Cunningham Homers Twice; Power Hold On For The Win

Monday evening’s games in the Pirates’ lower minor leagues

Harrisburg Senators  6,  Altoona Curve  2
(box)

The Curve were able to put runners on base but not push them across the plate tonight.  Starter Bryan Morris worked around a double in the 1st and a pair of walks in the 3rd to keep the Senators scoreless in the first three innings.  He got into trouble in the 4th, with a lead-off triple, followed by a walk and an RBI double.  A single drove in 2 more runs for a 3-0 Harrisburg lead.  The Curve had left CF Starling Marte stranded on third base in the 1st, after his single, stolen base, and a throwing error.  2B Brock Holt also singled in the 3rd and was left on base.  SS Jordy Mercer answered the Senators’ 3-run inning with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 4th, but LF Quincy Latimore singled in that inning, and he was also left stranded.  

Tim Alderson took over for Morris to begin the 5th inning, and he pitched 2 scoreless frames.  He loaded the bases in the 6th with a single and two hit batters, but ended the inning with a ground out.  Mike Colla allowed a triple in his scoreless 7th.  Then Noah Krol came on for the 8th, and gave up 3 more runs on a single, an RBI double, an RBI triple, and a wild pitch.  

The Curve put two runners on base in the 7th, when 1B Miles Durham singled and 3B Jeremy Farrell walked, but both were left on base.  Marte singled again in the 8th, and again could not come around to score.  The final Curve run scored in the 9th, when Durham tripled, then scored on Latimore’s sacrifice fly.  

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Morris Shines For Curve; Marauders Blast Jupiter

Three wins for the Pirates’ lower minor league teams on Tuesday:

Altoona Curve  2,  Akron Aeros  0
(box score)

Starter Bryan Morris threw 6 shutout innings to lead the Curve over the Aeros in Akron.  Morris scattered 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 3 for his first win of the season.  The only real trouble he had was in the bottom of the 1st, when rehabbing Grady Sizemore began the inning with a walk.  After two grounder force outs, a single, Akron had runners on first and second.  A single lined into center field had the runner from second charging for home, but CF Starling Marte fired in to C Eric Fryer, who tagged out the runner at the plate.  Morris sailed through his remaining 5 innings, allowing just two more hits — singles in the 2nd and the 5th.  Brian Leach, Michael Dubee, and Noah Krol each pitched one scoreless inning of relief.  Leach and Dubee each allowed one walk, but Dubee struck out the other three batters he faced.  Krol earned his second Save of the season.  

Both of the Curve’s runs scored in the 3rd inning.  3B Jeremy Farrell began the rally by being hit by a pitch.  Fryer singled, and RF Jose Hernandez sacrifice bunted both runners into scoring position.  2B Brock Holt grounded to first, but a fielding error let him reach safely and gave Farrell the chance to score.  An RBI grounder by Marte brougth in Fryer with the second run.  Marte stole second base and moved to third on a wild pitch, but the inning ended before he could come around to score.  

Marte singled after Holt walked in the 5th inning, and both Farrell and Fryer singled in the 7th, but neither of those threats yielded any runs.  Farrell lined into right field in the 9th, and rounded second easily, but was thrown out when he tried to stretch it into a triple.  He would have scored if he’d stopped at second, because Fryer followed with his own double.  Fryer was 3-for-4 in the game, and Farrell went 2-for-3.  

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Two Hits Each For Latimore, Snyder, Rubinstein, And Power

All of the Pirates’ minor league affiliates lost their season openers on Thursday night:

Erie SeaWolves  3,  Altoona Curve 2

One run in the bottom of the 9th made the difference, as the Curve lost in Erie, PA.  The SeaWolves were first onto the scoreboard with a pair of runs in the 5th inning.  Curve starter Bryan Morris had already escaped from two jams in the early innings.  In the 2nd, RF Brad Chalk threw out a runner who was trying to stretch a double into a triple, then Chalk ended the inning when he threw to C Tony Sanchez to nail a runner who was trying to score from second base on a single.  Morris loaded the bases in the 4th with a single and two walks, but a timely double play, 3B Jeremy Farrell to 2B Brock Holt, to 1B Miles Durham, ended that inning without a run scoring.  Morris’ luck ran out in the 5th, though, when a walk and a 2-run homer gave Erie a 2-0 lead.  

The Curve missed a scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd, when Sanchez singled into left field, and LF Quincy Latimore lined a double just out of the reach of the Erie left fielder.  But with runners on second and third, Erie starter Jacob Turner struck out both Farrell and DH Eric Fryer to end the inning.  Turner allowed only two base runners for the next 4 innings — he walked Holt, and he hit Sanchez with a pitch.  (Sanchez has got to stop being a magnet for opposing pitchers’ pitches.)  After Turner left the game, the Curve were able to put men on base again.  Farrell singled and Fryer walked in the 7th, though they didn’t score.  The 8th inning began with back-to-back walks to Holt and CF Starling Marte.  SS Jordy Mercer bunted them over to second and third, then another walk to Sanchez loaded the bases.  Latimore came through again, with another double off the left field wall, missing a grand slam by inches, to plate both Holt and Marte and tie the game at 2-2.  

Reliever Anthony Claggett finished the 5th inning for Morris with a strikeout and a pickoff of one of the runners Morris had put on base.  Aaron Pribanic and Jared Hughes each pitched a perfect inning, with one strikeout for Pribanic and two for Hughes.  Michael Dubee struck out the side in the 8th inning to preserve the tie.  The Curve batters could not get anything going in the top of the 9th, though, and Dubee came back out to pitch the bottom of the 9th.  With one out, a single and a stolen base put a runner in scoring position, and a ground out moved him to third base.  Then a sinking line drive, just inches away from the diving Latimore’s glove, fell in for a hit, scoring the runner from third base for the walk-off win.  
Dubee was charged with the loss.  Morris got a no-decision, with 2 runs on 4 hits and 5 walks, plus 3 strikeouts, in 4.1 innings.  The Curve had just 4 hits, two of them doubles by Latimore.  

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2011 Prospect Watching: Owens, Morris, Locke, and More

Reaching the upper levels of the Pirates’ minor league pitchers….

Rudy Owens  —  L/L,  6′ 3″,  215 lb
The Pirates selected Owens in the 28th round of the 2006 draft.  After so-so seasons with the GCL Pirates and State College, Owens suddenly had the light bulb go on for him at West Virginia in 2009.  He made 19 starts for the Power, and earned a 10-1 record.  In 100.1 innings, he allowed 19 earned runs and 71 hits, with 15 walks (1.3 walks/ 9 innings) and 91 strikeouts (8.1 K/ 9 innings).  Owens was promoted to A+ Lynchburg, where he made 6 more starts, though they were short starts as the Pirates were concerned about his total innings for the season.  He allowed more hits and runs in his 23.1 innings there, but still walked only 2 and struck out 22.  He was named the Pirates’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2009.  Owens returned to Altoona for the 2010, and had another great season, again earning the award for Minor League Pitcher of the Year.  He began the season with a 3.57 ERA in April, allowing 9 earned runs and 22 hits in 22.2 innings, with a 2-0 record.  He dropped that ERA to 2.75 for May, with 11 earned runs on 23 hits in 36 innings, and a 3-2 record.  He gave up 5 runs and 4 runs in two games in one week, but also pitched 6 shutout innings in two other starts.  In June, Owens did even better, with 7 runs in 30 innings (2.10 ERA), but July was a tougher month, with another 5-run start, and a 3.49 ERA.  He stepped it back up in August, allowing just 3 runs on 20 hits in 33 innings (0.81 ERA).  That gave him a 2.46 ERA and 12-6 record for the season, with 150 innings, 41 earned runs, and 124 hits.  He also walked 23 (1.4 walks/ 9 innings) and struck out 132 (7.9 K/ ( innings.)  When the Curve got into the playoffs, Owens made one very un-Owens-like start in the first playoff series, but struggled, giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 4 hits and 3 walks in 1.2 innings.  He pitched better in his start in the second series, against Trenton, and allowed 2 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings.  Owens also was named to the Eastern League All-Star team, and pitched one inning in the All-Star Game, allowing 3 hits and 2 runs.  Owens has a fastball in the low 90’s, with good command, as well as a changeup and curve.  He should be ready for AAA to begin 2011, though the Pirates have indicated that they might hold him in AA for a little while, since they want more “major league ready” pitchers in Indianapolis.  The 23-year-old should still be pitching in Indy by later in the season, and has a chance at being called up to Pittsburgh by the end of the season.  

Jeff Locke  —  L/L,   6′ 2″,  180 lb
The Pirates obtained Locke from the Braves in the trade that sent Nate McLouth to Atlanta in 2009.  He’d had a shaky start to that season, and did only a little better after he came to A+ Lynchburg, where he earned a 4-4 record and 4.08 ERA in 17 starts.  His walk rate improved, but his strikeout rate dropped.  Locke began the 2010 season back in A+ at Bradenton, but started pulling it together.  In 17 starts for the Marauders, he earned a 9-3 record and a 3.54 ERA.  He began the season with a 2-1 record and a 2.89 ERA in April, with 6 runs and 14 hits in 18.2 innings, including one game in which he struck out 10 batters in 5 innings.  He went 5-2 in May and June, though his ERA rose to 3.81 for those two months, with an 8 strikeout game and two 7 strikeout games in June.  Overall, Locke struck out 83 batters in Bradenton (8.7 K/ 9 innings), while walking just 14 (1.5 walks/ 9 innings).  He was named to the Florida State League’s All-Star team, and pitched a perfect inning in the All-Star Game.  Locke was promoted to AA Altoona in mid-July, and made another 10 starts there.  Two of the starts were rough, allowing 6 runs in 5 innings and 7 runs in 5 innings, but the rest were solid, and he finished the regular season with a 3-2 record and a 3.59 ERA for the Curve, allowing 23 runs on 57 hits in 57.2 innings.  He walked 12 batters (1.9 walks/ 9 innings) and struck out another 56 batters (8.7 K/ 9 innings).
Locke also pitched for the Curve in their playoff run.  In the first round, he gave up one earned run on 4 hits in 4.2 innings, but got a no-decision.  He won his game in the championship round, with on run on 6 hits in 7 innings, and struck out 8 Trenton batters.  Locke was added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster last fall.  His control has improved as he continues to work on mechanics.  At 23 years of age, Locke should be ready for AAA in 2011, but like Owens, may be held back in Altoona for awhile, depending on what goes on with the Pirates’ “major league ready” pitchers.  He also has a chance of being promoted as far as Pittsburgh by the end of the season.

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Two More Rounds Of Reassignments, Plus Game Notes

Catching up after being away for a few days…

On Saturday, the Pirates sent four pitchers to minor league camp:
RHP Bryan Morris and RHP Kyle McPherson, both on the 40-man roster, were optioned down, with Morris going to AAA Indianapolis and McPherson going to A+ Bradenton.   
Two lefties, Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson, were also sent to the minor league camp, and though their exact level is still not official, both should begin the season with the Indy Indians.  

More moves were made today:
From the 40-man roster–
LHP Jeff Locke, LHP Aaron Thompson, and RHP Ramon Aguero were optioned to AA Altoona 
LHP Daniel Moskos and LHP Tony Watson were optioned to Indianapolis
Outfielders Gorkys Hernandez and Alex Presley were optioned to Indianapolis
Moskos and Presley both spent part of 2010 with Indianapolis, while Watson and Hernandez will make their debut at the AAA level.  Locke, Aguero, and Thompson all spent part of 2010 with Altoona.

Not on the 40-man yet –
Infielders Chase d’Arnaud and Brian Friday and outfielder Andrew Lambo were reassigned to minor league camp.  Friday played in Indianapolis for most of 2010 and should return there.  D’Arnaud and Lambo were in Altoona for 2010;  Lambo is ready for AAA, though d’Arnaud may be asked to go back to Altoona for part of 2011.  

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