Young Guys Learning from Veteran A.J. Burnett

After walking two and giving up a single to load the bases in his debut, right-hander A.J. Burnett whiffed two, and got Yadier Molina to line out to short to strand the bases loaded in the first inning.  Burnett threw 24 pitches in that first frame, then went on to toss 76 over  his 7.0 shutout innings on Saturday night.

Burnett may have only  been a Pirate since February, when he was acquired from a trade by the New York Yankees, but the veteran has become a leader in the clubhouse.

It was fun to play defense because it was quick,” third baseman Pedro Alvarez said. “He never put us on our heels. After that first inning, he just bounced back. You could just feel the energy off him. He’s such a leader on this team. He hasn’t even been here that long and since day one he’s stepped up as a leader.”

The right-hander scattered just two hits over his six innings following the first and struck out seven batters overall. Some of the young guys have taken notice to what he brings to the club.

“A guy like that who’s been around for a while, it’s fun to see him out there,” lefty reliever Tony Watson said. “In the bullpen we had a full view of the strike zone and everything, what he was doing with all his pitches, command and everything. Just how he goes about his business, it was pretty cool to see…You can watch him and see how he does things. Obviously everyone knows how long he’s been around, what kind of success he’s had.”

 

— Interesting stat regarding Burnett’s debut:

Burnett became the first Bucco since 1900 to throw seven or more innings without allowing a run with at least seven whiff’s in their first game with Pittsburgh. The last and only other Pirate  in club history to accomplish this feat what right-hander Nick Maddox on September 13, 1907. He pitched a shutout in his Major League debut with 11 strikeouts.

 

—Right-hander Juan Cruz allowed back-to-back singles to start the 8th inning in the Pirates 2-0 shutout over the Cardinals on Saturday. After retiring his next batter, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle elected to go to Tony Watson and Jason Grilli to get out of the inning, which worked in his favor.

Cruz took a ball off his pitching hand, but is fine.

“I think it numbed up a little bit in the coolness of the evening,” Hurdel said. “Did it present any challenges? It could have. But the velocity was there. He hung a breaking ball. The two-strike pitch. There was a ground ball to short that he got in the way off. Just one of those nights for me where the karma wasn’t there. That’s the only reason why I took him out. It was just a gut feel. You give up a badly hit ball and your hand plays it into a single. Then you hang the two strike breaking ball. We get the out at first. We’re good. We’ll try this a different way and finish up. He’s been extremely effective. I don’t think there is any injury to worry about.”

 

— Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan picked up his first save last since since Sunday in San Francisco. The righty was sidelined with hamstring tightness, preventing him to shut down the 9th inning for the Bucs. Hanrahan picked up his second save, but it didn’t come without some drama.

Hanrahan struck out Carlos Beltran swinging on three pitches before walking his next two batters with a 2-0 lead. Hanrahan whiffed Erik Komatsu on a foul tip and got a groundout to close out the game. Hurdle said he may have been amped up while on the mound in his first appearance since the injury, but was impressed by his K to Beltran.

“He could be [rusty],” Hurdle said. “But then why wasn’t he rusty to Beltran? You cant cut up a hitter any better than that. Big time big league hitter. You cant cut him up any better than that with three pitches. It was like we hit the HOV lane. The plate shrunk or got on wheels or something. We had a conversation in the dugout about what the next move was going to be when that count got to 3-1. My pitching coach and I had gotten to a place where we were going to disagree to disagree on what was next, if there was a ball four. There wasn’t. I think that had to be it –adrenaline. He sure threw three beautiful pitches to Beltran. I was ready to hit that button.”

 

— Pittsburgh is supposed to get anywhere from 3-6 inches of snow. Yes, snow, tomorrow when the Pirates open up a three-game set vs. Colorado. Weather permitting, it’s looking like right-hander Kevin Correia will get the start instead of Brad Lincoln, who was tentatively scheduled to pitch.

 

 

Analysis

  • In addition to Burnett’s stat line as a debut, the Pirates have had only two such games (seven plus innings, no runs allowed and seven plus whiffs) in the last two years – one from Charlie Morton in 2011 and one from Ross Ohlendorf in 2010. The last time someone not named Morton or Ohlendorf did that was Ian Snell way back in 2008.

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