Morton Looks Good, As Does Owens

Pirates  3,  Astros  1
Starter Charlie Morton continued to show the Pirates’ management that he belongs in the starting rotation with a 6-inning shutout performance today in Kissimmee, Florida.  Morton scattered 4 hits over his 6 innings and did not walk a batter.  He struck out 5 Astros.  C Humberto Quintero had two of those hits — a single in the 3rd, when he reached as far as third base before being stranded, and a two-out single in the 5th.  Astros’ starter Jordan Lyles followed that second single with a line drive into left field, and Quintero raced around the bases.  Pirates’ LF Josh Fields got the ball back into the infield quickly, and Quintero was caught in a run-down and tagged out by C Ryan Doumit.  Evan Meek and Chris Leroux each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.  Neither gave up a hit, but both worked around base runners who got on due to fielding errors.   SS Benji Gonzalez had a tough afternoon, with a fielding error in the 7th, back-to-back fielding errors in the 8th, then another fielding error in the 9th that lead to an unearned run.  With Mike Crotta on the mound in the 9th, the error, a single, and a walk loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly drove in the Astros’ only run.  Crotta has not allowed an earned run in his previous 6 appearances (8.1 innings).  

SS Ronny Cedeno provided the Pirates with their first 2 runs, on a 2nd-inning home run that followed Josh Fields’ double.  Ryan Doumit picked up the RBI in the 3rd inning with a triple into left field, driving in 1B Andy Marte, who had singled.  Steve Pearce, who started at third base today, singled twice in the game.  CF Pedro Ciriaco, 2B Corey Wimberly, RF Cole White, 1B Garrett Atkins, and pinch-hitter Josh Rodriguez also got into the game.  

More roster moves are expected on Monday, as the Pirates head into the final full week of spring training.

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Busy Day For Pirates; Indians Win 8-3

The Pirates had a busy Spring Training day today:
LHP (starter) Garrett Olson was claimed off waivers from Seattle.  Olson is a 27-year-old California native who was the Orioles’ 1st round pick in the 2005 draft.  He made his major league debut in July 2007, and split both the 2007 and 2008 season between Balitmore and AAA Norfolk.  His combined stats for Baltimore:  10-13 record in 31 starts, 165 innings, 6.87 ERA, 111 K, 90 BB.  And combined stats for Norfolk: 10-9 record in 29 starts, 164.1 innings, 3.12 ERA, 159 K, 55 BB.  One big problem, though, is that he surrendered 35 homer runs over those two years.  At the beginning of 2009, Olson was traded to the Cubs, and 10 days later was traded to the Mariners (with Ronny Cedeno) to the Mariners.  He split both the 2009 and 2010 seasons between Seattle and AAA Tacoma.  In 2009, he started 9 games for Tacoma, earning a 2-3 record and a 4.94 ERA, but in Seattle, he was also used in relief.  He made 11 starts and 20 relief appearances for a total of 80.1 innings  – and gave up 19 home runs.  Olson made 6 starts and 6 relief appearances for Tacoma in 2010, then made 35 relief appearances in Seattle.  His record in Seattle was 0-3 with 1 save, and a 4.54 ERA.  In 37.2 innings, he allowed 6 homers, 15 BB, with 21 K.  Throughout all these seasons, Olson allowed about as many or more hits as innings pitched:  79 hits in 80.1 innings in Seattle in 2009, and 42 hits in 37.2 innings in 2010.  His overall major league total is 10.53 hits/9 innings.  The Pirates plan to have Olson compete for a spot as a lefty out of the bullpen.  Scott Olsen (oh, we’re going to have fun confusing those two) and Joe Beimel are also in consideration but have lost time time this spring due to injury.  Brian Burres and Justin Thomas are also in the mix.  In order to make a spot for Olson on the 40-man roster, the Pirates placed Kevin Hart on the 60-day DL.  Olson is out of options, which is why the Mariners had to put him on waivers.  If he does not make the Pirates’ active roster out of camp, then he will have to go on waivers again.  The hits and the homers are concerning, and the Pirates will have to see how Olson does in some spring appearances in the next two weeks.

Phillies  3,  Pirates 2
The Phillies rallied in the bottom of the 9th for a come-from-behind win over the Pirates in Clearwater, FL this afternoon.  With Chris Leroux on the mound, the first two batters of the frame both singles.  Former Pirate/Indian Erik Kratz bounced a pinch-hit grounder to third, but instead of going for the double play, 3B Jeremy Farrell went for the tag of the runner going from second to third.  The runner avoided the tag but was called out anyway because he went out of the basepath.  That left runners on first and second with one out.  The next batter slapped a grounder to second, and though 2B Josh Harrison made a great stab to keep the ball from going into right field, he was only able to make the out at first.  With two runners in scoring position, Leroux gave up a single up the middle, and both runners (including Kratz) scored, for the walk-off win.  

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Wins For Ascanio And Ledezma, Loss For Nieve

Looking in on Pirates’ players and friend in Monday’s winter league action:

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Leones del Caracas  6,  Cardenales de Lara  5  –  
Two runs in the bottom of the 9th gave Los Leones and Jose Ascanio the win.  Los Cardenales were leading 5-4 in the top of the 8th, when Ascanio came in from the bullpen with one out and a runner on first base.  Ascanio’s catcher picked the runner off first base, recorded as a caught stealing, then Ascanio got a ground out to end the inning.  He gave up a single in the top of the 9th, but kept Los Cardenales from scoring.  Then in the bottom of the 9th, with Ray Sadler coming in to play center field for Lara, Los Leones eked out a single and a walk.  A passed ball on ball four put runners on the corners for Los Leones.  A single into center field drove n the run from third, for the walk-off win.  Ascanio was the pitcher of record, so was credited with his first Venezuelan League win.  

Bravos de Margarita  4,  Caribes de Anzoategui  0  –  LF Jose Tabata went 0-for-3 with a walk for Los Caribes, who recorded 8 hits, but could not push any of their base runners across the plate.  They left a total of 11 runners on base and were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.  Los Bravos scored 3 runs in the 5th, on a double, two singles, a walk, and a fielding error.  A solo homer added a fourth run in the 6th.  Jhonathan Ramos came on to pitch for Margarita in the 7th, with two outs.  He loaded the bases with a single and two walks, then was relieved, but due to Los Caribes’ lack of luck, another reliever got Tabata to fly out to end the inning, leaving three runners on base.

Aguilas de Zulia  6,  Navegantes del Magallanes  3  –  Fernando Nieve struggled through 2.2 innings and was eventually charged with the loss for Magallanes.  He gave up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, then gave up two runs in the 2nd on two singles and a double.  Three singles and a double steal brought in two more runs for Zulia in the 3rd, and that was all for Nieve — 5 runs on 8 hits, no walks, with 4 strikeouts.  Two more singles added another run for Los Aguilas in the top of the 7th.  Los Navegantes started their scoring in the bottom of the 7th.  Former Pirate farmhand JR House, who made the jump over from the Dominican League, came into the game as a pinch-runner after a 2-out single.  A walk and an RBI single allowed House to score Magallanes’ first run.  House remained in the game to play first base, and he flied out in the 9th.  A walk, a double, and a fielding error gave Los Navegantes 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  

Tigres de Aragua  7,  Tiburones de La Guaira  3  –  Wil Ledezma also earned his first Venezuelan League win with 1.2 hitless and scoreless innings of work.  Los Tigres started scoring in the bottom of the 1st, when SS Ronny Cedeno reached base on a fielding error, then scored on a double.  C Raul Chavez blasted a 2-run homer in the 2nd, to give Aragua a 3-0 lead.  Los Tiburones scored 2 runs in the top of the 3rd on three singles and two walks, then tied the score in the top of the 4th on a double, a bunt, and an RBI ground out.  Ledezma came in from the bullpen in the 4th, and ended the 4th, then retired the side in order in the 5th.  He was still the pitcher of record when Los Tigres scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 5th.  Chavez walked, and moved to second base on CF Jorge Cortes’ sacrifice bunt.  Cedeno singled, putting runners on the corners, then a sacrifice fly plated Chavez.  A 2-run homer by DH Wilson Ramos brought in Cedeno.  1B Hector Gimenez also doubled after the homer.  Three walks, including one by Gimenez, and a wild pitch gave Los Tigres an insurance run in the 8th.  

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Dominican Playoffs Begin

Back in action…. cheering for some Pirates’ players and friends in Sunday’s winter league action:

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes del Cibao  11,  Toros del Este  7  –  
The Dominican League’s round robin playoff series began this evening, and Los Gigantes took their first game with a 6-run 8th inning.   Los Toros scored 4 runs in the 1st and 3 runs in the 6th, but it wasn’t enough.  SS Pedro Ciriaco went 0-for-4 for Los Toros, and he also reached base on a fielding error in the 6th, which allowed a run to score.  Former Pirate Juan Perez pitched to one batter for Los Gigantes, finishing the 6th inning after Los Toros’ runs had scored.

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Senadores de San Juan  3,  Gigantes de Carolina  1  –  
2B Benji Gonzalez and CF Luis Matos were both hitless for Los Gigantes, who scored their only run in the 8th inning, on a single and a double.  Former Pirate farmhand Eric Krebs came on to pitch the bottom of the 5th for Los Gigantes, which he began with a ground out.  But a walk, a single, and Krebs’ own throwing error on a pick-off attempt brought in one run for San Juan.  A wild pitch and another fielding error added a second run, and Krebs was relieved.  Los Senadores scored again in the 6th on a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI single.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Venados de Mazatlan  9,  Caneros de los Mochis  6  –  
Los Venados scored 5 runs in the first two innings,a nd did not give up their lead, as they posted a total of 15 hits.  Rogelios Noris entered the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the 6th, to play right field.  He had one plate appearance, in which he struck out.  Then in the bottom of the 9th, Noris moved to the infield to play second base — something he hasn’t done for at least 2 season, if he played there at all in the VSL.  He’s not a natural there — he made a throwing error which extended the game, though no runs scored because of it.

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A Save For Ascanio, Big Hits for Cedeno and Gimenez

The Dominican League has finished regular season play.  The four top teams — Estrellas de Oriente, Leones del Escogido, Toros del Este, and Gigantes del Cibao — will begin a round robin playoff tournament on Sunday.  Los Estrellas, Los Leones, and Los Toros all finished the regular season with identical 27-22 records, in a 3-way tie for first place.  In the Dominican League, the four top teams are allowed to “draft” players from the other two teams to help them out during the playoffs.  Los Estrellas drafted C Ronny Paulino from Los Tigres del Licey.  Los Leones drafted Indy area native 1B/OF Jake Fox from Los Tigres.  Los Gigantes drafted OF Kevin Melillo from Los Aguilas Cibaenas.  

The Venezuelan and Puerto Rican Leagues have both Friday and Saturday off, and resume play on Sunday.  The Mexican Pacific League has Friday off, but has a full slate of games scheduled for Christmas evening.

And, a few other minor league contracts signed by former Pirate farmhands:  C Michel Hernandez re-signed with the Orioles, INF Ray Chang signed with the Twins, and P Derek Hankins signed with the Rangers.

OK, on to Thursday night’s action for the Pirates’ players and friends:

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes del Carolina  5,  Indios de Mayaguez  4  –  
Los Gigantes scored 2 runs in the 1st and 4th innings, and a single run in the 3rd, then held off late-inning pushes by Los Indios to get the win.  2B Benji Gonzalez signled in the 2nd inning, but was picked off first base.  

Criollos de Caguas  6,  Senadores de San Juan  3  –  Two walks, a single, a sacrifice fly, and a 2-run triple gave San Juan a 3-run lead in the bottom of the 1st inning, but that was all the scoring they would do.  Los Criollos started their come-back in the 3rd inning, with a walk, a single, and a 2-RBI double by 3B Ramon Vazquez.  A hit batter and a double plated a single run in the 4th, then two errors and an RBI single by Vazquez brought in another run in the 5th.  A 2-run homer added their final runs in the 8th.

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