A lot of attention will be on the Altoona Curve game tonight, as Charlie Morton makes his first rehab start. He has been stretched out already, throwing 93 pitches during an Extended Spring Training game six days ago. He now jumps to AA, where he will see a step up in competition over the A-Ball and Rookie level batters he faced that day. Under the watchful eye of Jim Benedict, Morton has been trying to get back to his 2013 mechanics. Benedict was down a Pirate City for Morton’s last outing and he will be in Altoona tonight overseeing the outing. How he looks tonight, will help decide the next step for him to eventually get back to the Pittsburgh rotation.
During Morton’s 93 pitch outing, the opposing pitcher was Clayton Richard. He too went through a mechanics rebuild courtesy of Jim Benedict. Richard threw six innings on Saturday and he went six innings Thursday night for Bradenton. It was a smaller jump in competition for Richard, but he isn’t on the same timetable to get to the Majors as Morton. That’s not to say that we won’t see him anytime soon in Pittsburgh. It has more to do with rehab outings being limited, while Richard is just on a regular minor league assignment and he can work his way up the ladder, taking as much time as he needs to get Major League ready. The Pirates are hoping he is this year’s Vance Worley, who came up in mid-June last year.
Richard allowed just one unearned run on Thursday, giving up four hits, one walk and he struck out four batters. If Morton’s results are anywhere near Richard’s, the Pirates will be very happy with his progress.
Altoona this week has proven once again that baseball can be an unpredictable game. The Curve opened the week at home with a 15-6 record and they were hosting the 3-17 Richmond Flying Squirrels. Josh Bell has an incredible week last week, going 16-for-26 and showing some power that has been missing from his game. So what happens in this four-game series? Altoona gets swept and Bell goes 0-for-13.
Another couple oddities from this week. Cole Tucker had an 11-game hit streak snapped on Sunday. He then goes 1-for-14 in his last four games, with the lone hit being his first homer of the season.
Jin-De Jhang was the hottest hitter in the system during April, batting .426, with two strikeouts in 54 at-bats. He struck out twice on Thursday and he’s hitting .217 in May.
Pirates Game Graph
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 7-2 on Thursday to snap their five-game losing streak. Francisco Liriano takes on the St Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series tonight. His opponent will be the undefeated Michael Wacha, who threw 6.2 scoreless innings against the Pirates in his last start. Wacha has a 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings.
In the minors, all eyes will be on Charlie Morton making his first rehab start, but there are three other games going on. West Virginia’s Jose Regalado threw 5.1 no-hit innings in his first game this season, giving up just one walk. Since then, he has started twice, pitched once in relief, throwing a total of 10.1 innings with no walks. Indianapolis starter Chris Volstad pitched one-hit ball over six innings in his debut, but has struggled since, allowing 15 earned runs over 21.2 innings. Frank Duncan was pushed back a day in favor of Clayton Richard, so Duncan will go today for Bradenton. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.
MLB: Pittsburgh (13-15) vs Cardinals (21-7) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (1.95 ERA, 14:35 BB/SO, 32.1 IP)
From Thursday, Elias Diaz with a nice piece of hitting to go the other way with runners in motion. He ends up with a two-run double as part of his three-hit day. He has a five game hit streak going and has his average up to .280 this season after a very slow start.
5/7: Clayton Richard assigned to Bradenton. Felipe Gonzalez assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/7: Colten Brewer added to WV Power roster. Eric Dorsch assigned to WV Black Bears
5/7: Jeff Inman added to Altoona roster. Tyler Sample sent to WV Black Bears.
5/6: Andrew Lambo placed on 15-day disabled list. Steve Lombardozzi selected from Indianapolis.
5/6: Adam Frazier activated from Altoona disabled list. Andy Vasquez assigned to Indianapolis.
5/6: Brad Lincoln added to Indianapolis roster. Charlie Leesman assigned to WV Black Bears.
5/5: Josh Wall added to Indianapolis. Brad Lincoln assigned to WV Black Bears.
5/4: Barrett Barnes assigned to Bradenton. Junior Sosa assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/1: Jerrick Suiter placed on disabled list. Austin Coley added to WV Power roster.
5/1: Pirates sign pitcher Robert Stock.
4/29: Jaff Decker placed on disabled list. Wilkin Castillo added to Indianapolis roster.
4/27: Jeremy Bleich promoted to Altoona
4/26: John Sever added to WV Power roster. Austin Coley transferred to WV Black Bears roster.
4/25: Jonathan Schwind placed on disabled list.
4/25: Justin Sellers transferred from Bradenton to Indianapolis on rehab.
4/25: Jeremy Bleich added to Bradenton roster.
This Date in Pirates History
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and one trade of note. On this date in 1940, the Pirates sent left fielder Johnny Rizzo to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for center fielder Vince DiMaggio. The trade didn’t go over well the next day in the local papers, with one headline saying “Straight swap of players brings strikeout king of majors here.” The trade worked out well for the Pirates despite the fact they dealt away their single-season home run leader. As a rookie in 1938, Rizzo hit 23 homers. His record bridged a gap between Hall of Famers, as Arky Vaughan broke the team record with 19 in 1935 and Ralph Kiner broke Rizzo’s record in 1946.
After the trade, DiMaggio played five years for the Pirates and made two All-Star teams. Rizzo lasted a month with the Reds and was out of the Majors by 1942.
Players born on this date include:
Jason Davis, pitcher for the 2008 Pirates
Orestes Destrade, first baseman in 1988
Bill Powell, a member of the 1909 World Series champs. Powell pitched for the team in 1909-10, throwing 15 games total.
Eddie Boyle, catcher for the 1896 Pirates, who went 0-for-14 in his five games, which were his only Major League games.