, notes and media guide while typing.
And no, there were no windows to shield us from the element.
The winds are just mild today, so Charlie Morton won’t get the same benefit that Brian Burres did on Thursday when home runs were going to be near impossible to get through the wind tunnel. I feel like you could have labeled each of Morton’s last three starts as “critical” given his poor start, and this is yet another.
At some point — and the Pirates need it to be soon — Morton is going to have to prove that having great “stuff” can also make himself an effective big-league pitcher. As Morton told me yesterday, it all starts with his head. He hasn’t made any huge changes to his game plan. He simply wants to be aggressive and execute.
While we wait for Morton to take the mound, here is your news…
- In case you missed it earlier, Kevin Hart was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Friday. Pirates medical director Patrick DeMeo has recommended that Hart undergo season-ending surgery. Hart will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews next week, but even he sounded resigned to the fact that his season is over when speaking by phone on Friday.
- The Indianapolis rotation continues to be a merry-go-round of pitchers. The Pirates have already borrowed Chris Jakubauskas, Jeff Karstens and Burres. Now Hart is out for the season. Jakubauskas is recovering from a head injury, too. In order to fill Hart’s spot in the Triple-A rotation, the Pirates have promoted RHP Michael Crotta from Double-A Altoona.
- Ross Ohlendorf gave the Pirates some good news on Friday with a 43-pitch start in an extended Spring Training game. Ohlendorf reported no issues with his back afterward. He was throwing consistently between 88-93 mph and reached 94 a few times with his fastball.
- Ohlendorf will make a second rehab start on May 5 (location: TBD). If that goes well, he will make his return to the Pirates’ rotation on May 10.
- That means that the Pirates will need to plug his spot in the rotation one more time. Burres is the most likely candidate to get that final spot start, though the Pirates haven’t written his name in pen yet.
- Speaking of Triple-A starters, Brad Lincoln had a rocky outing with Indianapolis on Friday. He allowed six earned runs on seven hits in six innings against Pawtucket. He walked four and struck out three.
- For those who didn’t stay up late last night, Evan Meek recorded his first Major League save on Thursday. Now, that does not mean the Pirates have a closer controversy going on. It was predetermined that Octavio Dotel would have the night off (he pitched two innings the day before), and Meek was simply the freshest arm. That said, you have to like what you saw from Meek in a 1-2-3 inning. He sure does seem to possess the skills — physically and mentally — to be a closer down the road.
- Aki Iwamura is back in the leadoff spot after sitting with a cold on Thursday. He is 6-for-39 in his last 10 games.
- Manager John Russell called it “just a day off” for left fielder Lastings Milledge on Friday. Russell has made it a point to keep his bench players active, especially Ryan Church. Russell noted he liked the matchup with Church against Chad Billingsley, though Church is just 2-for-14 against the right-hander. Church has had success at Dodger Stadium, however. Here he is 24-for-62 lifetime.
- The Pirates’ shutout last night was their first at Dodger Stadium since 9/5/2000 when Jose Silva, Rich Loiselle and Marc Wilkins combined for one.
- Though the Pirates have endured their share of blowout losses this season, the club is 7-1 in games decided by two runs or less. They’re 8-0 when leading after four innings, which is another sign of how dependant they are on decent starting pitching.
- If the Pirates can win on Friday, it would mark the team’s first four-game road winning streak since 2007.
- Aki Iwamura (2B)
- Andy LaRoche (3B)
- Andrew McCutchen (CF)
- Garrett Jones (RF)
- Ryan Church (LF)
- Ryan Doumit (C)
- Jeff Clement (1B)
- Charlie Morton (RHP)
- Bobby Crosby (SS)
- Xavier Paul (LF)
- Russell Martin (C)
- Andre Ethier (RF)
- Matt Kemp (CF)
- James Loney (1B)
- Casey Blake (3B)
- Blake DeWitt (2B)
- Jamey Carroll (SS)
- Chad Billingsley (RHP)
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Right-hander Kevin Hart was diagnosed with a right shoulder labrum tear on Friday after being examined by Pirates medical director Patrick DeMeo.DeMeo recommended that Hart undergo season-ending surgery. Before doing that, though, the right-hander will be examined by orthopedist Dr. James Andrews next week. The Pirates are expected to comment on the situation after Hart receives that second opinion.
Said Hart, when reached by phone on Friday: “I think it’s something that I’ve been dealing with since Spring Training. I feel like there is something all year that hasn’t been quite right with the arm. You try to pitch through it and hope it goes away. Something had not felt quite right this whole season, but I got to a point in the last week or so when it had progressed into what I thought was biceps tendinitis.
“It does explain some things to me. This is a year where I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked in my entire life. I put in more hours this offseason than I’ve ever put into an offseason in my life. So the frustration was mounting day by day when you start not getting the results. You never hope for this, but for me it explains some of the things that I wasn’t seeing results-wise. There’s a reason why I was going out there and throwing 60 pitches in the bullpen and working really hard in between games mechanically and then going out there and not being able to repeat the simple things. For me, it gives me a little bit of an explanation.”
Hart, who the Pirates received in a five-player trade with the Cubs last year, had been pitching in Triple-A this year after missing out on a chance to earn a spot in the Major League rotation this spring. In five games this month, Hart allowed 13 earned runs on 18 hits in 17 1/3 innings. He walked 11 and struck out 19.
Hart’s most recent outing came on Wednesday, when he lasted just two innings and allowed seven earned runs.
Hart’s injury is another hit to the organization’s starting pitching depth. The Pirates have already had to tap into their Triple-A rotation three times this month and Hart was seen as the next call-up candidate.
Also on Friday, the Pirates promoted Michael Crotta to Triple-A, where he will presumably step into Hart’s spot in the rotation. In four starts with Double-A Altoona, Crotta was 2-0 with a 1.78 ERA. He had 16 strikeouts to three walks in 25 1/3 innings.
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