Curve’s Ninth Inning Rally Falls Short

The Curve played an early game on Wednesday…

Akron Aeros  3,  Altoona Curve  2
(box score)

Down 3-1 going into the top of the 9th, the Curve rallied, beginning with 3B Jeremy Farrell reaching base on a fielding error by the Akron shortstop.  A passed ball put Farrell on second base.  Strikeouts by LF Shelby Ford and RF Brad Chalk made the Curve’s situation even more desperate.  2B Brock Holt hit his third single of the day, and CF Starling Marte also singled, loading the bases with two outs.  But the Curve’s hopes ended when SS Jordy Mercer also struck out.  

Jeff Locke made the start for the Curve, and he was charged with the loss.  Locke worked his way out of a jam with runners on the corners in the 1st inning, and worked around a lead-off single in the 2nd.  Another single led off the 3rd inning, and back-to-back doubles, one zipping just out of reach of Farrell’s backhand dive, drove in 2 runs.  After a single, a walk, and two strikeouts in the 5th, Locke was relieved by Anthony Claggett.  Claggett finished up the 5th with a ground out, leaving two runners on base.  He also pitched the 6th and 7th innings, and surrendered a solo home run to lead off the 6th.  Tom Boleska pitched the 8th inning, and kept the Aeros from scoring again, despite a single and a walk.

The Curve scored their first run in the 4th.  1B Miles Durham and C Kris Watts worked back-to-back walks, and when Farrell lifted a soft single into right field, Durham scored from second base.  Farrell and Holt each walked once, and Farrell also singled in the 6th inning.  Holt singled to open the game, then again in the 5th.  

The Curve will have their home opener tomorrow.

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Snyder And Rubenstein Blast Away For Marauders

A win, a loss, and a rainout in the rest of the Pirates’ minor league organization on Friday evening.  The rainout was in West Virginia, where the Power were getting soggy.  They will play a double header on Saturday.

The win:  
Bradenton Marauders  13,  Charlotte Stone Crabs  0

And a shutout win, at that.   The Marauders blasted 13 runs on 13 hits, while the pitching staff held Charlotte scoreless on 6 hits.  The scoring began in the bottom of the 1st, when CF Evan Chambers walked and rehabbing major league catcher Chris Snyder homered over the left field wall.  LF David Rubinstein got the fun started in the 2nd inning with a line drive single into right field.  A single by 1B Cole White and a walk to SS Benji Gonzalez loaded the bases, then another walk to RF Robbie Grossman forced in Rubinstein.  2B Jarek Cunningham drove in White and Gonzalez with a double, and Grossman scored on Chambers’ sacrifice fly.  Snyder added a single, to drive in Cunningham with the 5th run of the inning.  Walks to DH Calvin Anderson and Rubinstein loaded the bases again, but a ground out ended the rally.  
 
Rubinstein also began the Marauders’ rally in the 5th.  Three consecutive singles, by Rubinstein, White, and 3B Elevys Gonzalez, loaded the bases without an out.  Benji Gonzalez’s ground out brought in Rubinstein, and a single by Grossman plated both White and Elevys Gonzalez.  A walk to Cunningham and a single by Chambers loaded the bases again.   That set up Snyder, who cleared the bases with a double into deep center field, and gave the Marauders 6 runs in that inning, for a 13-run lead.  Rubinstein’s third single plus walks to both Gonzalez-es loaded the bases again in the 8th, but a strikeout ended that inning with all three still on base.  

The Marauders’ pitching staff was having as much fun as the hitters.  Joe Beimel, also on a rehab assignment, pitched the first inning, and retired the side in order on three ground outs.  After Beimel’s inning, Matt McSwain came on to pitch.  He allowed only one single in his first 3 innings, and retired that runner with a double play.  He allowed two singles to lead off the 5th inning, but another double play got him out of that small jam. McSwain finished his outing with 5 scoreless innings, three hits, no walks, and no strikeouts, earning the win.  Jeff Inman pitched 2 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits, and Gabriel Alvarado also allowed a hit and a walk in the final inning.  

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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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Six-Run Inning Stops Pirates, But Indians Get A Win

Orioles  13,  Pirates  3
Indianapolis area native C Jake Fox beat up on the Pirates’ pitching this afternoon in Bradenton, with two booming home runs and 4 RBI.  The first homer capped a 6-run 3rd inning, when Pirates’ starter Ross Ohlendorf gave up four singles and a double before the homer.  Fox struck again in the 7th — Scott Olsen gave up a double to DH Matt Wieters, followed by Fox’s second homer.  Olsen surrendered a single and a walk after the homer, and he was relieved by Mike Dubee.  Dubee struck out the first batter he faced, then gave up an RBI single, before ending the inning with a fly out.  The Orioles added 3 runs in the 8th off Joe Beimel.  A double, a walk, and a single loaded the bases, then a single and two ground outs drove in the runs.  Former Indy Indian C Michel Hernandez singled for the Orioles in the top of the 9th, and scored on an RBI triple off reliever Sean Gallagher.  Daniel McCutchen pitched 2 scoreless innings for the Pirates, allowing 3 hits.  

While the Orioles were busy posting 20 hits, the Pirates managed 8.  Two of those were by 3B Pedro Alvarez, who also had the Pirates’ only extra base hit, a double in the 7th, which was ruled a ground-rule double.  That made a difference, because 2B Neil Walker had opened the inning with a walk.  He raced around and crossed the plate on Alvarez’s double, but then was called back to third base when the umpires ruled it a ground-rule.  Walker was left standing on third base, when a strikeout and a ground out ended the inning.  

The Pirates did score one run in the 2nd inning.  1B Lyle Overbay began the rally with a single lined into right field.  RF Matt Diaz grounded to short, forcing Overbay out at second, but Orioles’ shortstop (and another former Indy Indian) JJ Hardy made a throwing error on his relay to first, allowing Diaz to reach second base.  Diaz advanced to second on a fly out, and scored on C Jason Jaramillo’s RBI single.  LF Jose Tabata led off the 5th inning with a walk, and moved to second base on Walker’s ground out.  CF Andrew McCutchen plated Tabata with a single up the middle.  Overbay reached base on a catcher’s interference call, then Diaz brought in McCutchen with a line drive single into right field.  

Also getting into the game:  LF John Bowker, 3B Andy Marte, Corey Wimberly in center field, RF Miles Durham, RF Steve Pearce, 2B Josh Harrison, pinch-hitter Pedro Ciriaco, 1B Garrett Atkins, C Dusty Brown, and SS Josh Rodriguez.  Durham entered the game to play right field in the top of the 8th.  In the top of the 9th, he crashed into the wall trying to catch the ball that turned out to be a triple.  Durham was down for a few moments, but was able to get up and walk off the field under his own power.  Pearce took over for Durham in right field, then singled in the bottom of the inning.  Josh Rodriguez also singled in the 8th inning, and Josh Harrison worked a walk in the 9th.  

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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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