As you no doubt know, the Pirates beat up on a hapless junior college squad in their spring opener by a score of several million to one, roughly. For some reason, the annual game against the junior college Manatees is usually something less than a laugher. The Pirates even lost a few years ago, courtesy of Virgil Vasquez. This time, however, the junior college kids struggled to throw strikes and make routine defensive plays.
Not much can come out of a game like this, but Corey Wimberly showed he knows where his path to the big leagues lies. He took pitches, tried to bunt his way on, and ran whenever he could. He opened the game at second and then moved to center. With Matt Diaz, who’s strictly a corner guy, likely to be the only full-time outfielder coming off the bench, Wimberley’s ability to play center would give the Pirates somebody other than starting leftfielder Jose Tabata to spell Andrew McCutchen.
The game also made it clear that one of the major competitions this spring will be for what may be only one bench spot as a right-handed-hitting corner utility player. Steve Pearce, Garrett Atkins, Andy Marte and Josh Fields all appeared, with Fields playing three positions, and Pearce and Atkins each whacking two extra base hits.
Most of the pitchers looked sharp enough, throwing strikes and locating their pitches well, to the extent you can tell against overmatched competition. Aaron Thompson and Jeff Locke sat at about 91 mph, Justin Wilson a bit higher. Mike Crotta and Kyle McPherson both got up at least to 94. Tyler Yates appeared to have his velocity back, but his control was off in his first game competition following the long Tommy John layoff. Rudy Owens wasn’t as sharp as usual, throwing 88-91, missing with his first three pitches, and later walking one.
Things may be a little different against David Price and the Rays tomorrow.
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.