Pirates Notebook: Pitchers Buying Into The Pickoff; Burnett Has His Best Outing

A.J. Burnett picked off a runner in the first inning today.

A.J. Burnett picked off a runner in the first inning today.

It’s starting to become a familiar sight this Spring to see a Pirates pitcher picking off a runner at first. On Thursday, James McDonald started the game by allowing a single, then erased the runner with a pickoff to first. Today, A.J. Burnett started the game the same way. Darin Mastroianni started the game with a single, but was immediately picked off by Burnett at first.

“I know they’re going to run on Burnett. I know it,” Burnett said in the third-person after the game. “So any little thing I can do to get better, to help this team get better, I’m all in. And I’ve shown twice so far that it does help.”

The Pirates were allowing runners to run at-will last year, but have been placing a bigger emphasis on controlling the running game this year. Last year the focus was on the quality of pitch to the plate, with no regard for the runner on first. There is still a focus on the quality of the pitch to home, but this year the Pirates will be paying a bit more attention to the runners.

“We’ve got something working,” Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle said. “The guys are selling into it. They’re buying into it. We’re getting all the work done early. We’re able to transfer some of that into the game. We’re seeing some of the benefits of a concentrated effort collectively by the staff. It hasn’t been one guy. It’s been all of them, and it’s something we’re going to need to improve upon to be better.”

As one of the leaders on the team, and the leader of the pitching staff, having Burnett focusing on the running game is going to send a good message to the other pitchers.

“His buy-in is going to be big in anything we do,” Hurdle said.

The Pirates aren’t just going with pickoff moves. They’re also adjusting the slide-step home, holding the ball longer, and using other methods to keep runners from getting a comfortable lead at first.

“During the game everybody out there…if they’re out there an inning, there’s probably at least two slide-steps involved,” Hurdle said. “They’re holding the ball longer. Not only is it pick-off moves. We’re holding the ball. We’re slide-stepping, and we’re throwing over in different variations. So all of it is what’s getting us the opportunity to make the picks we have that make it work.”

 

Burnett Has His Best Outing of the Spring

A.J. Burnett had one of his best outings of the Spring today. The right-hander went 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on two hits, with two walks and three strikeouts. Both runs came in the fifth inning, with one of those runs coming off Jared Hughes.

“After the last outing he was disappointed,” Clint Hurdle said. “He just wasn’t able to repeat his delivery, wasn’t able to get ahead of hitters. Today he got first pitch strikes, stayed ahead of the count, up and down five times. The fastball command overall was much better in and out. He spun some balls very, very well. He threw some good changeups today. So a very good outing for A.J. today.”

The right-hander credited his four-seam fastball for his success today.

“Everything runs off [the four-seam fastball],” Burnett said. “Last one I got two-seam happy. Everything plays off that four-seamer. That’s what the difference was today, was just attacking with that pitch and getting ahead and I was able to work on other things.”

Those other things included his curveball, which Burnett was only throwing in specific counts in previous outings this Spring. The increased number of curveballs gave starting catcher Tony Sanchez a workout behind the plate, as Burnett’s curve usually ends up in the dirt.

“I beat up Tony a little bit today, but I didn’t get one by him. So that’s a good sign,” Burnett said. “I threw four hooks at one time at one guy. That was funny too, you should have seen Tony’s eyes back there. ‘Another one, really?'”

Burnett was originally schedule to go four innings, but was so efficient through four innings that Hurdle sent him back out for the fifth.

“He said ‘you have 45 pitches’,” Burnett commented after the game. “I said ‘What? Don’t I normally have that after two innings?'”

Burnett gave up a leadoff double to Brandon Boggs. Two plays later, Boggs scored on a sacrifice fly. After a two-out walk, Burnett was pulled. Jared Hughes came on and gave up two straight singles to bring the runner around to score.

 

Notes

**Earlier today it was announced that Chase d’Arnaud and Anderson Hernandez went down with injuries. Both players were looked at doctors today. The Pirates flew doctors in today, and both players will be looked at again tomorrow. If MRIs are needed, that will be done Monday. It could take a few days to evaluate Hernandez because of how he hurt his shoulder — falling on it while diving for a ball.

**Clint Hurdle said the staff will meet on Monday about the first cuts.

**The Pirates will stop using the DH on Monday and will start hitting their pitchers.

**Tomorrow the team has a split schedule, with games in Sarasota and Fort Myers. Both games are at 1:05. Clint Hurdle said he will be going to the game in Fort Myers to watch Jonathan Sanchez make a start, rather than watching Gerrit Cole start in Sarasota. The lineup in Fort Myers will also include a lot of players who could be battling for the final spots on the roster.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

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.

Pirates Notebook: Hurdle Believes Marte Could Be a Dynamic Leadoff Hitter

Next Story »

How Tony Sanchez Almost Hit A.J. Burnett in the Head With a Throw

  • leadoff

    Burnett did look better today than the last time, but the Twins did not have very many if any starters playing today, most of them played last night against Boston. The Pirates also had very few starting position players playing today, McCutchen struggled and Martin finally got a hit as a DH, after that it was a bunch of guys trying to make the roster.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    “The Pirates will stop using the DH on Monday and will start hitting their pitchers.”

    The only pitchers I would hit are Jeanmar and J Sanchez. They deserve it. All the others, I would hope they wouldn’t hit them.

    .

  • Brian

    Stolen bases were a huge part of a few key losses last year. With the addition of Martin behind the plate, maybe we can add a few more wins.

Latest Analysis

  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    22 mins ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    1 day ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    3 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    4 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    5 days ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    6 days ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    1 week ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    1 week ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    1 week ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Jason Creasy

    Another Pitcher to Watch From the Pirates’ 2011 Draft

    2 weeks ago

    The 2011 draft is shaping up to be a great class for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They picked first overall that year, so naturally you’d expect good things ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles

    More