PITTSBURGH, PA. — After striking out two batters over a perfect inning of relief against the Baltimore Orioles at McKechnie Field on Saturday, Chris Leroux said after the game that he is dropping the change-up.
Leroux was told to lose the change, and will look to going back to being a power pitcher.
Over nine appearances during spring training this season, Leroux has allowed nine runs on nine hits over 9.1 innings. He’s walked five and struck out 14. Five of those outings were scoreless, and seven of his nine earned runs came from two rough outings where he walked three and gave up two long balls.
The right-hander is battling with several arms in the ‘pen in Jared Hughes, Brad Lincoln, Daniel McCutchen, Daniel Moskos to break camp with the club. If Leroux doesn’t make the team out of spring training, the team could face another team claiming him because he is out of options. Leroux was solid for the Pirates last season, posting a 2.88 ERA over 23 appearances in Pittsburgh.
McKenry Makes First Opening Day Roster
Catcher Michael McKenry will make the Pirates Opening Day roster for the first time in his professional career.
The 27-year-old appeared in 58 games with Pittsburgh last season where he hit for a .222 clip with 17 runs, 12 doubles, two home runs, and 11 RBI.
“It’s a little kid dream,” McKenry said. “It’s something I’ve always talked about as a little kid. It’s something that I feel fortunate and blessed to be a part of. This team is very special.”
McKenry was acquired from the Boston Red Sox’s Triple-A Pawtucket in June of last season after the club took multiple hits with their starting catchers getting injured.
This spring training has been a different experience for McKenry. He went into camp prior to the 2011 season with the Colorado Rockies, and was traded to Boston before camp ended. This year, McKenry entered spring familiar with the club he caught 58 games for. He will be the backup catcher to Rod Barajas.
“Its been nice because there hasn’t been any panic or any urgency,” McKenry said how this spring training was different from the year prior. “Just getting an opportunity. [Pirates Manager Clint] Hurdle has done a good job. We made some adjustments with my swing. We made some adjustments with my catching. It’s been an opportunity to work on them instead of panicking all the time. Just worrying about having quality at-bats, and not worrying about the result right now is nice. It’s been a good spring. This clubhouse overall is full of high character, high moral guys, so its been special just to be a part of it. I feel like part of a family here.”
So far this spring, McKenry is batting .226 (7-for-31) with one home run and three RBI over 15 games.
Cruz Exits Early
Right-hander Juan Cruz was hit by a comebacker in his right forearm during his outing against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers on Saturday. Cruz was removed from the game as a precaution. The Pirates will update his status on Sunday.
Burnett to Take Another Step Forward
Right-hander A.J. Burnett continues to take steps forward after undergoing right eye surgery in February. He is scheduled to pitch three innings on Sunday in a minor league spring training game.
Burnett last pitched a two inning, 48 pitch simulated game at Pirate City without issue on Tuesday.
“I talked to [Pitching Coach] Ray [Searage],” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said on Tuesday. “Ray said it was very good, very efficient. The breaking ball, his off-speed stuff came into play better the second inning. Just replicated the delivery and arm slot and things like that. He was very encouraged by the outing.”
Burnett threw his first live BP a week ago, and threw a side on Thursday at McKechnie Field.