Results tagged ‘ Paul Maholm ’

Game 11: Brewers (5-5) @ Pirates (5-5)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

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.

Lineups:

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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Game 10: Rockies (5-2) @ Pirates (5-4)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

A beautiful day for baseball at PNC Park, where the Pirates have to win on Sunday to salvage a series split.

News and notes of the day…

  • Manager Clint Hurdle definitively said that the Pirates will not carry three catchers when Chris Snyder returns. That means that Jason Jaramillo is playing on borrowed time.  He will be the one sent down to Triple-A to make room for Snyder. One of the reasons for not going the three catcher route is because Ryan Doumit never had the opportunity to play right field this spring. He was going to get some work there beginning right about the time he ended up sidelined with an oblique strain.
  • Speaking of Snyder, his rehab assignment is going well with Class A Advanced Bradenton. He drove in six on Friday before striking out three times on Saturday. The important thing, though, is that he is healthy and having no issues with his back. Snyder is scheduled to catch nine innings again on Sunday. The Pirates have not made their timetable for Snyder’s return public.
  • The Pirates will turn to Daniel McCutchen on Sunday if the club needs someone in long relief.
  • Also available in the ‘pen for sure will be Joel Hanrahan and Mike Crotta. Paul Maholm is on call, as well, since this is his day to throw on the side. He could throw as many as two innings, if needed.
  • Asked about the way Saturday’s game had played out, Hurdle had this to offer… if the Pirates had tied the game in the ninth, Kevin Correia would have gone back out for a second inning of work. Hanrahan would have been the next option, followed by Maholm.
  • “It’s a flat-out gamble every time you do it,” Hurdle said of his decision to lift Doumit for a pinch runner on Saturday and use his only other catcher to finish the game. If there were a situation when the second Pirates catcher also had to leave the game, Steve Pearce and Matt Diaz would be the emergency options.
  • The Brewers will send out RHP Shawn Marcum, LHP Randy Wolf and LHP Chris Narveson out to start in the upcoming three-game series.
  • Righty Brad Lincoln will be making his rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday. Expect him to be able to go about four innings (65 pitches) in the effort.

Lineups:

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), J. McDonald (RHP)

ROCKIES: D. Fowler (CF), J. Herrera (2B), J. Giambi (1B), T. Tulowitzki (SS), S. Smith (RF), J. Lopez (3B), T. Wigginton (LF), C. Iannetta (C), J. Chacin (RHP)

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Game 2: Pirates (1-0) @ Cubs (0-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

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).

Lineups:

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)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Orioles 11, Pirates 7

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf lasted only 4 2/3 innings on Thursday night… meaning that he still has not been able to finish five innings in a spring outing. In comparison, Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm have already done so twice.

Ohlendorf has already been named No. 3 in the Pirates’ five-man rotation, so this isn’t a case where he is pitching for a spot on the roster. Rather, Ohlendorf is pitching to get himself ready for the season — and given his recent results, there still appears work to be done.

Ohlendorf gave up six runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks while on the mound against Baltimore. Two of his innings were strong; the other three, not so much. This comes, too, after the righty allowed 10 earned runs in his last two outings (five innings) combined.

His troubles on Thursday included giving up three home runs — one to Mark Reynolds, another to Luke Scott and the other to Felix Pie.

“It is still not as good as I would like it to be, but I still thought it was better than last time,” Ohlendorf said afterward. “I’ve been up in the zone too much. I feel like I was better today, but still not as good as I need to be. The fourth inning I was really happy with. The third inning, I thought, went pretty well. But I still need to pitch better.”

There has been a lack of efficiency, in particular, for Ohlendorf this spring. That’s the main reason why he has not been able to log as many innings as other starters in camp. Is it a concern that Ohlendorf has not yet finished five innings? He said no. Hurdle had this to say, when asked if there is concern about these struggles bleeding into the regular season:

“We’re going to find out when the regular season comes,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “All of us know the season is coming. Every starter knows his role. He’s got to give us length. It’s not so much the quantity as the quality that has to improve in his case. He’s aware of that. Once the bell rings, we’ll see where we go from there. He’s got work in front of him.”

Ohlendorf will have one more tune up before he takes the mound on Sunday, April 3, in Chicago. In addition to continuing to build up his arm (which physically is fine, Ohlendorf said), he needs to focus on not overthrowing. He’s struggled with this — and handling the need to be quicker to the plate while holding on runners — throughout spring.

“The first two innings and the fifth inning, I just think he gets in the routine where he starts overpowering the ball,” Hurdle said. “He throws through his slider. His fastball gets up and gets flat. We’ve got work to do. There is no doubt about that. What’s he’s got to find a way to do is when he gets amped up, he’s got to back away and get back to pitching. It’s inconsistent.”

***

Garrett Olson did not help his argument for deserving a spot in the Pirates’ bullpen with his showing on Thursday. After pitching a scoreless inning in his Pirates debut on Monday, Olson labored through one inning against Baltimore.

The Orioles scored three times off Olson, who gave up three hits, two walks and threw a wild pitch.

The Pirates have been adamant with their promise to take their seven best relievers north and not to meet any sort of righty-lefty quota. If that is truly the case, you have to wonder if Olson would deserve to be in. He has certainly not outpitched Mike Crotta (and others) at this point.

If Joe Beimel is not ready to start the season with the big league club it will be really interesting to see if the Pirates would be willing to go without a left-hander in the ‘pen.

***

Everything else of interest tonight can be found on the main site. That includes a full story on the Pirates’ rotation/Opening Day starter decision, which can be found here. By the end of the night there will also be items on Neil Walker’s four-hit game, Lyle Overbay’s strong spring start at the plate, Charlie Morton’s thoughts on being in the rotation and a look at the Pirates’ bullpen puzzle as it is now.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 39: Pirates @ Orioles

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The news of the day came just about two hours ago, when manager Clint Hurdle named Kevin Correia the Opening Day starter. My guess had been that Paul Maholm would get the assignment and that Correia would pitch the home opener at PNC Park for a handful of reasons, one being Maholm’s tenure with the club. But the Pirates decided to go in a different direction.

Correia will face Chicago’s Ryan Dempster in that April 1 game at Wrigley Field.

Hurdle also announced that the rotation would go in this order: Correia, Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

All this is set assuming that McDonald can get his arm built back up in time. The hope is that he can extend himself to 50 pitches in an outing on Saturday. Then, McDonald would stay in Florida to pitch on March 31 — with the goal being 80 pitches. If McDonald can reach both of those thresholds without any setback, Hurdle said the team would be comfortable having McDonald start on April 6 in St. Louis.

As for the rest of your news…

  • Catcher Chris Snyder returns behind the plate on Thursday after missing two weeks with back soreness. He hasn’t had any back issues since resuming hitting and catching over the past few days.
  • Joe Beimel was scheduled to throw off the mound on Thursday. The Pirates haven’t announced what his progression will be from there, as Beimel returns from left elbow discomfort. One thing to keep in mind — if Beimel does not pitch in a Grapefruit League game the rest of the way, the Pirates would have the option of placing him on the DL to begin the season. And the club could make that DL stint retroactive to March 22. This means that Beimel would be eligible to come off on April 6. Going this route would give Beimel — who has made just two appearances so far this spring — a bit more time to prepare for the season but wouldn’t cost him the usual 15 days.
  • The Pirates’ other option is not to put Beimel on the 40-man roster until he’s healthy. Doing this would negate needing a DL stint since Beimel is a non-roster player right now.
  • Hurdle said that the club has already picked additional pitchers to be in the team’s bullpen, but he would not give names at this point. You’d have to guess that in addition to Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan that Chris Resop, Jose Veras and Jeff Karstens are in. So, too, is Beimel once he is healthy. I also get the impression that Garrett Olson has a real strong shot to be the seventh since he would give the Pirates another left-handed option.
  • If Beimel does not start the season with the club, the Pirates can choose any one of the number of right-handers left in camp to take his spot in the ‘pen until he returns.

Lineups:

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

Pitchers: R. Ohlendorf (5/6 innings), E. Meek, G. Olson, C. Leroux

ORIOLES: B. Roberts (2B), N. Markakis (RF), D. Lee (1B), V. Guerrero (DH), L. Scott (LF), F. Pie (CF), M. Reynolds (3B), M. Weiters (C), J.J. Hardy (SS)

Pitchers: J. Arrieta, M. Hendrickson, K. Gregg

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Correia named Opening Day starter; rotation set

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Manager Clint Hurdle announced on Thursday that right-hander Kevin Correia will pitch the season opener in Chicago on April 1. The nod was going to go to Correia or Paul Maholm, who will follow Correia in the rotation and will now pitch the home opener (April 7).

The full rotation will be as follows: Correia, Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

Correia had this to say about being named the Opening Day starter: “It’s a good honor for me, but I know there is a lot of work that is going to be involved with every five days. It’s not just one start. Every one is important. It is nice to go out there on a day that kicks off the season, but like I said in the past, in our rotation we need every one of these guys to pitch like they’re the best pitcher on the staff at some point in the year for us to do what we need to do.  I am excited about it, but I do know that there is a lot of work.”

This will be Correia’s first Opening Day start of his career.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Twins 4, Pirates 1

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

As I close out the day with a blog entry of notes, Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is one of three players still on the field taking extra batting practice. (Josh Rodriguez and Josh Fields are the other two). The game has been over for an hour now, but Alvarez has been getting some hitting instruction from manager Clint Hurdle – the empahsis being on hitting breaking pitches.

As I have pointed out previously this spring, Alvarez’s work ethic has been phenomenal. He left the game after six innings on Monday and instead of getting out of the park ASAP as some do, Alvarez stuck around for extra work.

Now Alvarez has stopped hitting from the pitch machine and Hurdle is on the mound throwing to him.

***

Paul Maholm threw 96 pitches in his start on Monday, putting him right where he needs to be with one more start left before the regular season. Maholm did allow nine hits on Monday; eight were singles. Maybe most impressive, though, was his work in the fifth. After the Twins loaded the bases with none out, Maholm induced a double play groundball. Though a run scored on the play, it put Maholm in position to get out of the inning with no further damage.

“I think you get in it and just have to slow it down and make a pitch and get your groundball and hope it’s at a guy and we turn a double play,” Maholm said. “You’ve got to have confidence in your infielders.”

The Twins’ hitters worked the counts well against Maholm, particularly the top four hitters (who combined for seven hits off the lefty). But Maholm did well throwing inside, and there seems to be little concern about him not being ready by April 1.

“I thought he pitched well today,” Hurdle said. “He was aggressive with his fastball. He threw some good changeups. Paul will give up some hits now and again, but he was aggressive. He was pitching to contact. It was a good outing.”

***

Speaking of Maholm, the Pirates will name him or Kevin Correia the team’s Opening Day starter this week. Hurdle said the announcement will not come on the off day (Tuesday), but expect it on Wednesday or Thursday.

***

Not everyone on the team will have Tuesday off. Jose Ascanio is slated to throw two innings of batting practice (35 total pitches) to hitters. There will also be a “B” game of some sort, in which Sean Gallagher, Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen are listed to pitch. Karstens is scheduled to go four innings.

The Pirates are building up both Karstens and Brian Burres (who will pitch four or five innings in Wednesday’s game) in case either is needed in the rotation at the beginning of the year. This could be a sign that James McDonald might miss one turn through the rotation to open the season.

***

Catcher Chris Snyder took multiple at-bats in Minor League games (yes, games is plural) on Monday. He jumped around to a few fields to get at-bats where they could be had. Snyder is expected to catch in a Minor League game on Tuesday.

Ryan Doumit and Ronny Cedeno also went over to Minor League camp to get at-bats on Monday.

***

Steve Pearce made his first spring appearance in left field and did so without any issue. He wasn’t all that busy out there, but he seemed to handle the new spot just fine. He has now played at every corner infield and outfield spot this spring.

“He’s done fine wherever we put him,” Hurdle said.

***

Catcher Jason Jaramillo had another hit, bringing his spring total to 11 in 22 at-bats. Keep in mind that it might not matter if Jaramillo hits 1.000 — if the Pirates elect to keep just two catchers, he won’t be able to make the Opening Day roster. But that hasn’t stopped Jaramillo from making every effort he can to impress.

Hurdle noted on Monday that Jaramillo’s pitch calling and defense have also improved as spring has progressed.

“He’s worked very hard,” Hurdle said. “It’s gotten better each time out. Handling the ball, receiving the balls, it’s cleaned up. He’s slowed the game down, which I think was the biggest thing early in the spring was that games were moving real quick for him behind the plate. He’s showed up very, very good. I think he’s in a confident place and he’s worked very, very hard.”

***

I’ve finished typing and Hurdle is still out throwing BP to Alvarez, Fields and Rodriguez. Coaches, including Bill Virdon in left field, are still shagging balls.

Anyways, tomorrow is an off day for the team, though you can look for MLB.com’s Top 10 Pirates prospect list to be released during the day.

As for today’s content, you can read here all about Scott Olsen’s situation and Charlie Morton’s position in the rotation. There will also be notes about Garrett Olson’s debut, Garrett Atkins’ decision to ask for his release, a slew of injury updates and something short about the morning’s other roster moves on the site later tonight.

And since I forgot to do it this morning, your latest NCAA bracket update has T. Coulter and E. Brosius leading the group. My bracket… not looking so good at the moment.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Pirates 7, Red Sox 5

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

In case you missed it earlier, here is information on Joe Beimel, who did not pitch on Sunday after feeling some tightness in his left elbow. This isn’t a good thing, considering we’re less than two weeks away from Opening Day.

Beimel has only made two appearances so far, and he’s going to miss at least a little bit of time right now. This setback could make the addition of Garrett Olsen that much more important, as he gives the Pirates another potential left-handed reliever option.

General manager Neal Huntington did reiterate after Saturday’s game that the acquisition of Olsen was independent of anything wrong with Beimel. The fact that Beimel first started feeling the tightness on Saturday and then said it increased overnight supports that assertion.

***

Hurdle confirmed that either Paul Maholm or Kevin Correia will be the team’s Opening Day starter in Chicago. An announcement on the choice will come sometime after Maholm pitches on Monday.

“We’re getting closer,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve categorized all the numbers. We have all the information we need. With us, it’s not so much our No. 1; it’s our best way to set up the rotation as we move forward. We’re still considering some things.”

***

Correia threw about 80 pitches in his five-inning start on Saturday. He worked his way out of a first-and-third, nobody-out jam in the first thanks, in part, to a great double play started by Neil Walker.

That allowed Correia to settle in.

“It’s a big pick up,” Correia said of getting out of trouble. “To get that kind of rejuvenates you and wakes you up and gets you going.”

He gave up three runs (two earned) in the fifth, but had minimal trouble in between. Correia’s curveball wasn’t as sharp as it has been at times this spring, but he did have a pretty effective slider working.

“I thought he overthrew early, settled down and got in a real good rhythm,” Hurdle said. “He got the ball down. He used his cutter, threw some good breaking balls. The one thing you can’t replicate is getting the pitcher on base to have to run bases and go out and pitch an inning.”

Correia did spend a good amount of time on the bases. He singled in both at-bats and ended up moving to third on an error right after collecting the second of those two hits. In comparison, the Red Sox’s DH had just one hit in the game.

***

Don’t count out John Bowker in the competition for a bench spot. He has now hit safely in nine of his last 12 games after knocking a home run in his only at-bat on Saturday. The home run came on — you guessed it — a fastball. Bowker has shown no problem hitting fastballs; having more success with breaking pitches is where development is still needed.

Bowker is 9-for-30 this spring.

“It’s going well,” he said. “I’m trying to just get that rhythm and get the timing down like everybody else.”

Bowker is in a different position than most, though. He is out of options, meaning that the Pirates would have to put him on waivers if they don’t add him to the roster. The Pirates already have four outfielders (and maybe five if you count Ryan Doumit as more than a backup catcher).

But Bowker has an ability to play either corner spot and first (as well as center in an emergency), so his versatility could help him earn his way on. The question then would be whether Bowker could thrive in bench role without consistent at-bats.

“That’s something you learn over time when you’re not getting those regular at-bats,” Hurdle said. “The one thing he’s done throughout his career is light up the fastball. I think the thing he is learning is that word gets around the league.”

***

On the main site tonight, you can find injury updates on Brad Lincoln, Chris Snyder and Beimel, as well as Kevin Hart’s reaction to being placed on the DL and a closer look at the middle infield competition.

On a side note, I’m off tomorrow and will not be with the team during the day. I’ll be back blogging on Monday.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Blue Jays 5, Pirates 3

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Paul Maholm has yet to make a scoreless appearance this spring, but he is the only one of the Pirates’ four sure starters that has finished his scheduled number of innings each time he has taken the mound. That is a definite sign of efficiency, as pitchers are only allotted a certain number of pitches ahead of time for these spring games. Hit that limit — no matter how good the day might seem to be going — and that’s it.

Maholm has one troublesome inning on Wednesday, and he picked up the loss as a result. He allowed an RBI single off the left-field wall and a two-run blast —  both hits coming on hanging sliders.

“This is the first time really all spring – bullpens, games – that I’ve all of a sudden gotten out of whack,” Maholm said. “I felt just off. It’s bad when you know you’re off and you’re trying to compete. But I was able to come back out and do what I was needed to do. Just rhythm, really. I was just a little too quick. When I get too quick, everything just goes up. Molina hit a slider that was just spinning and so did Cooper. That’s part of the ongoing process to get ready for the season. We’ll go from there.”

Otherwise, Maholm seemed pleased with the outing — his fourth of the spring. He induced plenty of groundballs — a sign of an effective sinker — and he got into little other trouble.

Maholm also spoke afterward about the desire to move on to the regular season. This is always the time of spring when players start feeling good about where they are and begin counting down the days until Opening Day.

For those who might be joining them, it’s 15.

“I’m ready to go,” Maholm said. “You get to five innings, you’re ready to get out of here and get going. You get the itch for Opening Day to get here. Every spring is different. It seems like you’re working on stuff. I’m feeling good and ready to get out of here.”

***

Third baseman Pedro Alvarez made another couple of really nice defensive plays on Wednesday. Though Alvarez has had a rough few days at the plate recently, his defense does (at least to an unprofessional eye) appear to be steadying.

Fill-in manager Woody Huyke had this to say afterward: “He is very much improved. I saw him in the big leagues last year on TV and he’s very improved. [Third base/infield coach] Nick [Leyva] and I were talking about it. He’s doing very well. It takes time. You’ve got to be patient.”

***

A few notes about Thursday’s intrasquad game:

  • Jeff Karstens, Evan Meek, Fernando Nieve, Brian Burres and Tyler Yates are all written down as scheduled pitchers. I’m assuming they’ll be split among the two teams and pitch against each other.
  • Pedro Ciriaco is scheduled to make his first appearance in center field in the game. Steve Pearce will play third. Others scheduled to play in the game include: Corey Wimberly, Garrett Jones, Josh Fields, Garrett Atkins, Josh Rodriguez and Wyatt Toregas.

***

Here you will find the latest Pirates Inbox, with a variety of questions/concerns addressed in it. You will find notes about the following on pirates.com later this afternoon: A lineup to be set soon; Huyke takes over as manager of the day; Injury updates on Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder and James McDonald; and a look at how Clint Hurdle is going to test the versatility of this bunch.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Pirates 9, Red Sox 4

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

As the largest crowd in McKechnie Field history shuffles out of here, let’s get to some postgame leftovers…

***

Manager Clint Hurdle continues to experiment with a variety of lineups this spring. Hardly any two ever seem to be alike. He said he’ll continue to shuffle players around to see how guys fit in different spots until there are about 8-10 days left in Spring Training. At that point, Hurdle plans to use a batting order that will resemble the one he begins the season with.

Right now, the biggest question seems to be: Where will Andrew McCutchen bat? I continue to get the sense that Hurdle really likes McCutchen in the No. 3 spot, so don’t be surprised if he ends up there and Jose Tabata bats lead off to begin the year. Tabata hit from that top spot again on Sunday and drew his second walk of the spring.

“I’ve really liked his approach leading off,” Hurdle said of Tabata. “He’s shown some discipline. He’s had some walks. He can hit the ball the other way. He’s got speed when he gets on. He looks like that’s something that he’s able to do.”

***

It sounds as if the Pirates have already determined who the Opening Day starter will be, but that doesn’t mean Hurdle is ready to make an announcement. It didn’t sound like Hurdle plans to make anything official until about 10 days left in camp.

In the meantime, he seems to be having fun keeping the secret: “We might already have it lined up and you just don’t know it.”

I still have my money on Paul Maholm.

***

Over the last few weeks of Spring Training, the Pirates are going to continue to shuffle position players around to get them work at any position they might be called upon to play in emergency duty during the season. That’s why Tabata was out in center on Sunday and Pedro Ciriaco spent the final four innings playing third.

Also, look for Garrett Jones to get a little work at first base (insurance in case anything were to happen to Lyle Overbay) and for Josh Rodriguez to get some innings at third.

***

Brad Lincoln had a relatively easy first two innings on Sunday before struggling a bit in the third. The Red Sox scored twice against Lincoln, who also threw away the ball on an attempted pick-off, in that final frame he pitched. To Lincoln’s credit, he did bounce back and finish off the inning without letting it get any more out of control.

As much as Lincoln is set on proving he deserves that fifth spot in the rotation, I just get the feeling he’s headed back to Triple-A. And that’s not a feeling caused by anything Lincoln is or is not doing.

Assuming James McDonald doesn’t have a lingering injury, the Pirates still have just one rotation opening. Charlie Morton and Brian Burres have stood out this spring and are both serious contenders for that spot. And the Pirates aren’t counting out Scott Olsen just yet.

Lincoln could simply be hurt by having an option year left, meaning the Pirates can shuttle him back and forth from Triple-A to the Majors without the risk of losing him. The Pirates don’t enjoy that same flexibility with Morton.

One of the big things the Pirates said that they wanted to see from Lincoln this spring was continued development of and confidence to throw the changeup. How is the pitch coming along to this point?

“I like the fact that he is throwing it more,” Hurdle said. “He’s going to have to have a third pitch. He’s going to have to throw it in some offensive counts. I thought he got in some good rhythm today at times, and I thought there were a few times when he rushed. Happy the way he pinched off the one inning. He’s working in the right direction.”

***

The team is off to the new-and-improved Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Monday. I’ve heard the facelift done to the ballpark is terrific, so I’m excited to see it for myself. On the main site tonight, you’ll find notes about Olsen and Joe Beimel (who are making their respective spring debuts on Monday), another about Joel Hanrahan’s elusive slider and a third about Daniel McCutchen’s efforts to try and fit in.

Also, I’ve been asked already if I plan to run another Bucs Bits Bloggers Bracket Buster (say-that-five-times-fast) Challenge. And, indeed, I do. The college basketball selection show is tonight, so either tonight or tomorrow, I will create a friendly (but, of course, competitive) bracket tournament for any interested blog readers. Check back on the blog tomorrow for details on how to join.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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