PITTSBURGH, Pa. — When the Pittsburgh Pirates broke camp from spring training in Florida, skipper Clint Hurdle said he was going to go with the best seven arms in the bullpen, despite only one of them being a left-hander. Most Major League teams have the luxury of having two southpaws in the ‘pen, but the Pirates’ right-handers have been effective against left-handers.
“Everybody’s got a perfect bullpen drawn up in their mind,” Hurdle said. “You listen to people outside this room [on] the importance. And I understand it. I would have loved to be sitting over in [Arizona Diamondbacks Manager] Kirk Gibson’s dugout having three lefties in my bullpen and go cut up people all different ways. We wanted to take the seven best arms. We committed to that.”
When discussing a possibility of having another lefty from Triple-A come up to help the club at some point, Hurdle mentioned both Daniel Moskos and Doug Slaten.
Entering game action on Monday, Moskos has allowed one run over 4.2 innings (1.93 ERA) with Indianapolis. Slaten, too, has been effective with Triple-A. He’s allowed one run over 9.1 innings (0.96 ERA).
“We’ve got what we feel are the guys that can get it done,” Hurdle said. “It just might now be a prototypical cookie cutter way to get it done. Over the long haul, I think it will catch up to us. I do think there will be times where we’re going to look and hopefully add [lefties]. Danny down there pitching pretty effectively right now. Slaten seems to be getting some practical as well. He’s gone a couple two inning outings down there.”
“It might be something that we revisit down the line, but as long as the guys up here are pitching [well]. We’ve got some right-handers that are putting up good sequences against left-handed hitters. [Jason] Grilli has been good against lefties, [Juan] Cruz has been good against lefties, [Chris] Resop has actually done good against lefties. Evan [Meek] has a history of also keeping the ball on the ground against left-handed pitching. We can still get it done.”
Entering game action on Sunday, the Pirates bullpen has a team 2.09 ERA — which ranks No. 1 in the National League.
Grilli’s Resiliency Paying Off
Right-hander Jason Grilli has overcome a lot of obstacles in his professional career. The former first-round pick in 1997 (fourth overall), has seen success, failure, and his career almost end before his eyes after having undergo knee surgery in 2010. But his perseverance through it all has seemed to pay off.
Grilli signed as a free agent in July last season and posted a 2.48 ERA over 28 appearances (32.2 innings) with Pittsburgh in what he referred to as a “comeback year”. The two lone runs that Grilli has allowed this season has come from the long ball. The righty has a 2.84 ERA over seven appearances (6.1 innings).
“I’ve gotten to watch Jason grow over the years from having him in Colorado,” Hurdle said. “Had him one year when he was very, very good. He had an ‘09 season like I did. We both got asked to leave during the season. His perseverance, his resiliency, his determination has paid off. I think he’s found a rekindled spirit, appreciation for the game. Every day is a new opportunity. I have confidence in him. Our guys out there have confidence in him. I think most importantly that’s been the biggest step for him. Jason needed tangible evidence early in his career to have confidence in himself. Where we all need to go past that point of I’m only better than the last game I’ve pitched.”
Grilli entered the mound in the 8th inning with a 2-0 lead on Saturday night. With two runners on and two outs, Grilli struck out Matt Holliday to end the inning in the eventual shutout over the Cardinals.
“He throws good,” Hurdle said. “I believe every time he’s coming out, he’s going to get the job done. [Saturday] night was an example of that.”
Alvarez Continues to Move Forward
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez has been off to a slow start during the 2012 season, but he isn’t the only Bucco to swing a cold bat. The 24-year-old is showing signs of progressing forward. Alvarez went 2-for-4 in the Pirates 2-0 shutout over the Cardinals on Saturday. The third baseman drove in both runs in the game.
“He gave us some good quality [at-bats Saturday] night,” Huntington said. “For me, the at-bat against [lefty Marc] Rzepczynski was encouraging than anything. He had a first pitch slider that he didn’t try and do too much with. He hit off the bat to the warning track in center field. That’s a side that he’s moving in the right direction. He’s staying through pitches more. He’s able to wait longer before he’s going to start his swing and able to close some holes down. It’s not just Pedro that we got to get going. We have a handful of guys that have track records that have the ability to hit, that haven’t to-date.”
Bucs to Face 49-year-old Moyer
The Colorado Rockies come to town on Monday to kick off a three-game set. They will face right-hander Jamie Moyer, who at the age of 49, is proving that age is just a number. After undergoing elbow surgery in 2010, Moyer worked on a comeback. He made the big league club out of spring training with Colorado. Moyer made his Major League debut in 1986.
Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said Moyer’s comeback story doesn’t make him want to put his cleats back on and go back out there.
“Absolutely not,” Hurdle said. “I’m not capable. There hasn’t been a thought on my mind since I stopped playing. What works for one, doesn’t work for all. I’m very happy for him. I’m very proud of him. That’s a wonderful story. It’s a story that only sport can come up with. You hear about it. And the fact that he’s been able to make the club, No. 1. To win a game at the age he is, No. 2. We’re going to get to see him, and he’s going to battle, he’s going to compete. You need to be patient. You need to just try and beat him with singles. From my perception from across the field for many, many years now, he definitely plans bigger than he is. He’s always been a pillar in the community wherever he’s gone. This man has a servant’s heart, and a competitor’s spirit. Which is a wonderful combination to have.”
Moyer won’t blow the club away with his fastball. In fact, the righty throws in the mid-80′s. Hurdle said being able to hit Moyer takes discipline.
“How much discipline do you have when you need to have discipline? Whether it be socially, whether it be relationally. It’s all about discipline,” Hurdle said. “You know what you’re going to get. If your mind set is to jump a pitch with Jamie Moyer, you’re going to play into his strengths because it’s all about deception. It’s about late life, it’s about movement…It’s the kind of guy you have to be aggressively patient with. You got to be ready to hit. You’re going to get pitches to hit.”