Prospect Notebook: Starters Getting Ready For the Season

Just like major league camp, the Pirates slowly build their minor league starters up to the point where they’re ready for the season by the time they break camp. Typically a minor league start will go around 75 pitches in the Pirates’ system. In the last few days several pitchers have hit that mark in their Spring Training outings.

Nick Kingham threw 75 pitches on Friday in his final start of the Spring.

Gerrit Cole threw 65 pitches in five innings on Thursday, not needing the extra ten pitches to get through five. Hunter Strickland had a more efficient outing on Friday, needing just 55 pitches to get through five innings.

Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie were both around 65 pitches in their last starts.

Nathan Baker was the latest starter to get stretched out. The left-hander made his final start of the spring today, going five innings and throwing 76 pitches. The results weren’t strong, with Baker giving up four runs on six hits, allowing three walks and striking out one. The lefty sat 86-91 MPH with his fastball.

Overall his start was similar to his last outing, when he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings, throwing 77 pitches. He elevated his fastball today, which led to some hard hit balls.

The main focus is getting pitchers ready for the season at this point. Baker mentioned after his last outing that he probably should have used his change-up more often. He’s got a good change and a good curve, but from what I’ve seen his fastball has been inconsistent. He’ll go to Altoona to start in the rotation this year, but the regular season won’t offer him the same benefits as Spring Training.

In Spring Training, if a pitcher reaches his single inning limit, he’s pulled from the field and sent back out the next inning. During the regular season the same limits exist, but the day is over for the pitcher when he’s pulled. Baker is guaranteed five innings down here, but he’s going to have to correct his fastball command and keep the ball down more often if he wants to go five in Altoona.

JOSE DIAZ LOOKING GOOD IN MAJOR LEAGUE CAMP

Right handed pitcher Jose Diaz made a lot of appearances in major league camp this year, and looked good in his outings. The pitcher nicknamed “Jumbo” entered today’s game with 3.1 shutout innings, and only one hit allowed in his work this spring in major league camp. He was sitting 95-96 MPH consistently in his perfect inning today, a range he’s hit every time out at Pirate City.

“He has done well,” Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle said after today’s game. “For a guy who came in on a minor league deal, we bring those guys up and we give them opportunities, and we see if there’s room for them on the minor league, on a player development side. But he was able to show up, he competed, he got outs, it was good having him.”

Diaz is an interesting pitcher. He’s listed at 6′ 4″, 300 pounds, but looks like he could be closer to 350 pounds. He throws with such little effort, and yet consistently sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. In the past he has touched 100 MPH, and he also throws a hard slider.

Despite the stuff, Diaz has been minor league depth in the past, spending parts of the last three years at the Double-A level. He moved to Triple-A last year, but the results weren’t good, with a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 innings, along with a high walk rate. Diaz has seen some control problems with three walks in 4.1 innings in major league camp.

Diaz should pitch in either the Double-A or Triple-A bullpen this year, and could pitch in both by the end of the season. It’s unlikely that he will break out of that depth role he’s been in the last few years, mostly due to his control problems. However, his size and his stuff definitely makes him an interesting pitcher, even if it’s just interesting to watch him pitch.

PLAYING THE WIND

All throughout Spring Training there has been some good weather in Bradenton. I think I can count on one hand how many times it has rained while I’ve been down here, and each time the rain has come either in the morning, well before the games, or in the evening after the day’s events are finished.

Today was the first time it rained during the game, with the rain starting towards the end of the day, shortening each game by two innings. Prior to the downpour, the wind was high at Pirate City. Two batters played that to their advantage. Nick Evans and Jeff Clement both hit wind-aided home runs to right field, with the wind blowing strong to right.

The shot by Evans would have likely been a double off the wall without the wind. Clement’s might have had a shot at going out, although the wind was blowing much harder at the time.

MID-SEASON FORM

There were a few moments you don’t normally see in Spring Training today. In the Double-A game, manager P.J. Forbes went out to argue a call at second base when the umpire called Tony Sanchez out running the bases. Sanchez just missed being hit by a ground ball between first and second. However, the umpire ruled Sanchez out, saying that he stopped and moved backwards to avoid the ball. The argument by Forbes wasn’t heated, just meant to get an explanation. It was the first time I’ve seen a manager out of the field questioning a call this spring.

Later, immediately after Jeff Clement’s home run, the Phillies pitcher followed up by throwing behind Jake Fox. The umpire tossed the pitcher out of the game, which led to a heated exchange. It’s a sequence of events you never really see in Spring Training.

Feels like the season is ready to begin.

OTHER NOTES

**Andrew Lambo had a hard hit line drive to right field for a single. Tony Sanchez followed that with a single of his own past the first baseman.

**Chris Resop pitched an inning to start the game. He was mostly sitting 89-90 MPH with his fastball. He got some quick outs, and stayed out for some extra batters just to get some pitches in.

**Jared Hughes threw two innings to follow Resop. He was around 92 MPH with his sinker, and got two strikeouts in the second inning of work.

**Victor Black was supposed to pitch today, but the rain prevented that from happening.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • fisk72

    Tim: when do you leave Pirate City & where do you head to next? Thanks for a great day to day update on the Bucs,

  • Troy Pfaff

    How is Tony Sanchez looking this spring?