The Pirates stole another one, ambushing the Rays 6-4 at McKechnie Field on Stefan Welch’s only Grapefruit League swing. So is this exciting, or troubling, baseball? The Bucs keep winning late, with players who will not be around for the regular season, against pitchers with the same fate.
Who cares. Put another shrimp on the barbie, says Aussie Welch.
- Jeanmar Gomez: The staff loves his stuff, and he left a glowing calling card for later this season with four innings of one-run pitching. Has allowed one earned run in his last two starts, covering seven innings.
- Jason Grilli: He’s back. Another zero.
- Jared Hughes: He never went away. A workhorse already, has made nine appearances, given up one run in 9 1/3 innings, struck out 14.
- Mike Zagurski: Who knew he was a first-half Spring Training pitcher? Zip in his first five outings, zapped in the last three.
- Alex Dickerson: You know how two magnets repel each other when you try to touch them by the same poles? That was the Minor League first baseman and the baseball in a guest appearance. Oh, he also took a called third strike his lone at-bat.
- A.J. Burnett: He got his work in in a Minor League game, over 100 pitches worth. He also got worked over by the Minor Leaguers.
The acquisition of John McDonald, as puzzling as it is on the surface, tells me one thing: Neal Huntington expects these Pirates to be quite good, and to contend. To be the type of team that can benefit from the presence of a twice-a-week veteran like McDonald.
The GM may be overrating his team. Time will tell. But he has spent the offseason on the lookout for veterans for the bench. Neither Brandon Inge nor Brad Hawpe may pan out. So he is trying again.
Otherwise, the move would be hard to rationalize. It adds one more element to the one team area I’d already considered congested, with Jordy Mercer and Ivan De Jesus among those in the picture.
Having McDonald will allow Clint Hurdle to give Clint Barmes the breaks a 34-year-old shortstop might benefit from. The manager wasn’t comfortable taking Barmes’ glove off the field last season; the Bucs were 74-70 when he played, and 5-13 when he didn’t.
The move certainly does not appear to be popular among fans, some of whom have pointed out the Pirates now actually have THREE McDonalds:
James, John and Old.
The Pirates mounted their usual ninth-inning rally — it’s becoming a tradition — but this one fell short in an 11-9 loss to the “Yankees.” Why the quotes? The Bombers’ lineup included the likes of Brennan Boesch, Chris Stewart and Melky Mesa.
- Jeff Banister: The Bucs’ bench coach fills up the lineup card daily, giving it his caligraphic touch; today, he used green ink.
- Clint Barmes: Clocked his second homer, which is one more than Andrew McCutchen has, and two more than Pedro Alvarez or Garrett Jones has.
- Josh Harrison: Went airborne away-from-the-infield for an acrobatic catch of a blooper in short left-center. While playing second base.
- Mike Zagurski: Took the match-up lefty’s exam, and didn’t grade well; entered the game with men on second and third and one out to face lefty-hitter Dan Johnson — and walked him to load the bases, then had Melky Mesa go Granny off him.
- Russell Martin: Hope he’s just warming up; Yanks stole four bases with him behind the plate, leaving him 1-for-11 in throwing out runners.
- Travis Snider: Was on his way to third when the center fielder dropped Harrison’s liner in right-center, and was forced at second. What?!
The Pirates led the Majors with 57 one-run decisions last season, and are already at it again. Saturday’s 2-1 exhibition loss to the Twins was their ninth of the spring — out of 21 games — and the fifth in a row.
- Gerrit Cole: Showed his most Cole-blooded side. In a 1-1 tie, ended both the third and fourth innings with strikeouts with the tie-breaking run in scoring position.
- Alex Presley: Two doubles, two walks, a load of pitches seen. What the Bucs wish they’d gotten more from him last season.
- Carlos Paulino: Had no chance tio throw out the runner on a pitch that had gotten away from him — and still almost did. McKenry has to hold down The Fort, or Paulino could sneak ahead of him on the depth chart.
- Brandon Inge: Right now, it’s a feel-not-so-good story. In an 0-for-15 drought at bat, found his first test at first base a challenge.
- Kris Johnson: He had a total of 13 walks in 59 1/3 innings in the Dominican Winter League. Walked two of the first three men he faced, and it cost the Pirates, and him, the game.
From Kissimmee, the Paris of Central Florida, where the Pirates held on to beat the Astros, 3-2.
- Josh Harrison: Ran his hit streak to six straight, raising his average to .304. Not bad for a guy who was hitless in his first 13 at-bats of the spring.
- Jonathan Sanchez: Who wasthat guy? First-pitch strikes to nine of 10 batters. Never mind no walks — didn’t even have a three-ball count.
- Carlos Paulino: Wasn’t even in Kissimmee. But the Bucs love his arm. Just how deep that love is was hinted by the reassignment to Minor League camp of Tony Sanchez. Paulino will get some more looks to determine whether he might rank as the top midseason callup candidate.
- Pitching staff, all of it: 17 runs allowed in the last 6 exhibitions.
- Brooks Brown: Okay, he let both of the runners he inherited in the ninth to score. But then he picked up his third save – 33% of the entire team total.
- Michael McKenry: He went 0-for-3 as the DH, which Clint Hurdle now uses only in games not started by members of the projected rotation. So, thanks to the Fort, Pirates DHs now are 5-for-40 (.125) in March.
Don’t look now, but one more win — the Pirates visit Clearwater and the Phillies tomorrow — and the Bucs will tie their longest winning streak (5) of all last season.
If today’s 5-4 win — in 10 innings — over the Blue Jays seemed familiar, there was good reason. …
- Bill Murray: Because we associate him with Groundhog Day. In Monday’s walk-off win over the Orioles, Josh Harrison drove in the tying run and Carlos Paulino had the winning RBI. In today’s walk-off win over Toronto … aw, you know the rest.
- Starling Marte: In the first, he beats out a rather routine grounder to short for a single. A few innings later, he pounds the right-center alley for a stand-up triple. As they used to say on the streets, he’s fly.
- Alex Presley: Didn’t let two failed bunt attempts in the ninth get him down. Pulled a grounder to first that still moved the trying run into scoring position.
- Me: Hope nobody saw my erroneous Tweet this morning that Lucas May was one of the players reassigned to Minor League camp by the Bucs. I mostly hope Lucas didn’t see it.
- The Core: When all the snow has melted, this will be one of those “Remember when?” deals. But Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker — the preferred No. 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup — are a combined 10-for-69 (.145).
Today’s game finally, after 16 earlier exhibitions, had a “real” feel to it. Buccos pitchers batted, as Clint Hurdle discontinued the use of a DH, and mainliners were still in the game at the end. Alex Presley and Josh Harrison were both featured in the winning two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.
And “only” 15 more exhibitions to go!
- Phil Irwin: Supposed to have a devastating curve, but the heater ain’t bad, either; seven punchouts in 3 2/3; could be the 2013 model Brad Lincoln.
- Roman Colon: Guy’s 33, but starting his 17th pro season; has appeared in only eight Major League games the last three years, but seems healthy. Just what the Bucs need, another bullpen candidate.
- Brad Hawpe: That beautiful swing showed up in the eighth inning, launching a homer a-way over the right-field boardwalk.
- DHs: No, not a philosophical statement. Hurdle has stopped using them, but who’ll be able to tell? Pirates DHs were 5-for-37 (.135) in March.
- Pedro Alvarez: He must be getting ready for another 30-homer season because he’s having the same spring he had in ’12. Two-for-22 (.091) thus far although, looking at the half of the cup that is full, the only-five strikeouts indicate he’s getting close.
Waiting for the time to come for regulars to play, err, somewhat regularly so the Bucs can find the offensive hot button …
Today’s result: 5-4 loss to Twins.
- A.J. Burnett: Four shutout innings before tiring in the fifth? Nice. Another pickoff? Great!
- Jared Hughes: No, really. For providing more testimony why traditional pitching stats are worthless for relief pitchers. He is now credited with a perfect spring in five appearances (no runs in 5 1/3 innings) — yet the first three men he faced today got a walk and two hits, including one that scored the tying run charged to A.J.
- Ivan De Jesus: After 69 innings, a Pirates player finally hit a home run. And it was him.
- 5-4: That’s the Bucs’ 9-1-1. They lost their last six games with that final last season, have already lost twice by that count this spring.
- Gerrit Cole: No, he hasn’t done anything wrong. But Clint Hurdle’s decision to go to the Fort Myers portion of Sunday’s split-squad games — rather then check out his start in Sarasota against the Orioles — doesn’t bode well for how open-minded the Bucs are about him making the season-opening rotation.
The Bucs dropped a 6-3 nighttime affair to the Birds in McKechnie Field.
- Starling Marte: You’d think he wants that leadoff gig. Two singles and a walk, two stolen bases, both leading to runs.
- Pedro Alvarez: The good Toro showed up on defense, with a fabulous backhand stab of Travis Ishikawa’s smash down the third-base line with two outs in the first and a runner on second, and a bullet throw to first for the out. Hey, O’s, remind you of anyone who used to hoover third base for you guys?
- Mike Zagurski: He may not have the classic athlete’s physique but, man, he’s got the classic lefty reliever’s pitches. Three up, three down — all on strikes, getting Clint Hurdle’s attention, big-time.
- Carlos Paulino: The non-roster catcher showcased his arm in a late-game appearance, and it’s of a calibre recent Pirates and fans are not used to seeing.
- Erik Cordier: The 27-year-old non-roster righty endangered everyone from his catcher to Baltimore hitters to fans sitting behind first base. He sailed a pickoff throw five rows into the seats on the fly, walked three, unleashed two wild pitches, gave up a hit — in two-thirds of the ninth inning.
- Buccos bats: Have now gone 66 innings since their last home run, the second of Gaby Sanchez’s two blows on March 1 in Sarasota against the Orioles.
Introducing a new regular feature of my Spring Training coverage, takeaways from the day’s happenings between the Grapefruit League lines and elsewhere in the Pirates’ den as they prepare for the season.
Yeah, I could have called this 3-Up, 3-Down. But isn’t that what everybody else does? This is Pirates booty; we do things differently.
The Bucs lost to Tampa Bay, 4-2, today in McKechnie Field.
- 1. James McDonald: Four shutout innings of one-hit ball, AND a pickoff of Desmond Jennings.
- 2. Charlie Morton: Less than eight months removed from Tommy John surgery, he has a batting-practice date on Sunday.
- 3. Jose Contreras: Another Tommy John patient, for keeping himself in great condition, for when he’s ready to resume pitching. Anyone who snickers about him really being 50 years old should see him in the locker room without his shirt on.
- Gaby Sanchez: He looked good at third base on Tuesday against Spain, when no one could pull a ball to him. A little different in this one, as he couldn’t reach first base on the fly for the error that led to all four Rays runs.
- Jeanmar Gomez: Yeah, the four off him were all unearned. But he gave up the hits that followed Gaby’s throwing error. And he still has an ERA of 12.00
- Pirates lineup: Everyone took the day off. Came within four outs of being blanked on one hit for the second consecutive home game (Philadelphia one-timed them on Monday).