Pirates Prospects » Pirates Notebook http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:41:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Pirates Notebook: Jose Tabata Earning His Place in the Lineup http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-tabata-at-his-best-in-awhile.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-tabata-at-his-best-in-awhile.html#comments Sun, 22 Sep 2013 16:31:49 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66550 While Starling Marte made his return to the starting lineup earlier in this 11-game homestand, Jose Tabata has still received the majority of starts in left field and as the lineup’s leadoff man. For the record, Marte is healthy and missed Friday’s game because his wife birthed their child Smerling Marte.

But beyond that, why keep starting Tabata?

“We’re keeping Jose in there because he’s hot. Marte’s good to go,” Hurdle said. “This has been as good as we’ve seen him since we saw him in April of ‘11.”

Jose Tabata

Jose Tabata has been a revelation in the leadoff spot after Marte’s injury. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Hurdle’s right. On this homestand alone, Tabata is hitting .393 with two home runs. Overall, the improvement seen in Tabata has been a testament to his consistency and approach this season.

“The consistency of at-bats, been very good in the batter’s box as well, he’s been able to grind out some very good at-bats for us, very aggressive swings in offensive counts,” Hurdle said. “He’s played solid defensively, he’s gotten on-base, he’s run the bases well. It’s been a very good run for Jose, a very good confidence-builder as well.”

Confidence is good for a player like Tabata, who figured to be relegated to bench-duty with the arrival of Marlon Byrd and once Marte became healthy. Now, he’s receiving more time on the field than Marte and more cheers from fans than ever before.

“Everybody will respond to you when you play well,” Hurdle said. “The manager, the coaches, the press, the media, the fans.”

MVP Type Play?

Andrew McCutchen doesn’t have a hit since he hit his 20th home run Wednesday against the San Diego Padres. But that didn’t stop him from scoring the game-winning run last night.

McCutchen walked and then advanced to third on a throwing error committed by pitcher Homer Bailey who tried to pick him off first base. Cutch scored the go-ahead run on a sac fly from Marlon Byrd.

“Andrew, who doesn’t love to watch him run? When he goes then to go to third. And to have the quality at-bat we get from Marlon Byrd, because that’s been a challenging at-bat for us throughout the season,” Hurdle said. “For Byrd to show up and do that, so to take advantage of two opportunities.”

For Hurdle, the MVP is who he sees as “the baddest guy in the league.” If Hurdle could vote for his center fielder, he would.

“Look at Andrew’s numbers for the second half,” Hurdle said. “You want to do some digging, you want to match some things up, contrast, look at his numbers this year from the second half.”

Fair enough.

In the first half of 2013, McCutchen hit .302/.376/.471. In the first half of 2012, McCutchen posted a triple-slash of .362/.414/.625.

The second half, as Hurdle points out, is the difference. McCutchen hit .289/.385/.475 to finish 2012. Good numbers, but still not at the level McCutchen played at for most of the year. In 2013, McCutchen improved in the second half as he carries a .352/.452/.583 line into today’s game.

“He was in contention for the MVP last year, look what he’s done the second half of the season this year.” Hurdle said.

It also probably helps that the Pirates finished this season with a winning record, as opposed to how they finished last season.

“Without getting a hit since the home run, he continues to play the game, he continues to make a difference,” Hurdle said. “The other manager knows where he is in the lineup and obviously we feed off everything that he does.”

Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Clint Barmes SS
  9. Jeff Locke P

Cincinnati

  1. Billy Hamilton CF
  2. Chris Heisey LF
  3. Joey Votto 1B
  4. Brandon Phillips 2B
  5. Jay Bruce RF
  6. Todd Frazier 3B
  7. Zack Cozart SS
  8. Ryan Hanigan C
  9. Bronson Arroyo P
]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-tabata-at-his-best-in-awhile.html/feed 3
Pirates Notebook: ‘Nobody’s Trying to Hit Nobody’ http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-nobodys-trying-to-hit-nobody.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-nobodys-trying-to-hit-nobody.html#comments Sat, 21 Sep 2013 22:01:47 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66484 Andrew McCutchen stepped into the batter’s box leading off the bottom of the eighth inning last night, as the Pirates led the Reds 5-2. On a 2-2 pitch, reliever Sam LeCure ran a fastball inside and hit McCutchen on the shoulder.

LeCure was warned by home plate umpire Mark Carlson, and manager Clint Hurdle emerged from the dugout to argue the issue of intent on LeCure’s behalf to hit McCutchen.

A.J. Burnett Pirates

A.J. Burnett will lead the Pirates onto the field tonight as they try to rebound from last night’s loss. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

“I don’t understand a warning, if you’re going to warn, you thought there was intent to hit the guy, you should have thrown the guy out,” Hurdle said. “First time he’d been hit, it’s our guy McCutchen that’d been hit.”

While Hurdle expressed his extreme displeasure with the umpires’ decision to allow LeCure to remain in the game, McCutchen himself sensed no intent from LeCure.

“He was trying to throw it inside,” McCutchen said. “He wasn’t trying to hit me, the intent was to go inside.”

To be fair, the Pirates are a team that throws inside quite frequently themselves. As a result, Pittsburgh has beaned a league-high 67 batters.

Behind the plate, catcher Devin Mesoraco explained the situation as he saw it as a lapse in control from LeCure.

“It’s 2-2, it’s late, we needed to make a pitch in and Sammy just lost it up-and-in,” Mesoraco said. “You don’t want to see that. I think sometimes the bad-blood between the two teams gets overblown. We’re both out there trying to compete.”

And, for a more blunt perspective, take it from second baseman Brandon Phillips who’s had some involvement in this recent spree of hit-batsmen between the Reds and Pirates.

“Nobody’s trying to hit nobody,” Phillips said. “In a situation like that it’s the last thing that crossed my mind.”

Today, A.J. Burnett pitches for the Pirates as they attempt to wash off their collapse in the ninth inning last night.

“He’s pitching tonight, so that’s what we need him to be. He’s got layers of experience, so that always helps. Very competitive. Pitches with an edge,” Hurdle said. “Does all the things you want for a guy going out to pitch a game that can help you stabilize and get back on the right track.”

With Burnett on the mound, who hit an American League-high 19 batters in 2010 and has hit nine hitters this year, things could get testy in the 60 feet between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. If so, Hurdle says the game will take care of it for the Pirates.

“The guy that does wrong gets a mulligan, and nobody else can play,” Hurdle said. “The game has a way of taking care of itself and we let it take care of itself, so that’s the part that I continue to try to share and I get what they say, we just don’t agree.”

Grilli to Close

After Mark Melancon blew a save last night, as well as Wednesday night against San Diego, Hurdle said this afternoon that if a save opportunity presents itself tonight, Jason Grilli will be the one to enter the game. Grilli has not pitched in a save situation since his return from the disabled list.

In addition, Hurdle said Justin Wilson is available tonight alongside the full complement of Pirates relievers. Melancon threw 19 pitches last night, but Hurdle said he and pitching coach Ray Searage communicated with him and that Mark the Shark will be ready to go.

While Melancon’s performance in recent days has been less than ideal, Hurdle isn’t too concerned.

“It’s not like balls are ringing in the alleys and finding the wall. Ball aren’t getting barreled but they’re finding grass. Are batters making a commitment? More of visual commitment to get over the plate,” Hurdle said. “What can we do to combat that? Not to reinvent, but to refine. To adjust. That’s the basis of the conversation we had today.”

Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Clint Barmes SS
  9. A.J. Burnett P

Cincinnati

  1. Derrick Robinson CF
  2. Brandon Phillips 2B
  3. Joey Votto 1B
  4. Ryan Ludwick LF
  5. Jay Bruce RF
  6. Zack Cozart SS
  7. Jack Hannahan 3B
  8. Ryan Hanigan C
  9. Homer Bailey P
]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-nobodys-trying-to-hit-nobody.html/feed 0
Pirates Notebook: The Most Important Game All Season http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-the-most-important-game-all-season.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-the-most-important-game-all-season.html#comments Fri, 20 Sep 2013 22:17:54 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66436 Today, separated each by a single game, the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Cincinnati Reds. Each team holds  a wild card spot and if the season ended today, the Pirates would play the Reds in the one-game Wild Card game to earn the right to play a five-game series against the Atlanta Braves.

If one were to say tonight’s game is possibly the most important one this season, that person wouldn’t be totally wrong in the eyes of the Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle. But it wouldn’t be totally right, as Hurdle would say, because the most important game the Pirates are playing is the one they play today.

Andrew McCutchen Pittsburgh Pirates

Andrew McCutchen leads the Pirates into their most important series of the season tonight. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

“This is our next game, this is the most important game we’ll play all season. What greater statement can you make than that?” Hurdle said. “This is the most important game we’ll play all season. Then we’ll play another one tomorrow.’

It just so happens that the Pirates play the Reds today, tomorrow, and Sunday. The playoff race will come to a head a week from today when the two teams play their final three games of the regular season in Cincinnati.

This weekend, though, represents quite possibly the most meaningful weekend of baseball played in Pittsburgh, in the month of September, in a very long time. At least, in the last 20 years.

To play meaningful baseball at this point in the season is what Hurdle signed up for when he boarded the Pirates ship in the winter almost three years ago.

“I just finished up a conversation with a person along those lines. They looked me in the eye and said ‘So this is why came here?’ I said ‘Absolutely.’ I’ve envisioned this,” Hurdle said. “Did I know when? No. Did I believe it would happen? Yes. I needed to play my part, and we still have parts to play.”

The parts played by Hurdle and the Pirates to this point have been enough to say Hurdle’s goal to “re-connect a city to its baseball team” has been achieved. For proof, take the encounters Hurdle has recently had with Pirates fans.

“It’s good to get better, it’s good for so many levels. The people I talked to last night at the Clemente Museum for the fundraiser. I can’t tell you how many different people have said ‘this hasn’t happened since…’ and they can tie it to another thing,” Hurdle said. “They’re 50 now, they’re 30 now. ‘I was 10, I was 20. I just got married, now I’ve got six kids, I’m a grandfather.’ It’s crazy, it’s life.”

“So from that point of it that’s what humbles you about being in a small group of people that can bring a lot of different joys and feel-goods for many people, in many different ways,” Hurdle said. “Like I said, we’re not finished, we’re heading in the right direction.”

Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Jordy Mercer SS
  9. Francisco Liriano P

Cincinnati

  1. Shin-soo Choo CF
  2. Brandon Phillips 2B
  3. Joey Votto 1B
  4. Ryan Ludwick LF
  5. Jay Bruce RF
  6. Todd Frazier 3B
  7. Zack Cozart SS
  8. Devin Mesoraco C
  9. Mat Latos P

 

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-the-most-important-game-all-season.html/feed 0
Pirates Notebook: Attitude Equals Results http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-attitude-equals-results.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-attitude-equals-results.html#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 16:15:17 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66401 ‘The worst loss of the season.’

Apparently, that’s what some Pirates fans are calling last night’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres.

You know, not like that 13-0 loss to St. Louis was bad. Or the 14-inning loss in St. Louis August 13. Those were worse, and will impact the Pirates’ postseason prospects more than any one-run loss to San Diego.

Charlie Morton isn't worried, and you shouldn't be either. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Charlie Morton isn’t worried, and you shouldn’t be either. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Primarily, that’s because the Pirates are about as close to being in the playoffs as a team can get without actually being in the playoffs. According to the Pirates’ playoff odds, there are just about three universes out of 100 that would hold a scenario in which a service like Baseball Prospectus sees the Pirates missing the postseason.

And, following three straight losses, expect the Pirates to rebound in these next four games as they have all season. Last week was a perfect example, when the Pirates went 2-5 in seven games leading up to a three-game set in Texas against the Rangers.

The Pirates swept the Rangers. The Pirates have not lost more than four games in a row this season. The Pirates have never done worse than 3-7 in a 10-game stretch, which has occurred just twice this season out of a lot of possible 10-game permutations.

The Pirates think you should stop worrying.

“When you’re up, you try not to get too high, you enjoy the moment, you know you’ve got more work to do,” Hurdle said. “When things don’t work your way, hey, you’ve gotta be steadfast, you gotta keep plowin’.”

Keep plowin’. The Pirates do so today, when Gerrit Cole brings his ‘Cali Swag’ to the mound against the Padres.

For those still not convinced, take it from the Pirates themselves. For one, the Pirates entered last night’s ninth inning with a 2-1 lead and a 74-2 record when leading after eight innings. While the Pirates lost, the loss wasn’t necessarily easier because of the team’s success in such situations this season mostly because of Jason Grilli’s 30 saves and Mark Melancon’s 16.

“I don’t know about easier,” Morton said. “I honestly feel like the guys have done a great job regardless of the circumstance to bounce back.”

Today’s the bounce-back day. And nothing seems different for Morton, after a loss that should really be chalked up as an anomaly.

“I don’t sense anything out of the ordinary. I’ve said this all year, I think one of the strengths of this team has been the ability to move past what happened, good or bad,” Morton said. “When we win, everybody’s in a good mood, yeah. I think everybody goes home, comes back with the emphasis on the next day. I don’t expect anything different.”

Anyone on the outside looking in shouldn’t expect any different either. Despite the offense woes , or San Diego winning over 75 percent of its games at PNC Park since the stadium opened, the Pirates enter Thursday’s game with the same attitude they’ve carried into every one.

“I think results are often a byproduct of attitude, but that’s not a given,” Morton said. “We could have a great attitude and just not win. If you could execute and not win, there are circumstances that are out of our hands.”

Attitude is one thing, though. As Morton said, the Pirates could have it and not win. Action, on the other hand, is another issue.

“I honestly think that the way we move on is just to move on and play tomorrow.”

  • Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Tony Sanchez C
  8. Jordy Mercer SS
  9. Gerrit Cole P

San Diego

  1. Will Venable RF
  2. Chris Denorfia LF
  3. Jeff Gyorko 2B
  4. Chase Headley 3B
  5. Tommy Medica 1B
  6. Ronny Cedeno SS
  7. Nick Hundley C
  8. Reymond Fuentes CF
  9. Ian Kennedy P

 

 

 

 

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-attitude-equals-results.html/feed 1
Pirates Notebook: A Man with a Plan for Martin http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-a-man-with-a-plan-for-martin.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-a-man-with-a-plan-for-martin.html#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 22:27:25 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66359 Today, this 18th day of September in 2013, Russell Martin gets an off-day. Normally, Martin would see a day off on day-game following a night game as tomorrow’s 12:35 start will follow tonight’s first pitch at 7:05.

In the month of September, following a 0-for-4 outing at the plate last night, Martin is now 4-for-40 in the final unit of the season’s six-month calendar. His batting average now sits at .229, the first time Martin’s average has dipped below the .230 threshold since he ended April 26 hitting .227.

Russell Martin

The grind of the 2013 season may be starting to catch up to Russell Martin. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Despite the lack of offensive production lately, manager Clint Hurdle says the off-day  to keep his starting catcher fresh for a rather pertinent slate of upcoming games.

“His off-day is more about him blocking on average eight to 12 balls every night he’s been behind the plate from Opening Day until now,” Hurdle said. “As I actually said a couple of months ago, one of our biggest focus points has been to keep 55 on the field.”

The Pirates have kept no. 55 on the field and more importantly healthy for just about the entire season. The only exception was a spat of games Martin missed in May with a minor neck issue.

But Hurdle does admit that the workload placed on Martin’s shoulders (or knees, more appropriately) may be starting to catch up to him as the regular season comes to a close.

“And the wear-and-tear and the grind of the work he’s done behind the plate, there’s no doubt for me it’s probably challenged him a little bit in the batter’s box,” Hurdle said. “He’s doing everything he can to add to the offense, but the job he’s done behind the plate has been a difference-maker.”

Martin’s defense has been so good, at least in Hurdle’s eyes, and made such a difference that the Pirates are beginning to develop a new plan of analysis to quantify just how much of a difference Martin has made this season behind the plate, and how that compares to backstops across the league. But more on that later.

For the time being, Hurdle is looking for a way to get his catcher back to normal as Martin slogs through his worst offensive month of the season. At this point, Martin’s 16 games in September have seen him post a .100/.182/.175 triple-slash, by far his worst of the season.

In fact, Martin’s production has slowed considerably since his .274/.344/.560 month of April.

  • May: .246/.352/.311
  • June: .222/.330/.346
  • July: .261/.400/.348
  • August: .213/.304/.413

“There’s some fatigue I think that’s going to be involved for any catcher at this point in the season and I look at the best option to try to keep him fresh,” Hurdle said.

While it’s important for the Pirates to find a way to avoid losing their first four-game series of the season against the Padres in these next two games, it may be a more pressing issue for Hurdle to have a full complement of weapons at his disposal when the Pirates play six of their final nine games against the Cincinnati Reds.

“In a very perfect world, I want him ready for Cincinnati,” Hurdle said. “You say that, and the game tonight is pretty important and so the game tomorrow, but we’re going to give him the appropriate amount of rest we think we need to give him to get him back as close as we can to balance.”

On a positive note, though, Martin’s defense has been leaps-and-bounds better than any catcher in recent Pirates history. To be fair, it’s not difficult to be better than the likes of Rod Barajas or Ryan Doumit behind the plate, but Martin has been one of the league’s best.

Among all players, Martin’s defensive Wins Above Replacement is seventh at 2.5 wins added. Martin has thrown out a league-best 36 would-be base-stealers in 2013, and complements that with a 41.9 percent rate of catching runners which ranks third.

Beyond that, Martin is the league’s best with his 100 assists from the catcher position and .998 fielding percentage.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find another catcher who’s done the amount of dirt-work as he’s done in the amount of games that he’s played,” Hurdle said.

Hurdle’s been hard-pressed himself to do so, and now has the Pirates working on constructing a new method of analysis in order to distinguish exactly how valuable Martin’s work has been behind the plate.

“I’ve got them working on it now, believe it or not we’re building another plan. We’re building another system-analysis plan on how many 90s a catcher can recover by blocking a ball, how many 90s are saved because he has just been so far out in front of anything else I’ve seen,” Hurdle said. “Posey is pretty good, that Molina guy is very good but living with this guy every day, watching the job he’s done on dirt balls. There’s been games with Liriano it’s been double-digits in the fifth inning.”

Of course, looks can be deceiving as the old saying goes, so Hurdle wants proof.

“I have no idea if it’s commensurate with other catchers, I’m just scratching the surface on what we’re doing. It’s just by what my eyes have told me throughout the season,” Hurdle said. “Sometimes, I might be off, I don’t think I’m that far off on this one. But I want some hard data to go with what my eyes have seen. We’ll play the game in the dugout, there’s one, there’s two, there’s three, there’s four.”

Marte Okay

Hurdle said before yesterday’s game that he didn’t know how Marte would be able to handle the pain he needs to play with in order to finish out the season. Based on his thoughts today, Marte is “good to go.”

“I think he was excited to be playing, there was nothing that happened that he couldn’t deal with or maneuver around, and I don’t think there were many challenges for him last night from a pain tolerance perspective,” Hurdle said.

Lineups

Pirates

  1. Starling Marte LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. John Buck C
  8. Clint Barmes SS
  9. Charlie Morton P

San Diego

  1. Will Venable RF
  2. Ronny Cedeno SS
  3. Jedd Gyorko 2B
  4. Chase Headley 3B
  5. Tommy Medica 1B
  6. Jesus Guzman LF
  7. Reymond Fuentes CF
  8. Rene Rivera C
  9. Tyson Ross P

 

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-a-man-with-a-plan-for-martin.html/feed 2
Pirates Notebook: Glasnow Reflects on 2013 http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/glasnow-reflects-on-2013.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/glasnow-reflects-on-2013.html#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 21:48:03 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66318 Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced right-handed starter Tyler Glasnow as the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year following his 9-3 season at Single-A West Virginia. Glasnow compiled a 2.18 ERA and struck out 164 batters in 111 and one-third innings.

Glasnow’s award was correctly predicted here on Pirates Prospects, and Tim Williams posted a full breakdown of Glasnow’s stellar 2013 season. 

Tyler Glasnow said he was 'ecstatic' when he got a phone call from Farm Director Larry Broadway. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Tyler Glasnow said he was ‘ecstatic’ when he got a phone call from Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

 

“I’m extremely honored, I got called by Larry Broadway and was just ecstatic. It was a really good moment,” Glasnow said. “Honestly if you asked me two years ago what I thought would happen, I wouldn’t think it’d be this. I’m just really excited with how things are turning out this year.”

Glasnow was drafted by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2011 entry draft out of Hart High School in Santa Clarita, Calif. Glasnow didn’t start pitching in the organization, as he wasn’t signed to a deal until August of 2011.

Glasnow threw 34 and one-third innings in rookie-level ball as a member of the GCL Pirates, then made one start in the New York-Penn League for the State College Spikes.

This year was his breakout year, and it came from Glasnow keeping his eyes focused not on results, but just making himself a better pitcher.

“The focus in the beginning of the year was not really think of results, not think of stats just kind of find something that I was working on and just go out there and really try to work on something,” Glasnow said. “So, just having a good year was a plus. I feel like I learned a lot this year, so that was my main goal.”

Part of Glasnow’s learning process this season came from a mechanical adjustment, and the addition of a changeup to his pitching repertoire.

“I was really working on downward-angle, and my changeup a lot this year. I didn’t have one last year,” Glasnow said. “So the main thing, even if it was uncomfortable to throw, I really had to throw my changeup to get the game rep and I think that really helped a lot this year. Forcing me to throw it, it really came along well.”

The addition of a quality changeup to Glasnow’s fastball that tops out at 96 to 97 miles per hour and a plus curve may very well have had a lot to deal with the fact that Glasnow struck out 36.3 percent of all the hitters he faced this season. Glasnow attributed his high strikeout totals not to a mindset focused on striking a lot of batters out, but just getting ahead in the count.

“I don’t think going out there like ‘ok, today I’m going to strike out a bunch of people,’” Glasnow said. “A lot of it was getting ahead, so a lot of them came out not getting ahead, but I feel like the games I got ahead well they kind of just came along.”

While Glasnow wanted to improve himself as an overall pitcher throughout 2013, his goal heading into spring training was to get sent to the West Virginia Power.

“I was really excited,” Glasnow said. “It feels like real baseball. Not like short season didn’t, but I really felt like a minor-league baseball player and it was really special.”

From here, Glasnow still has a few rungs to climb on the ladder to his appearance as a pitcher on the mound at PNC Park. MLB.com’s Prospect Watch has Glasnow ranked as the No. 96-overall prospect in baseball (one of six the Pirates’ organization has in the Top 100), and projects Glasnow to make his major-league debut in 2016

“Definitely first-pitch strikes, command, obviously. Really getting on top of the ball, keeping my form really consistent and not changing anything,” Glasnow said. “If the going gets tough, just really keeping one thing and just staying focused.”

 As of now, Glasnow is slated to do some instructional work in the fall and then will keep his off-season low-key.

“After instructs I’ll probably take a little bit of time off but I’ll probably do the same stuff I did last year,” Glasnow said. “I’m pretty boring in the offseason, I just sleep and work out I guess. And eat, that’s always fun.”

In the meantime Glasnow’s name will begin to make its appearance not only in lists of the game’s top prospects, but also make him a hot commodity if the Pirates are players in the trade deadline next season.

“Yeah I really don’t look into a lot of that, really,” Glasnow said. “I try to stay away from googling my name and stuff. I think I’ll be ok.”

What Glasnow does pay attention to, along with the rest of Pittsburgh’s minor-league affiliates, is the increasing success the Pirates have enjoyed from 2011 through now. The Pirates’ winning is something Glasnow said “definitely” motivates the younger players in the organization to reach the major leagues and contribute.

“Watching the team do good is always good motivation, just seeing it,” Glasnow said. “The Pirates are a really close-knit organization and you really, at every single level, feel a part of it all.”

As for Glasnow’s personal next level, one would expect him to rise out of the A-level ranks in 2014 and begin his career in Double-A Altoona.

“I hope so,” Glasnow said. “I hope so, but we’ll see what happens.”

Marte Returns

Starling Marte is back in the starting lineup for the Pirates today, batting leadoff and playing left field. Manager Clint Hurdle said pre-game the Pirates are a “more dynamic team” with him the lineup,  but acknowledged the concerns regarding Marte’s injury.

“There comes a point in time where the conversations just got to end and the young man needs to go out and play and figure things out as he goes along. There might be periods where there isn’t pain just a well. I don’t know if he’s going to have to wait to February to feel as good, the healing will definitely start once there’s no more over use of the hand. He’s worked extremely hard, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, so this is the next test. It’s the next test for him to go out and play, and see how he can perform, see what gets brought his way from a challenging part of whether there’s pain management or not, how much is it, when it happens how is he able to get through it and fight back.”

Hurdle added that “the hitting is the last question to get answered” as Marte has seen game action lately as a defensive replacement in left field and a pinch-runner late in games.

Lineups

Pirates

  1. Starling Marte LF
  2. Jordy Mercer SS
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Marlon Byrd RF
  5. Gaby Sanchez 1B
  6. Russell Martin C
  7. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  8. Josh Harrison 2B
  9. Jeff Locke P

Padres

  1. Chris Denorfia LF
  2. Will Venable CF
  3. Jedd Gyorko 2B
  4. Chase Headley 3B
  5. Tommy Medica 1B
  6. Kyle Blanks RF
  7. Ronny Cedeno SS
  8. Nick Hundley C
  9. Eric Stults P
]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/glasnow-reflects-on-2013.html/feed 1
Pirates Notebook: You Learn Something New Every Start http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-you-learn-something-new-every-start.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-you-learn-something-new-every-start.html#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 21:03:32 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66250 The lasting image of Gerrit Cole’s first major league start wasn’t when he drove in a run, but a pitch he threw to the first batter he faced. With two strikes and Gregor Blanco at bat, Cole reared back and delivered a fastball with the high heat Pirates fans had been waiting for ever since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2011.

Blanco swung right through it, and Cole owned his first career strikeout.

Gerrit Cole Pittsburgh Pirates

Gerrit Cole just gets better and better. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

It’s now been over three months since that debut, and Gerrit Cole is not the same pitcher we saw when he emerged from the minor leagues. And that’s a good thing.

“He’s grown, he pays attention and he competes,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s shown up, as we’ve all seen, big time down the stretch.”

The latest example of a “growing pain”, so to speak, came Saturday against the Chicago Cubs. Cole entered the frame protecting a 1-1 tie, but walked the lead-off man, Brian Bogusevic, and allowed a single to Welington Castillo.

Darwin Barney laid down a bunt to move men to second and third with a single out, and draw pitching coach Ray Searage out of the dugout.

Cole proceeded to strike out pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro and induce a groundout from Starlin Castro.

“It was a big opportunity to get those outs,” Cole said. “It’s a big-time shutdown inning.”

With the shutdown inning, the Pirates capitalized on the opportunity to pull ahead and did so on a solo home run by Marlon Byrd. The home run put Cole in line for a winning decision, which he earned to move over. 500 at 8-7.

“He’s learned in each of these major-league starts,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “It’s been fun to watch him mix-and-match with his stuff.”

His seven innings of one-run baseball followed possibly his best outing of the season, when he shut down the Texas Rangers in seven shutout innings last Monday. Lately, Cole’s biggest development has been his work with his off-speed stuff.

“The last two outings, his curveball against Texas, his curveball was his best pitch and it showed up again [Saturday] in some big situations,” Huntington said. “Again, intelligence, competitiveness, how hard he’s worked, our guys have helped him get better. He’s stepped up in so many situations for us.”

As Cole continues to step up, pitch, and develop, he continues to make the man who drafted him look even better and better.

“I think that the fun part is that he’s pitched. He’s a guy that’s capable of throwing 100, and he’s pitching,” Huntington said. “He’s moving his fastball around the zone, he’s using his curveball for chase and strikes, he’s not just raring back and letting it go, he’s pitching. He’s using all of his weapons, and he’s using his intelligence.”

Cole’s stepping up entails the Pirates may have a viable fourth option on their hands when the playoffs roll around. If Cole delivers another set of good outings this week against San Diego and next week against Chicago, he may be in contention to pass Charlie Morton as the team’s consensus third starter for the post-season.

But that’s a little far-sighted at the moment, as Cole’s development has hinged on a focus on what’s in front of him at a given moment in time.

“I try to go one pitch at all. Sometimes, I slow down too much. Sometimes, I don’t slow down enough. I still need to find that sweet spot, that fine line from assessing the last pitch then throwing the next one,” Cole said. “I do work fast and I think I’m at my best when I kind of breeze over the last pitch and keep moving.”

It’s about action, as opposed to reaction, not only for Cole but also his skipper.

“We drafted him No. 1. He’s showing the mettle, the skill level and the talent we thought he had when we drafted him,” Hurdle said. “You didn’t know where he was going to be able to take you but his actions are speaking loud and clear.”

  • Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Clint Barmes SS
  9. A.J. Burnett P

Padres

  1. Will Venable CF
  2. Alexi Amarista LF
  3. Jedd Gyorko 2B
  4. Chase Headley 3B
  5. Tommy Medica 1B
  6. Kyle Blanks RF
  7. Ronny Cedeno SS
  8. Rene Rivera C
  9. Andrew Cashner P

 

 

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-you-learn-something-new-every-start.html/feed 0
Pirates Notebook: Morton Not as Electric against Left-handed Batters http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-morton-not-as-electric-against-left-handed-batters.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-morton-not-as-electric-against-left-handed-batters.html#comments Sat, 14 Sep 2013 22:37:41 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66182 Charlie Morton’s return from Tommy John surgery in June has without a doubt been a shot in the arm of the Pirates’ rotation, a group that has seen every single one of its starters from Opening Day spend time off the mound due to injury.

Since he made his first start of the season June 13 against the San Francisco Giants, Morton has been one of the most consistent starters for the Pirates. In a recent six-game stretch, Morton went 4-0 and pitched at least six innings in each outing while racking up Game Scores of 60-plus in four of the six outings.

Charlie Morton

Left-handed batters have posted a .317/.436/.445 line against Morton this season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Overall, Morton is 7-4 for the Pirates with a 3.54 ERA and 3.72 FIP.

But last night’s start against the Chicago Cubs brought out one of Morton’s pervading flaws as Chicago manager Dale Sveum inserted six left-handers into his lineup against Morton. Sveum hoped to take advantage of the .333 batting average Morton allowed to left-handers entering the game, as well as an OPS of .878.

In a sense, Sveum’s strategy worked as left-hander Brian Bogusevic hit a two-run home run in the fourth that gave the Cubs a three-run lead. Nate Schierholtz worked a lead-off walk and scored on a fielder’s choice, and left-handed hitters accounted for all three runs scored off Morton Friday.

Clint Hurdle, though, isn’t particularly worried about the start.

“Four hits, five innings, six left-handed guys hitting two through seven. That’s not bad. A couple balls were elevated, it is what it is,” Hurdle said. “He gave up three runs in five innings on four hits.”

Moving forward, Hurdle sees the fix as one based around Morton working with his core pitches.

“The one thing we saw, when the numbers started going where they go, he tried adding pitches to get out lefties and the numbers just got crazy-bad,” Hurdle said. “So I think you need to identify what kind of pitcher you have, what kind of strengths, what he can do against a lineup that might be tilted heavily left-handed, and still compete.”

On Morton’s end, the results Friday weren’t just limited to the number of hits he allowed.

This season, about 62 percent of the balls put in play off Morton have gone for ground balls. But last night against the Cubs, Morton was able to get only about 31 percent of balls in play on the ground.

Those ratios were reflected in the 15 outs Morton got in his five innings last night, as just five came on the ground. Morton chalked that up to the approach left-handed hitters bring to the plate against him.

“If they have the right approach, there are going to be a lot of hits, a lot of hits up the middle, they’re going to get a lot of hits to opposite field off my sinker,” Morton said. “Staying back, staying short, and trying to go up the middle, and go the other way.”

One aspect left-handed hitters are able to take away from Morton is a part of what makes him so successful against righties: running his sinker down-and-in and right-handed hitters’ hands. But against left-handed hitters, if Morton makes a mistake, those hitters can sit back on the sinker and wait for it to flatten and become easier to put into play.

“You can get away with thing with righties, more often than not. But with lefties it’s different because there’s an area for left with the sinker where it’s just different for them,” Morton said. “It’s like it’s tailor-made for a lefty swing when it’s in certain spots.”

As a result, Morton believes the biggest fix is finding an approach to counter left-handers’ approach that he can take with him to the mound every time he pitches.

“It’s been that way the last three years, so finding a way and an approach that’s consistent, that’s the biggest thing,” Morton said. “Being aggressive, and at least showing that I can throw two or three pitches for strikes.”

  • Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Jordy Mercer SS
  9. Gerrit Cole P

Chicago

  1. Starlin Castro SS
  2. Luis Valbuena 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Nate Schierholtz RF
  5. Ryan Sweeney CF
  6. Brian Bogusevic LF
  7. Welington Castillo C
  8. Darwin Barney 2B
  9. Scott Baker P

 

 

 

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-morton-not-as-electric-against-left-handed-batters.html/feed 0
Pirates Notebook: Command and Confidence http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-command-and-confidence.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-command-and-confidence.html#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 22:39:18 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66141 The month of August was a challenging one for Jeff Locke, to say the least. He finished winless in the month, and with a 8.02 ERA.

In fact, the entire second half of 2013 had been the polar opposite for the Pirates’ lefty after he earned an All-Star nod in the season’s first half. Thursday, Locke looked like that pitcher once again when he pitched through seven innings for the first time in a long time, and allowed just one run on three hits and a walk while he struck out five Cubs.

Jeff Locke

Command, confidence, and communication were the key aspects identified by Locke and Hurdle in the success Locke enjoyed last night against Chicago.

“You take that video tape and you throw it back in the first half, it meshes right in,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was very good to see.”

It was good to see for not only Hurdle, but also Locke’s teammates whose faith in the 25-year-old never wavered despite a stretch of adversity that was about as challenging as possible. And it’s a start that gave Locke satisfaction in rewarding that faith.

“I’ve gotten a lot of pats on the back and guys telling me not to change a thing,” Locke said. “That’s why I’m so happy to go out and give these guys a game like I did in the first half because all these games are important from here on out and we need to win as many as we can.”

As Locke rewarded that continued trust, Hurdle saw the first-half version of Locke return over his seven innings. The version that landed Locke in the Big Apple as an All-Star in July.

“Compared to the games before, strike one, the number of hitters retired on three pitches or less, the fact that he walked one and struck out five, he got swing-and-miss stuff on a couple different pitches last night,” Hurdle said.  “His ability to get the ball glove-side is critical. He got strikes that set up his soft, that set up his breaking ball.”

Locke was able to execute the aforementioned with a focus he kept simple, just to get back where he was.

“All I wanted to do was get back to the pitching shape I was in before, so the team could look at me to go out and win a game for them,” Locke said. “The one thing that hasn’t gone away is my confidence and it’s because the guys in this clubhouse wouldn’t let it.”

When it came to keeping the faith in Locke, little to nothing ever changed in the mentalities of Hurdle, the Pirates, and Locke himself.

“Nothing’s really changed with me mentally. I still try to go out and be aggressive,” Locke said. “Tonight was an example of everything working out the way you’d like it to”

After a stretch that saw Locke encounter a whole lot of bad luck, Hurdle sees his young starter as better for it. As a player number one, but more importantly as a human being.

“There are sequences of adversity and challenges in this game that I think it does help of you’ve gone through them personally,” Hurdle said. “He was a kid that, when you talked to him, looked at him, and watched him work, there was times to bet on keep pushing him out there and we had the same conversation and it was time to back off and hit the pause button, and then re-plug him in.”

“I think he showed us, again, why it’s important to have communication,” Hurdle said. “Honest, transparent communication about challenging issues because you can find answers, and I believe we have with him.

To be fair, it was only one start against a team that is nowhere near .500 or playoff contention. But it’s an outing that could get Locke rolling as he makes two or three more starts before the playoffs begin.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Hurdle said. “But that in and of itself last night showed us that he has more gas in the tank.”

  • Charlie Morton

Morton (7-4, 3.44 ERA) starts tonight against the Cubs, and he will see a lineup featuring six left-handed hitters. Chicago manager Dale Sveum stacked his lineup with lefties to combat Morton’s sinker that comes low and inside against right-handed hitters, as well as to try to take advantage of left-handed batters’ .333/.440/.438 line against Morton this year. That’s in contrast with righties’ line of .249/.284/.327 against Morton.

Here’s Sveum’s thoughts on the matchup with the Bucs’ sinker baller.

“That’s why we have a lot of left-handers in the lineup, to stay away from that sinker down-and-in that he does to right-handers so well. It doesn’t matter what you do, when you have a sinker-baller on the mound no matter what you do, you’re trying to get the ball up and out over the plate so you don’t keep pounding the ball into the ground.”

  • Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  6. Russell Martin C
  7. Garrett Jones RF
  8. Clint Barmes SS
  9. Charlie Morton P

Cubs

  1. Starlin Castro SS
  2. Luis Valbuena 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Dioner Navarro C
  5. Nate Schierholtz RF
  6. Ryan Sweeney CF
  7. Brian Bogusevic LF
  8. Darwin Barney 2B
  9. Jake Arrieta P

 

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-command-and-confidence.html/feed 2
Pirates Notebook: Previewing the Cubs http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-previewing-the-cubs.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-previewing-the-cubs.html#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 22:41:01 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=66107 Tonight the Pirates return after a 10-game road trip to open up a 11-game homestand with four games against the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates are 7-5 against the Cubs this season, and will play three more games in Chicago before the season series is over. With three wins at home this weekend, the Pirates (84-61) would ensure themselves the advantage in the season slate between the two teams.

The Cubs enter PNC Park on a relative high note, after taking two-of-three in Cincinnati earlier this week. In addition, Chicago has split its past six games against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Jeff Locke Pittsburgh Pirates

Jeff Locke starts for the Pirates, and looks for his first win since July. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

“They showed how competitive they were in Cincinnati. There’s a lot of pride tied to this game when you’re at this level,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They’re gonna go out there and play and that’s why we continue to just talk about meeting the demands of the game – not so much about who you’re playing.”

But the Pirates come back to Pittsburgh riding even higher after a sweep of the Texas Rangers this week on the Rangers’ home field. The sweep kept the Pirates just one game back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central standings, despite suffering a sweep to the Cards at Busch Stadium last week.

For the Pirates tonight, Jeff Locke (9-5, 3.23 ERA) makes his first start at PNC Park since his recall from Double-A Altoona last week. Locke made a start on the road against St. Louis, but lasted just five innings in which the Cardinals rung his bell for three runs (two earned) on three hits and four walks en route to taking yet another loss. Locke has lost his last three decisions, and has not won a game since he held the Cincinnati Reds to one run in six innings on July 21.

“We need a good start from Locke,” Hurdle said. “We need to piece it together out of the bullpen if we have to go that route.”

Following the starts from Locke tonight, Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, and Francisco Liriano are slated to pitch the other three games against the Cubs.

Opposite Locke’s left arm, the Pirates face southpaw Chris Rusin (2-3, 3.89). Rusin makes his 11th start of the season tonight, and comes off a no decision against the Milwaukee Brewers last Wednesday. Rusin didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, and allowed two runs on seven hits and walked two while throwing 85 pitches.

Like Locke, Rusin hasn’t notched a victory in a lengthy span of time. Rusin’s last win came over a month ago against the St. Louis Cardinals when he pitched six scoreless innings.

Against a left-hander, the Pirates will have an opportunity to show off the versatility of their lineup once again after rosters expanded at the beginning of the month. Not to mention the acquisitions of Marlon Byrd, John Buck, and Justin Morneau.

The Pirates have hit left-handers at just a .266 clip this season, which is higher than their .247 mark against right-handers, but  hold a record of just 15-12 against left-handed starters.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, it’s what we gotta do on the field,” Hurdle said. “What were doing is I think we’re getting better, we’re getting more traction against left-handed pitching.”

Tonight, left-handed first baseman Morneau will get a start despite an OPS in the .600s against left-handed pitching. Hurdle believes the first baseman is gaining traction himself, following a 4-for-5 day that included two singles of left-handed reliever Joe Ortiz.

“He can hit a left-hander, he’s done it his entire career. He showed it yesterday,” Hurdle said. “Coming off that game I wanted to back him up with another game. We’re gonna have another challenging left-hander.”

The four-hit day also followed a stretch that saw Morneau pick up nearly as many hits (6) as he compiled in his first 27 at-bats as a Pirate. Hurdle believes Morneau is starting to settle in as a member of the Pirates as there is less pressure on him than in Minnesota or maybe what he believed there was entering the situation.

“We won a lot of game without Justin,” Hurdle said. “I think Justin’s getting to a better comfort level knowing he doesn’t have to come in here and carry us across the finish line.”

  • Lineups

Pirates

  1. Josh Harrison 2B
  2. Jordy Mercer SS
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Jose Tabata LF
  9. Jeff Locke P

Cubs

  1. Starlin Castro SS
  2. Darwin Barney 2B
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Donnie Murphy 3B
  5. Junior Lake LF
  6. Welington Castillo C
  7. Darnell McDonald RF
  8. Ryan Sweeney CF
  9. Scott Rusin P

 

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-notebook-previewing-the-cubs.html/feed 0