The Pirates’ AAA and AA squads took on their Toronto counterparts at Pirate City today. They got good starts from Brandon Cumpton in the AAA game and Casey Sadler in the AA game. Cumpton went four and a third innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk, with one strikeout. He threw 62 pitches, 40 for strikes, with his fastball sitting at 90-92. Cumpton in the past has reached the mid-90s coming out of the bullpen, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the Pirates try him in relief at Indianapolis, as that may be his ticket forward.
Sadler threw five very efficient shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks, while throwing only 42 pitches, 26 for strikes. His pitch count by inning was 9, 6, 6, 7, and 14. With just one strikeout, Sadler relied on his teammates.
“Defense was great. Just put the ball in play early, and kept it on the ground. That’s really what you look for in an outing, especially as starters.” Sadler’s fastball sat at 88-90 and he kept it down consistently. Still, “I didn’t really have my best stuff,” he said. “Slider was a little inconsistent. Changeup was ok. Just kind of recognized it, and was like, ‘fastball is down, let them put it in play, let them get themselves out, and then maybe it will come to me later on.'”
After pitching in relief his first two years, Sadler moved to the Bradenton rotation partway into the 2012 season. He appears to be making the adjustment to starting as a pro.
“It felt really good my last couple of outings,” Sadler said. “I could throw all three pitches pretty much anytime I wanted to in any count. Today was one of those days where you just have to grind through. You might have maybe ten starts all year that you feel really good, and the rest you just have to fight and find a way to get through five, get through seven, give your team a chance to win, and that’s really what today was.”
Sadler is likely to be in the Altoona rotation this year.
Welker Throws a Sim Game
by Tim Williams
Duke Welker threw a simulated game this afternoon, which was his first outing against live hitters since being sent down to minor league camp. Welker was dealing with some shoulder soreness prior to being cut from major league camp, although it wasn’t anything serious. He’s been throwing bullpens since being sent down, and continued his progression today. After today’s outing I talked with Welker, and he said the shoulder felt fine. The plan is for him to throw in some games in the upcoming week, and by that point he should be ready for the start of the regular season.
Position Player Notes
— Carlos Paulino caught the AAA game and had a wind-blown, opposite-field HR. The fact that Paulino, who hasn’t played above class A, is still with the AAA squad may be an indication of the Pirates’ feelings about his defense. Baseball Prospectus has posted several articles recently on minor league tools. They listed Paulino as one of four catchers they considered for best arm in the minors and one of three they considered for best catcher defense. He hasn’t done enough with the bat to get high on the prospect map, but his defense could get him some time in the majors eventually.
— Matt Curry was back with the AAA squad after playing with the AA team two days ago, but as Tim noted this morning, he’s likely to get forced back to Altoona by the crowd of corner players slated for Indianapolis.
— Brett Carroll had a double and a HR, with the latter not needing any help from the wind, in the AAA game. Carroll has always shown impressive power, but has been undermined by a lack of patience. He’s probably in competition with Andrew Lambo and Adalberto Santos for an outfield spot at Indianapolis. They could all have a tough time avoiding a trip to Altoona, though, if the Pirates carry two utility infielders. That could result in Alex Presley and Felix Pie both getting sent down to join Jerry Sands and Darren Ford in a crowded AAA outfield.
— Bryan Morris had little trouble over two innings in the AAA game. His fastball sat at 93-95 and his cutter at 85-88. He missed some with the latter, but overall his control was better than it has been at times this spring.
— Erik Cordier threw the last inning in the AAA game. He sat in the mid-90s and got as high as 97. His fastball got hit hard, showing that radar gun readings aren’t everything. He also had some severe control problems and couldn’t get through the inning.
— In the AA game, primarily organizational pitchers followed Sadler. They included two of the Pirates’ stock of smallish Latin American lefties, Eliecer Navarro and Jhonathan Ramos. (This demographic got reduced by two recently when the Pirates released Porfirio Lopez and Martires Cadet.) Navarro is the “craftier” of the two, throwing a lot of curves and changeups to go with a mid- to upper-80s fastball. Ramos probably has the better chance of moving forward, though, as his fastball sits in the upper-80s and edges into the 90s. He also throws a curve and a hard slider.