If you follow any of the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league players on Twitter, you probably saw that today’s instructional league action was pretty brutal. As I mentioned earlier today, most of the team ran a drill in the morning which included a lot of running. The drill was an infield throwing drill, and every time someone dropped a ball, or didn’t catch a wild throw, the entire team (pitchers and outfielders included) had to run to the wall in center field and back.
The Pirates played the Phillies and were shut out. After the game, the team met, then ran inside to change in to running gear. The team returned to the field for what I assume was a lot of running afterwards. I didn’t stick around for the workouts at the end of the day, but heard a few “this is going to suck” comments when the players were heading to the locker room after the game.
I mentioned earlier today that Eric Fryer was getting time at third base to increase his versatility. He played third in the game today, getting time at the position the entire game (other positions were switched out). Of course, the first two balls were hit his way. The first one was a hard grounder down the third base line. He couldn’t make the stop on a diving attempt, but did show a good reaction, considering how new to the position he is. The second was a bunt down the third base line, and he failed to get the out at first, showing his lack of experience.
Brandon Cumpton started the game and threw two innings. Cumpton started off by getting hammered for 21 earned runs in his first three appearances during the 2011 season. Things then turned around, and he not only dominated low-A, but had success in high-A, with a lot of strikeouts. I talked to minor league pitching coordinator Jim Benedict about what changed. He mentioned that Cumpton overheard a conversation with another pitcher about the importance of pitching inside. College pitchers usually shy away from that and work more with their breaking pitches due to metal bats being less forgiving (the handle of metal bats can produce a hit, while wooden bats break). Cumpton embraced the idea to the point where he had the catcher setting up almost behind the batter, which really gave him an advantage once he started aggressively challenging hitters.
Ryan Hafner pitched an inning, and was a bit of a surprise. When I saw him during the season he was in the 88-91 MPH range, and left his fastball up in the zone a bit. Today he was mostly 91-92 MPH, and touched 93. He also showed good movement on his fastball, and kept it down. I’m not sure if this was due to the limited outing, but it was definitely encouraging to see.
The Pirates play the Yankees tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have another afternoon update on the morning practices, followed by a report on the game.