Gaby Sanchez crushes left-handers, but shouldn't be getting at-bats against right-handers.

Spring Training Notes: Liriano Focused on the Sinker; Sanchez Does it Again

Edinson Volquez gave up two runs today in his one inning of work, but the Pirates came back to win 6-5.

Edinson Volquez gave up two runs today in his one inning of work, but the Pirates came back to win 6-5.

The Pittsburgh Pirates came back to beat the New York Yankees 6-5 today, recovering from some early game struggles by Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez. Both pitchers gave up two runs in one inning of work, although the Pirates were able to rebound late with a four run seventh inning to take the lead and their first victory of the Grapefruit League season.

Liriano All About the Sinker

Francisco Liriano only went one inning in today’s game, and the results weren’t good. He gave up two runs on a walk and three hits in his first outing of Spring Training. Pirates fans will hope that this version of Liriano doesn’t show up on Opening Day. At least from an approach standpoint, he won’t.

Liriano was focused today on one pitch, his sinker. His approach early in Spring Training is to get command of his fastball and sinker, then mix in his slider later. Today he only threw two sliders and one changeup, and didn’t throw any four seam fastballs. Locating the sinker was the priority, since he didn’t throw many sinkers over the off-season. The specific focus is finding his release point on the pitch.

“I use my slider a lot, so I need to get the fastball command better in order to pitch in the game…not just throw one pitch,” Liriano said.

Liriano will go two innings in his next start. His focus will still be on the fastball and sinker early in camp.

Sanchez Does it Again

Tony Sanchez hit his second home run in as many games, and his first in Grapefruit League action. The homer came in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Pirates down 5-2 and two men on base. Sanchez took a 1-0 pitch to center field, tying the score at 5-5. He also singled in the eighth inning,

“What that approach allows me to do is drive fastballs the other way, and stay on the slider like I did today and drive it to left-center,” Sanchez said about hitting to opposite field. Whenever I get pull happy, or start thinking of left field, I come off balls and don’t square them up very well. If I’m thinking to the right side, it allows me to stay close, stay inside that slider, and drive it to wherever that may be.”

Game Notes

**The Pirates practiced a few shifts in game one. They got Carlos Beltran to ground out to Pedro Alvarez, who was shifted over to the shortstop position. I didn’t notice if they had any outfield shifts on.

**Starling Marte was wearing his “oven mitt” on the bases today. Clint Hurdle said it was a permanent thing. “Better safe than sorry with him,” Hurdle said. “Doesn’t slow him down.”

**Clint Hurdle said that the Pirates have a handful of guys who they want to build up to three innings and 50 pitches. At a certain point in camp they will determine which guys will move on from there, and which guys will be scaled back to shorter relief roles.

**Jeanmar Gomez pitched a shutout inning today with one strikeout, which came after the earlier pitchers struggled. Hurdle talked about what worked so well for Gomez last year.

“He kept the ball down and sunk it really well,” Hurdle said. “Then his slider came into play. So the combination of spin and sink, and the fact that he stayed in the bottom of the zone was really a step forward for him. Because that wasn’t exactly the MO when he was in the American League starting.”

**Travis Ishikawa will need a few days to rest his leg. He left the Black and Gold game yesterday with a tight right leg.


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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, 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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  • deacs

    How long does Marte have to wear that oven mit?

  • rsborelli

    yeah.. is that concerning to anyone else? Permanent? As in, permanent for the Spring? Or entire season? Has the hand had time to adequately heal? Just seems odd to take this kind of extended precaution otherwise.

    • piratemike

      “GAWD” I have to stop reading comments.

      • piratemike

        and making them,

    • csnumber23

      Relax, it’s not a concern. Hurdle said better safe than sorry, it is a precaution. Starling almost always goes head first in to a base so the mit will protect his hand and it doesn’t slow him down. No need to worry, I’m glad they are dong it.

  • emjayinTN

    Hitters should be well ahead at this time of year, and that seems to be the case. I am really surprised at the performance of Tony Sanchez so far, but really enthused about his future if he can continue the approach he has been using. His CS rate has not been VG, and that is surprising.

    • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

      Usually the pitchers are ahead early in camp. But McKechnie is a launching pad.

  • Sandoz

    Always pulled for Gomez. He’s done nothing but pitch since he got here. He’s got the stuff to be a solid back end of the rotation guy.

    • dr dng

      Also a Gomez fan. Just does what they ask him to do.

      Pirates are so loaded with pitchers without options, some team has to be salivating to try to get him.

      Is he a keeper?

      Or is he better now in a trade when he has some value?

      I just like his performance!

  • Sandoz

    He’s a handy guy to have around. Plays the role of the long man out of the pen with the occasional spot start about as well as you could want.

    Although someone is gonna be expendable come midseason.

  • freddylang

    The wind was blowing out to where Sanchez hit the homer yesterday but was also swirling. It was legit. Hansen looked good at the plate and Cutch’s eye was great. I could see his discipline going to another level this year although it is just one game. Pedro stared at a strike three fastball with bases loaded so he is in mid-season form haha! He is what he is.

    I got to see a lefty (Zach Dodson?) in the pen trying to learn what looked like a knuckle curve from an instructor. (#73 – A big read headed dude.) It was really interesting as they were on their knees and taking the lower half out of it. The lefty could not get the release point right as it was too high and the instructor was trying to get him to bury it. They tried for 5 mins and the instructor who was pretty funny said “You should just retire.” Things you can only see and hear in ST. I was taking photos and forgot to turn on my video camera. That would have been great to have. I did get some great photos of the Parrot streaking across the outfield and running from staff. Greatest time of the year and great to be living down here 25 miles from Bradenton. You feel like a kid again at ST games.

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