Left-hander Tony Watson got the “start” for the Pirates against the Rays on Friday at McKechnie Field. Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle elected to go with all bullpen arms to get their regular work in while the starters are starting to pitch deeper into games. It marked Watson’s eighth appearance during Grapefruit League action this spring. He tossed two perfect frames while striking out two batters.
“It was definitely different, the routine and everything,” Watson said of starting instead of coming out of the ‘pen. “Just go out there and try to pump the strike zone and get quick outs…I’m trying to finish the spring strong, going into the season. Trying to get the year started off on the right foot.”
Despite posting a 6.75 ERA over eight appearances this spring, Watson was happy with the results on the mound. The 26-year-old lefty was focused this spring on trying to be more consistent, timing and a few different pitches.
“I’ve made progress every time out,” Watson said. “The ball is coming out of my hand a little better now. The breaking pitch is getting better and better. Just trying to build on every outing…Now it’s just going out there and compete. Once you cross the lines, it’s go-time. It’s game time. Don’t worry about fundamentals, or what you’re working on, stuff like that. Just go out there and pitch and try to get outs.”
Following Watson in relief from the ‘pen were Grilli, and Resop, who held the Rays to just one hit with a walk and a strikeout over three innings.
“They were all very efficient today,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We pitched well. The one pitch that hurt us was obviously [Lincoln’s] pitch to Molina out over the plate. The other guys mixed their pitches well, threw fastballs, worked in front of counts, secondary pitches came into play when they wanted to. It was a very efficient day for the most part of everybody who pitched out of the bullpen.”
After tossing a 1-2-3 6th inning in relief, right-hander Brad Lincoln worked himself into a jam in the 7th frame. All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria lead off with a single, and the next batter Ben Zobrist drew a walk. After retiring his next two batters, Lincoln issued his second free pass of the inning to load the bases. Jose Molina took a 0-1 pitch to deep right center field for a bases clearing double.
“Very efficient first inning. Fastball velocity was good and solid. Threw some good splits,” Hurdle said. “Second inning…missed with his secondary stuff. We saw one good inning, and one inning kind of the situation where he’s had some challenges with the fastballs up, straight.”
With two outs in the 4th , Casey McGehee took Moore deep to left center field for his first home run of the spring.
Casey McGehee picked up his second hit of the game with a base knock to right field to start the 7th frame. Matt Hague followed by crushing a 2-1 pitch for a two-run game tying homer to left — his fifth of the spring, which leads the team. Hague also is ranked second in RBI (12) trailing only Garrett Jones (14).
Hague, who is battling for a bench spot on the club this spring, is batting .383 during Grapefruit League action.
“Matt’s swinging the bat as well as anybody in camp,” Hurdle said. “It’s not just left-handed pitching, it’s right-handed pitching, it’s extra base hits, it’s good at-bats. He swing off another 10 pitch at-bat before he made an out. He hit’s a two run homer. He’s done a nice job at the plate. He’s really taking good ownership of his at-bats.”
- Relief: Jason Grilli: 2 IP, H, BB; Chris Resop: IP, K; Brad Lincoln: 2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K; Tim Alderson (minors): 2 IP, 2 H
- Hurdle on Alderson: “I was really impressed with Alderson coming in late and doing the job he did as well. That was good to see. Good mound presence. He worked through a situation with a runner on base. He handled it very well.”
- First baseman Matt Hague lead off the 3rd inning with a double from lefty Matt Moore to the wall in left center field. It marked Hague’s first two-bagger during Grapefruit League action this spring. Hague finished 2-for-4 on the day with a two-run homer.
- Entering today’s action, the Pirates 14 position players still in Pirates camp are batting a combined .300 (181-for-604).
Saturday Game Info:
- The Pirates will face the Baltimore Orioles in Bradenton at 1:05 and the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers at 1:05 (Spit squad). Lefty Erik Bedard will oppose Baltimore’s Jake Arietta at McKechnie Field and Kevin Correia is scheduled to start for the Bucs against Minnesota’s Anthony Swarzak at Hammond Stadium.
- Pirates lineup vs. O’s: Alex Presley 7, Nate McLouth 9, Andrew McCutchen 8, Neil Walker 4, Casey McGehee 5, Garrett Jones 3, Rod Barajas 2, Clint Barmes 6, Eric Bedard 1
- Relievers vs. O’s: Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Leroux
- Pirates lineup vs. Twins: Jose Tabata 9, Josh Harrison 6, Yamaico Navarro 4, Matt Hague 3, Pedro Alvarez 5, **Minors, **development, Michael McKenry 2, Kevin Correia 1 (The 6th and 7th batters will be filled tomorrow with a minor leaguer and development player)
- Relievers v’s Twins: Juan Cruz, Daniel McCutchen