One of the most encouraging signs in today’s Pirates game against the Toronto Blue Jays came in the second inning. Pedro Alvarez came up to the plate, and faced a shifting Toronto defense. For the second day in a row, he beat the shift by going opposite field. This time he hit a fastball away, and hit it hard right to where the third baseman normally would be without the shift.
Alvarez is a guy who gets shifted on a lot, and if he can find a way to consistently go opposite field, he could take away that defense against him. While MLB talks about possibly removing the shift, the real solution to this strategy should come from a change with the hitters. The ones that are facing the shift need to adapt, and find a way to hit the ball so that a shift would be ineffective. Alvarez has been trying just that.
“He’s been working hard at being a better hitter, being a more complete hitter,” Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle said after the game. “We don’t want him to back off. We want him to get his swings off. But to be cognizant of that fastball away, can be hit early in the count. He’s shown a very nice approach the last couple of days about just covering the ball, hitting the ball where it’s pitched.”
Cervelli Showing Off the Defense
Francisco Cervelli had a nice block in the first inning on a Gerrit Cole slider in the dirt. With runners on second and third, Cervelli quickly slid over to the left-handed batter’s box to make the block, keeping the ball in front of the plate, and preventing a run from scoring. Toronto did score a run that inning, but it would have been two runs had Cervelli allowed the ball to pass. Hurdle talked after the game about how Cervelli excels at this skill.
“We’ve seen him do it,” Hurdle said of his blocking. “I first put my eyes on him in 2010 when I was in Texas, and watch him catch. The ability to get in front of the ball, to block the ball, to take the sting out of it, keep it in front of the plate. It’s very impressive. It’s one of his strengths.”
A Big Difference For Worley This Year
Spring Training in 2015 for Vance Worley is going a lot better than Spring Training in 2014. He didn’t have a great outing today, giving up two runs on two hits in two innings of work, although he caught a tough break for those runs to score. As for his stuff, he’s in a much better place this year than last year. I asked him about how his pitches feel, and his one complaint was very specific.
“The one pitch I couldn’t get today was my backdoor, front hip sinker off of a lefty,” Worley said, while mentioning that his other pitches feel good. That’s a huge change from what wasn’t working for him last year. And what were those things?
“Everything,” Worley said. “Last Spring was awful. Fastball command was terrible. Breaking ball was terrible. Couldn’t get a strike one. Couldn’t get a strike two or three. That’s why I got sent down, and picked up here. Got back on my feet, and here we are trying to get it going again.”
Andrew Lambo Getting More Comfortable
Clint Hurdle said that Andrew Lambo is getting more comfortable in big league camp. Lambo had a chance to win the first base job last year, but played his way out of a job with poor performance at the plate. He went down to Triple-A and started hitting for power for the second year in a row, and now he finds himself once again on the inside track for a roster spot — this time going for the final bench spot.
“I think he has been a guy that has been able to learn as he goes along,” Hurdle said. “I think he’s gotten to a point that he understands that the maturity level needs to play. Slow heartbeat, control what you’re in control of, have fun, work hard. He’s done a lot of those things. I think at times he can really put a lot of heat on himself. And we’re just trying to get him to play the game. Not work the game. You don’t have to prove anything here, you need to improve. And I think he’s taken some steps forward in every year, but especially coming into this Spring.”
Here are the lineups for tomorrow, with the mid-game reserve players on the bottom.