Results tagged ‘ Pedro Ciriaco ’

Day 43: Pirates @ Twins

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

This is it, folks. Later this afternoon the players will board a flight to Philadelphia. And I will board a flight to Pittsburgh. I am so looking forward to getting back home for 48 hours, regardless of how cold it might be.

I will not be covering the pair of games in Philly, though someone will be there to take care of news. I will rejoin the club in Chicago on Thursday for the day-before-Opening-Day workout and then look forward to being with you for the next six months.

One other note: You might have already noticed that pirates.com underwent a site redesign overnight.  I hope you find the site easier to navigate. One omission, however, is a link to the blog in the headlines section. I’m not sure if that is going to change, so if you are a frequent blog reader and haven’t already, it might be a good idea to bookmark this page.

As for your last Spring Training morning news/notes…

  • Jeff Karstens is scheduled to pitch five innings (80 pitches) today in an effort to make sure that he would be ready to start the year in the rotation if needed. Karstens is a Plan B option in case James McDonald isn’t yet ready on April 5.
  • Speaking of McDonald, he threw a bullpen session this morning without any problems. Next for McDonald will be an outing on Thursday. The goal will be five innings. After that game, the Pirates will know whether McDonald will be able to start the season in the big league rotation.
  • It looks as if the Pirates will not make their final roster moves until the club is in Philadelphia. That means the bullpen remains unsettled.
  • In case you missed it yesterday, Josh Rodriguez is on the team and Pedro Ciriaco will begin the year in Triple-A. Also, because it appears as if Chris Snyder is headed to the DL, outfielder John Bowker and Jason Jaramillo win the final bench spots.
  • Might I say that seeing kU lose to VCU yesterday absolutely made my day/weekend/year. That said, our Bucs Bits Bloggers bracket challenge has most of us left with not a single correct Final Four pick (yes, I fit in this category). The current leader is D. Hague.

Lineups:

PIRATES: J. Tabata (LF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), R. Doumit (DH), S. Pearce (1B), M. Diaz (RF), R. Cedeno (SS), J. Rodriguez (3B), J. Jaramillo (C)

Pitchers: J. Karstens, G. Olson, C. Resop

TWINS: D. Span (CF), T. Nishioka (2B), J. Mauer (C), J. Morneau (1B), J. Kubel (DH), D. Young (LF), M. Cuddyer (RF), D. Valencia (3B), A. Casilla (SS)

Pitchers: F. Liriano

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Rodriguez makes roster; Ciriaco optioned

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Pirates informed Pedro Ciriaco that he will begin the season in Triple-A Indianapolis. With Ciriaco out, the club is giving infielder Josh Rodriguez – the team’s Rule 5 pick — the chance to begin the year on the Major League club as the team’s backup middle infielder.

Ciriaco will bounce around as a super utility guy in the Minors, getting time at second, third, short and center field. Rodriguez can play three infield spots for the Pirates, and his bat did come to life as Spring Training went on.

GM Neal Huntington is 2-for-3 in keeping Rule 5 guys, with Evan Meek (via a trade) and Donnie Veal sticking. Last year, outfielder John Raynor lasted about a month before he was offered back.

Factoring into this decision is Rodriguez’s status as a Rule 5 guy. He would have to have been offered back to Cleveland had he not made the 25-man roster, and the Pirates believed Cleveland would take him back.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Rodriguez in, Ciriaco out?

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Pirates have posted their lineup for Monday’s final Grapefruit League game and perhaps it provides a glimpse into the club’s upcoming roster decisions. In the lineup is Josh Rodriguez (who will be playing 3B); not listed as either a starter or a reserve is Pedro Ciriaco.

Could this mean that Rule 5 pick Rodriguez is going to stick and the Pirates are preparing to send Ciriaco to Triple-A? The Pirates are going to take one or the other, but not both. The club hasn’t announced such a roster move, but you have to wonder if that’s coming.

Also not listed on the lineup card is John Bowker.

Here’s what was scribbled on the bulletin board:

STARTERS
J. Tabata (LF)
N. Walker (2B)
A. McCutchen (CF)
R. Doumit (DH)
S. Pearce (1B)
M. Diaz (RF)
R. Cedeno (SS)
J. Rodriguez (3B)
J. Jaramillo (C)

RESERVES
L. Overbay
P. Alvarez
G. Jones

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Yankees 4, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Most everything you are going to want to read today is written fairly in-depth on the main site. So let me give you those links first:

 ***

You won’t find Kevin Correia complaining much about his start on Saturday — a start in which he threw 92 pitches (59 strikes) in six innings. This was his first six-inning outing of the spring, and it puts Correia in perfect position to be ready for his Opening Day start next Friday.

The results were pretty good, too. He served up a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the first inning after narrowly missing with a two-strike slider to Mark Teixeira right before. Correia then limited the Yankees (who played mostly their “A” lineup) to just four more hits and one other run in his last six innings.

“I thought it was definitely my best outing in spring,” Correia. “I felt strong the whole time. You want your last Spring Training outing to be good. You don’t want to go into the season thinking about how you didn’t pitch well the time before. I felt pretty good about this one.”

The one thing the Pirates don’t have to worry about is Correia not being stretched out to begin the year. He has done as well as anyone on the staff in terms of getting in the spring innings necessary to pitch deep at the onset of the regular season. With 92 pitches on Saturday, Correia should be good to go over 100, as needed, on Opening Day.

“I thought he got stronger as he went on,” Hurdle said. “He expects a lot of himself. He never shuts himself down on an inning or an outing. He takes a lot of pride in getting the ball and pitching deep and getting as many innings as he can get. I thought it was a very good way for him to finish up.”

Correia will get five days of rest (instead of the normal four) before his next outing.

***

Michael Crotta allowed one run on two hits in an inning of relief, but he remains very much in the mix for a bullpen spot in Pittsburgh. One of three relievers fighting for two openings in the bullpen, Crotta hadn’t allowed an earned run (10 innings) until this game.

“He is a big guy,” Hurdle said. “He repeats his delivery pretty well. He’s got good downhill plane. It’s hard sink and he’s added a complementary breaking ball to it at times. He’s pounded the strikezone. He has done everything that he can possibly do to at least build his confidence.”

***

Don’t look now, but the Pirates have dropped five in a row and nine of the last 11. That’s not exactly the way I’d imagine the club wants to head into the regular season. Hurdle, however, downplayed the importance of needing some wins this week when asked about the losing afterward. 

“We play every game to win but if we don’t, we don’t,” he said. “We’re going to start the season and we’re not going to have any. You’ve got to play good baseball to win and we haven’t played complete games for the last 10-11 games. You have to throw a complete package out there. I’ll be more concerned when we’re running our regular team out there. Winning is always the intent, but again the focus will obviously shift to a higher degree of that once the season starts.”

With four spring games remaining, the Pirates are 10-19.

“We’ve got to go out and win ballgames and find ways to win ballgames,” first baseman Lyle Overbay said. “I think we need to do a little better job of picking each other up when things go wrong. It seems like it starts snowballing, and someone needs to pick us up – whether it’s a pitcher or a great defensive play – to snap us right out of it.”

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Orioles 13, Pirates 3

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Brian Burres deserves mention here, and serious consideration for one of the Pirates’ 25 roster spots. I understand that Spring Training results aren’t everything, but Burres has pitched quite well this spring. He shouldn’t be under the radar anymore.

Working against Burres is the fact that he would fit into a role much like the one Jeff Karstens is expected to hold — spot starter, long relief guy, etc. But since Karstens is on the roster and due to make $1.1 million this year, it’s hard to see the Pirates not bringing Karstens north.

If Charlie Morton gets the fifth spot in the Pirates’ rotation and the other four starters are healthy, there isn’t a place for Burres to start. There is at least one spot left in the bullpen, so maybe that is a place where Burres can fit.

To this point, the thinking seems to have been that Scott Olsen would land as the second lefty in the ‘pen if he didn’t crack the rotation. But Olsen hasn’t done all that well in his first two appearances, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Burres could have an edge over Olsen. The fact that the Pirates owe Olsen very little in guaranteed salary would mean that the club wouldn’t be on the hook for that much money if Olsen doesn’t stick.

This is certainly something to keep an eye on as the last two weeks play out. Of course, Burres could also be asked to accept an assignment in Triple-A, where he would start and wait until the Pirates need a fill-in starter.

***

Speaking of Burres, he pitched four shutout innings in the Pirates’ intrasquad game on Thursday. He allowed two hits, walked two and struck out five.

“It went well,” Burres said. “I felt good and got the pitch count up. I worked with the fastball pretty good.”

In addition to those results, Burres has pitched nine scoreless innings in Grapefruit League action.

“There are a couple things that I still want to continue to do,” Burres said. “But as far as where I am now, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job this spring trying to do the things that I’ve wanted to do.”

***

Karstens hasn’t had as good of results as Burres has, but the right-hander is nonetheless pleased with his progression to this point. Pitching mostly against players from the Pirates’ Latin American teams, Karstens didn’t allow a hit and struck out six in three innings in the intrasquad game.

“With some of the young guys it’s a little bit easier because their approach is a little bit different,” Karstens said afterward. “When you’re over here [in big league camp], you know the guys have an idea of what they’re trying to do. But I tried to come in with some fastballs after the first inning. I made some mistakes with it – got away with them – and I made some good pitches. It’s a positive note. I was able to get ahead. Just nice to get back out there and throw more than two innings.”

Karstens has made four Grapefruit League appearances, three of which have been two-inning outings. In those seven innings, Karstens has allowed nine hits, two earned runs and walked three.

***

There was good and bad to Ross Ohlendorf’s start on Thursday — though Ohlendorf would attest that there was more good. The pitching line is ugly — six earned runs on eight hits in three innings. But it wasn’t, Ohlendorf said, as bad as it might have seemed.

“I was actually really happy with how I threw the ball today,” he said. “The results, obviously, weren’t very good in that last inning, but a lot of the early hits weren’t hit that well. I felt like I kept the ball down when I wanted to much better than the game before. I threw the ball much better than I did before even though the results weren’t really indicative of that.”

Ohlendorf did make a mistake on a slider to Jake Fox, and that resulted in a two-run homer. The only other ball hit pretty hard in that six-run third inning could easily have been caught by Jose Tabata in the outfield.

“The challenge at this level is putting innings away,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I thought there were times when he was throwing the ball really well – getting the ball inside when he wanted to. He spun the ball OK on occasion. But the one inning got away from us. There was some positive in it, but the inability to put away the inning that’s where we have to get better.”

Still, it’s not pretty when you consider that Ohlendorf has allowed 10 earned runs in his last two games (five innings). And probably the biggest concern is that Ohlendorf has yet to go more than three innings in any of his starts.

Yes, he is throwing the pitches needed to build up his arm. But there is something to be said for pitchers using those pitches efficiently to get through four or five innings by this point in the spring.

Right now, only Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia have made a five-inning spring start.

“We’ve got work to do,” Hurdle said. “We’re not throwing enough strikes. We don’t have good enough command right now. I have no idea what our pitch count was today, but we threw way too many pitches today. We’d like to see our starters lengthen things out. There is work to be done. That’s what Spring Training is for. That’s why you have the amount of games that you have, and that’s why these starters have to keep building up their pitch counts.”

***

Both Joe Beimel and Olsen pitched again on Thursday, and the results weren’t too pretty.

Beimel was charged with three earned runs on three hits and a walk in an inning of relief. This was his second spring appearance.

As for Olsen, he was unable to finish two innings, as he had to be taken out after pitching 1 1/3. Olsen gave up three runs on three hits and three walks. He struck out one.

“We’ll keep feeding them the ball, too,” Hurdle said. “They started out behind. Neither one of them are complaining about any injuries or any arm fatigue or anything like that, so just keep feeding them the ball.”

I’m still skeptical that Olsen is truly in that fifth starter mix, and Hurdle didn’t exactly affirm that Olsen was when I asked the question afterward.

In response to a question about whether Olsen was still a candidate for the rotation, Hurdle answered: “I don’t know. He could be. I can’t say no. I’ll leave the speculation out there for people who want to speculate. I’ll keep giving him the ball and see where it takes him.”

That’s not exactly a yes.

***

Catcher Ryan Doumit (mild oblique strain) is scheduled to play in Friday’s game against the Phillies. Doumit went 3-for-4 with a double and home run in a Minor League game on Thursday. 

Though Doumit hasn’t played since March 8, he will have plenty of time to get ready for Opening Day assuming there are no further setbacks.

***

Outfielder Miles Durham said he was OK after a nasty collision with the right field wall in the ninth inning. He was down for a while, but walked off the field without any help. And he seemed just fine about 20 minutes later when he was leaving the ballpark.

“A big man hit the wall really, really hard,” Hurdle said.

***

On the main site tonight, you can read more about the changes Steve Pearce is making to his swing and how those changes might help him in his case for a bench spot. There will also be items on Burres/Karstens, Pedro Ciriaco’s day in centerfield and Olsen’s focus on staying healthy.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 32: Orioles @ Pirates

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Hours from the start of the NCAA basketball tournament, the focus in the Pirates’ clubhouse this morning was all basketball. Players were finishing up brackets and officially joining the clubhouse pool. There are some serious bragging rights up for grabs at this time of the year, and you can be sure that college basketball will overtake SportsCenter as the preferred channel on the TV clubhouse for the next four days.

Your morning news…

  • As mentioned yesterday, the Pirates have an intrasquad game over at Pirate City this morning. Pedro Ciriaco (CF) and Steve Pearce (3B) will get more work at their new positions. Brian Burres and Jeff Karstens will both make extended-inning starts in the contest.
  • Catcher Ryan Doumit is no longer slated to play in the intrasquad game. Instead, he will bat every inning in a Minor League game at Pirate City this afternoon. He’ll get plenty of at-bats — and that is the key.
  • Pearce said he has eliminated the leg kick from his swing in an effort to make him better prepared for a bench role — which is what he is hoping to earn by the end of the month. Without a leg kick, Pearce has less movement with his swing. Less movement is a good thing when the at-bats aren’t as consistent. You can read more about Pearce’s adjustment on pirates.com later this afternoon.
  • I should have mentioned this earlier, but I was told that Kiyoshi Momose (the Pirates’ Lating American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator) has communicated with all his family in Japan since the earthquake/tsunami. All are OK. Momose was born in Nagano. I was also told he has talked with Aki Iwamura and Masumi Kuwata, both of whom are reportedly doing fine.
  • Happy St. Patty’s Day to the Irish among you. The Pirates will be wearing forest green hats on the field today, and there will be green bases for the game.
  • The following pitchers are scheduled to throw on Friday in Clearwater: Brad Lincoln, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Michael Crotta, Chris Leroux
  • This is your last reminder that the blog NCAA challenge closes at tipoff of the first NCAA game this afternoon. You can go here to log-in and then search for (and join) the group Bucs Bits Bloggers. Best of luck to all. And since a few of you suggested there be an actual prize for the winner, I’ll see what I can do.

Lineups:

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

Pitchers: R. Ohlendorf, J. Beimel, S. Olsen, D. McCutchen, S. Gallagher

ORIOLES: F. Pie (CF), J.J Hardy (SS), N. Reimold (LF), M. Wieters (DH), J. Fox (C), R. Winn (RF), B. Harris (2B), J. Bell (3B), B. Snyder (1B)

Pitchers: C. Tillman, J. Rupe, J. Accardo

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Orioles 8, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen really can do it all.

After losing his glove over the outfield wall trying to make a jumping catch to save a homer, McCutchen took matters into his own hands… or feet. The outfielder scaled the wall, retrieved his glove and jumped back over the wall to get ready for the next play.

“He’s got six tools,” manager Clint Hurdle joked. “We saw the sixth tool today.”

***

While we’re on the subject of McCutchen, it’s also worth noting that he stole his second base of the spring on Monday. He went to second despite there being a runner at third, no outs and Pedro Alvarez (hitting fourth) at the plate. I had been wondering if McCutchen’s speed would be harnessed if he hit third, but Hurdle emphatically said that will not be the case.

It doesn’t matter who is hitting behind McCutchen, the outfielder will be mostly free (and encouraged) to run.

“You have to remember who we are,” Hurdle said. “Our four hitter right now, we want to get runners in scoring position for him. If Pedro is hot and rolling during the season, we might not take as many chances. But we’ve got usable speed and if we can go get a base, we’re planning on going and getting a base.

“We’ve got to take some chances. Pedro is a power hitter in growth. It’s not like we’re running with [Albert] Pujols up at the plate. It’s a whole different complex, a whole different dynamic. We want to keep this mindset of going, of being aggressive, especially with Andrew. I do think that’s a part of his game that he can continue to open up more and we don’t want to take that away at all if he ends up in the three spot.”

Keep in mind, too, that if McCutchen is a threat to run with Alvarez at the plate, it is likely to increase the number of fastballs Alvarez sees. That is a really good thing for the Pirates.

***

Kevin Correia became the first Pirates starter to throw five innings in a start this spring, and the right-hander was pretty efficient (less than 70 pitches) in doing so. He breezed through three innings before running into some trouble in the fourth — trouble, Correia said, that was brought about mostly because he found himself rushing his delivery to try to keep runners from stealing.

“I know that’s something that I tend to do when guys get on base so I need to work on it before the season starts,” Correia said. “I was quick to the plate and just didn’t get the ball to that [inside] side of the plate. That was the one thing today that I don’t think I did very well. But everything else I felt pretty good on.”

Correia had a particularly good curveball, though he seemed most pleased by how he threw his changeup, since that is a pitch that has not come along as quickly this spring. The slider was so-so, but Correia expects it to come around soon.

In all, the Orioles tallied seven hits and four earned runs against Correia. He didn’t walk a batter after issuing three in his previous start.

***

Back at Pirate City, right-hander Charlie Morton threw four innings (63 pitches) in a Minor League game. He gave up three runs — all on a home run — in an outing that I heard was otherwise sharp. Morton needed to get the work in after not having pitched since last Wednesday.

I got a report from that game that things did not go so smoothly for Tim Alderson. You’ll remember that he is the pitcher the Pirates got straight up for Freddy Sanchez. Alderson has lost velocity and confidence and it’s looking highly unlikely that he’ll ever live up to the prospect status he once enjoyed.

***

Infielder Pedro Ciriaco continues to impress and, in my opinion, distance himself from the other middle infield competition. He made a terrific relay throw to get a runner trying to go to third, and he continues to hit. With two more hits on Monday, Ciriaco is now 10-for-27 this spring.

“He’s got a gun,” Hurdle said. “The arm strength is there. It’s a big arm. And it took a big arm to make that play. That’s one thing we’ve seen from Pedro.”

Ciriaco has already gotten work at second, third and short in Grapefruit League games. Now, the Pirates have him doing a little work in center field in the mornings to get comfortable there. Before the end of Spring Training, look for Ciriaco to play some outfield in an actual game.

***

Steve Pearce and Jason Jaramillo joined Ciriaco and McCutchen with multi-hit games on Monday. For Pearce, the pair of hits comes just after he eliminated his leg kick in order to have have a more compact swing.

Jaramillo has quietly had one of the best offensive springs in camp. Now 8-for-15, the catcher is hoping to hush concerns about the lack of offensive punch he showed last year.

***

Another reminder that if you want to join the Bucs Bits Bloggers NCAA tourney challenge, the group is open and taking competitors now. You can sign up here and type in Bucs Bits Bloggers to find/join our group.

On the main site today, you will find Daniel Moskos’ reaction (and the team’s explanation) to the decision that he will begin the year in Triple-A, rather than the Pirates’ bullpen. That story is here. There will also be items about Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel making their debuts; James McDonald missing his next start; Alex Presley bummed by being sent out of camp; and what positions some of these Triple-A players are going to fill.

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

Blue Jays 5, Pirates 0

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

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.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Phillies 7, Pirates 4

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

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 jenifer.langosch@mlb.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.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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