PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The lineup that Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle sent out against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park could look similar to what you might see come Opening Day at PNC Park on April 5. Alex Presley, Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen filled out the top speedy three of the order. Follow that with second baseman Neil Walker batting cleanup, Garrett Jones playing first base, Rod Barajas behind home plate, Pedro Alvarez at the hot corner and Clint Barmes at shortstop, and you’ve got a solid lineup.
The Pirates starting pitcher today, right-hander Kevin Correia believes so too.
“Obviously there’s a long way to go and guys have got to stay healthy,” Correia said. “There’s always usually a surprise or two at the end of spring. I’m happy with the team we’re putting out there right now. Everyone looks like they’re getting comfortable and more experienced. If that’s what we put out there, I’d definitely have confidence in that team.”
Correia, 31, pitched well enough to be under consideration for the Opening Day start as well. The righty got the nod for the Bucs last season at Wrigley Field, but Correia said after the game he isn’t focused on working towards that.
“That’s not really something I work toward in the spring,” Correia said. “I’m just trying to get ready for the season. I got to do it last year, and it was a great thing to do. I was really happy to be able to have that opportunity. This year, I’m just kind of concentrating on getting ready for the season.”
“We don’t really have a clear cut ace I don’t think, just stuff-wise. Everybody on this team pitches like the ace at some point throughout the year. I think that’s what happened last year. I think we need to do that again this year if we want to have some success this season.”
Right-hander Kevin Correia tossed three scoreless frames with a strikeout in his second start of the Grapefruit League this spring.
“Everything felt pretty good,” he said. “I got some longer counts with some guys, and managed to get them out. All and all, I was pretty happy with it.”
After tossing two perfect innings, Corriea gave up a base knock up the right side to start the 3rd inning. Correia got Brandon Guyer to ground into a double play, but then gave up a bunt single to Will Rhymes. His next batter drew a walk but Correia got lefty Carlos Pena to ground out to end his outing.
“Everything I was throwing today was pretty much where I needed it,” Correia said. “I missed a few pitches towards the end. I think I got a little tired, and I was missing up a little bit. That’s part of the process of building up your arm strength throughout the spring. I think I was throwing all the pitches that I have. There wasn’t really one that I was disappointed in.”
After the Rays’ starter righty Jeff Niemann tossed three perfect frames, the Pirates were able to get some hits off Tampa Bays’s bullpen. Alex Presley lead off the 4th with a single up the middle. With one out, Andrew McCutchen hit an infield single just fair of the third base line. Evan Longoria’s throw to first was wide of the bag, scoring Presley.
In the bottom of the frame, lefty Justin Wilson started off his outing with a four pitch walk to Evan Longoria. With one out, Jose Molina hit a bloop single into shallow center field to put runners on the corners. Reid Brignac dropped down a bunt that slowly rolled fair for a RBI single to tie the game at 1.
The lead, however, didn’t last long, and the Pirates and Rays saw yo-yo action. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez took the first pitch from right-hander Joel Peralta for a solo-homer into the Bucs bullpen in left field to retake a 2-1 lead in the 5th.
“Just trying to let the ball get deep, let it get to me and put a good swing on it,” Alvarez said of his approach. “Not try to do too much. Stay short with my swing.”
“I’ve always been aggressive. It’s just a matter of making sure that when I’m aggressive, it’s a pitch I can hit, a pitch I can drive. It has to be a pitch I want, not necessarily a strike, but a pitch I can do some damage with.”
“Pedro put another real good swing on a ball,” Hurdle said. “I like the fact from the first at-bat he was ready to hit. He fired a first pitch strike.”
In Wilson’s second inning of relief, Sam Fuld reached first base on a bunt single with one out in the 5th. Fuld got a huge jump and swiped second and advanced to third on the error throw by Rod Barajas. Pena drew a walk to bring up Longoria at the plate, who took the first pitch for a sac fly to center to tie the game at 2.
“We’re evaluating every time we get between the white lines,” Hurdle said. “As you look at Justin, you see the things you want to see. Consistency is going to be the next step for him. You saw some quick punch outs, some dynamite sliders, alive fastballs, then you saw some walks. Some balls just getting away from him. He’s got to just continue to work. What makes you a big leaguer and keeps you in the big leagues is consistency and dependability.”
With a 2-2 tie in the top of the 9th, pinch-hitter Jake Fox crushed a solo-homer to left field, bouncing on the boardwalk just past the Pirates dugout to give the Pirates the lead.
In the bottom of the 9th, non-roster invitee Doug Slaten came in to close the game out but gave up three consecutive hits for the Rays’ walk off win, 4-3.
“You always look for positive things that happen during every spring training game, every “B” game regardless of the outcome,” Hurdle said. “It’s not all about the outcome. I think at this point in time towards the back of spring training, we’re a little more focused on getting the right people in the situations in that you feel they are going to perform in during the season. Right now, it’s still the evaluation process.”
Wilson, along with relievers Bryan Morris, Jared Hughes and Daniel Moskos will be battling for a spot in the Buccos bullpen this spring. Morris, Hughes and Moskos all combined to throw scoreless innings of relief.
“I’d love two have two [lefties in the ‘pen],” Hurdle said. “But we’re going to take the seven best guys that we think will set out or ‘pen.”
“I like the way that Bryan Morris was able to come in and handle that situation,” Hurdle said. “Hughes I think was able to get himself reset a little bit from the outing in Clearwater. His outing was very effective as well. Justin continues to show a sequence of really good stuff. The command is still challenging right now. But a lot of positives to take away from today.”
- Relief: Justin Wilson: 2IP, 3H, 2R, 1ER, 2BB, 2K; Bryan Morris: IP, 2H, K; Daniel Moskos: IP, H, BB, 2K; Jared Hughes: IP, 2K; Doug Slaten: 0.0 IP, 3H, 2R
- Alex Presley went 1-for-3 with a run scored and has now hit safely in five of his first six games; Andrew McCutchen went 1-for-3 and now has six hits in his last 12 at-bats; Neil Walker returned to the lineup and went hitless in three at bats while playing six innings at second base.
Monday Game Info:
- The Pirates host the Phillies in at 1:05 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. Right-hander Charlie Morton is scheduled to start for the Pirates against Philadelphia’s Vance Worley. Brad Lincoln, Kyle McPherson, Juan Cruz and Ryota Igarashi will follow Morton in relief.
Monday will be Morton’s first spring training start. “We talked about kicking the training wheels off him and get him out against a team with another uniform on. Charlie’s looking forward to it as well,” Hurdle said.
- The Pirates are also scheduled to play the Netherlands in St. Petersburg on Monday at 1:05 as part
of the International Baseball Tournament at Al Lang Field. Right-hander Jeff Karstens will start followed by Daniel McCutchen, Rudy Owens and Jeff Locke.