Pirates Notes: Good Signs From Bell, Niese and Vogelsong Debut, Emrick on the Call

BRADENTON, Fl. – Josh Bell has been criticized about his glove work at first base since the beginning of last year. If today is any sign of what’s to come, fans and coaches alike should be relatively pleased with the progress he has been making.

Bell entered the game in the sixth inning, with a multiple of other scheduled substitutions that included the likes of Max Moroff, Adam Frazier, Harold Ramirez, Dan Gamache, and Reese McGuire. While playing first base, you could immediately see some of the fruits to Bell’s labor as his footwork, game sense, and ability to cover the base all seemed to have improved markedly over last season.

On multiple occasions, Bell covered the base efficiently on a throw from the infield, utilizing his large frame to make a necessary stretch to catch the ball and record the out by beating the running to the bag. His stretch when covering the base looks much better from the early parts of last season, as I was able to watch him on multiple occasions in Altoona last year. On one particular throw in the dirt from shortstop Pedro Florimon, Bell was able to make a great scoop while still maintaining a stretch and keeping his foot on the bag.

Not only did his play in the field look positive, Bell ripped a two run double to the left center gap in the seventh inning. In the ninth, Bell hit a rocket that ricocheted off of the first baseman’s glove that turned into a force out at second.

In that seventh inning, a brigade of Pirates’ prospects strung together a comeback effort with two outs in the inning. Moroff led the way with a single through the 3-4 gap, followed by a hard single by Ramirez. Gamache walked to load the bases, and Jacob Stallings drew a bases loaded walk to score Moroff. After a wild pitch scoring Ramirez, Bell doubled scoring two. He then came around to score on a Florimon shot down the left field line.

The Pirates scored five runs in the inning, all thanks to the group of players who mostly played at Double-A Altoona last year. Ramirez also doubled to the wall in the ninth and eventually came around to score on a Stallings’ hard hit RBI single.

Manager Clint Hurdle joked after the game that he needs to get these young guys in sooner rather than later in the game.

“That’s two days in a row,” he said. “I need to put them in earlier. That’s managerial error on back-to-back days.”

Hurdle did take time to praise the prospects on their work so far this spring.

“They’re fighting,” he said. “They’re taking advantage of their at-bats and doing some things. They’re laying off pitches outside the zone to get the walks and put themselves in positions to score runs.”

NIESE AND VOGELSONG HAVE ENCOURAGING OUTINGS

Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong both threw two innings for the Pirates this afternoon at McKechnie Field in Bradenton.

Niese did not escape the day unscathed, as he allowed four runs on five hits in the second inning; however, he could have escaped the inning with no runs and only two singles given up. Jason Rogers could not come up with a slow grounder to third with two runners on, and although an error was not given to him, the play should have been made. Niese allowed three more singles and a walk before finally recording the third out of the inning.

The box score simply does not reflect the afternoon that Niese had, as he threw the ball well and felt good about his performance.

“Overall, I felt pretty good,” Niese said after the game. “I attacked the zone with my two-seam, four-seam, changeup, cutter, and curveball. I got the curveball over for strikes. Of course, there were a lot of things out there that were out of my control, but I overall fought through it.”

Niese pointed out that extended innings this early in Spring Training can really take its toll on a pitcher.

“Anytime innings get extended, it kind of wears on you, especially this early [in Spring Training],” Niese said. “When the innings get extended, you get fatigued and start leaving balls up. That’s when stuff snowballs.”

Hurdle said after the game that he was pleased with his starters’ outings.

“I loved the way Jon attacked the zone,” said Hurdle. “I actually felt that two pitches got called wrong, which would have spun the whole [second] inning for him.”

On the other hand, Ryan Vogelsong impressed in both the eye test and the box score results. Vogelsong sent down the only six batters he faced, with two strikeouts, three groundouts, and a flyout to right.

Niese spoke out about the veteran Vogelsong.

“He’s a true professional,” Niese said of his teammate. “Obviously, he went out there and got the job done today. It speaks volumes of him hard work.”

MATT JOYCE HOPING FOR A SHOT

Matt Joyce, who signed a minor league contract with the Pirates two weeks ago, is trying to make a case to become the fourth outfielder on the 25-man roster. He went 1-for-3 two days ago in Lakeland, with a line drive single to center field, and he added two walks today at McKechnie. Joyce also attempted to steal twice this afternoon, successfully in the first inning and having to go back to first on a foul ball in the third.

Joyce went from an All-Star in 2011 to one of the worst graded outfielders in MLB for the Angels last season. The 31-year-old is striving to revive his career this season with the Pirates, and he has impressed in many facets of the game this week, from plate patience to fielding to his demeanor.

Hurdle said that Joyce provides “experience” and a “slow heartbeat” to the club.

“He has provided quality at-bats and gap power,” Hurdle said of the veteran Joyce. “He’s very competitive on the offensive side, shows good numbers against right-handed pitching, and can be a good bat off the bench.”

TOUGH OUTING FOR HOLDZKOM, KNUDSON

John Holdzkom pitched the sixth inning for the Pirates, and it was not the best first outing for the towering righty. His line looks like this: HR, 6-3 ground out, double, walk, HBP, single, fly out. Holdzkom was pulled after only recording two outs.

Guido Knudson relived Holdzkom in the sixth and recorded a strikeout for the last out. Knudson then allowed a walk, double, and home run in the seventh before getting out of the inning.

A NEW PIRATES PROSPECTS FAN?

Greg Brown and John Wehner were joined by legendary hockey play-by-play man Mike “Doc” Emrick in the radio broadcast booth today at McKechnie Field. I may try to write more about Doc, who is an incredibly passionate Pirates’ fan, at a later time, but for now, it looks like we have a new fan of Pirates Prospects.

At the end of talking with a few members of the media, Doc asked if anyone had heard anything about “that Austin Meadows kid”. Tim Williams immediately gave a quick scouting report on Meadows, then gave Doc a copy of the 2016 Prospect Guide, which he was very excited to receive and started flipping through immediately. We hope he can utilize his new Prospect Guide for when he is on the TV call next week and the prospects enter the game in the second half.

Mike "Doc" Emrick poses with his new 2016 Prospect Guide.
Mike “Doc” Emrick poses with his new 2016 Prospect Guide.

Minor League Camp

By Tim Williams

At this point in minor league camp, there’s not much going on. Every day is the same, with the only differences being the pitchers who are throwing in the bullpen. There were only three guys throwing today. Fortunately, one of them is Mitch Keller, who can be seen below.

Not every player has reported to camp yet, with just early arrivals so far. That doesn’t leave a lot of players to profile, so I’ve been spacing out the videos, and waiting on a lot of reports until seeing the players in action for more than one day. Today’s video is Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer taking ground balls at shortstop.

For more from minor league camp, check out today’s article on Jose Osuna.

  • I’ll be driving down for the Redsox game Wednesday, not sure what I’ll be doing with my Thursday yet. Rays game on Friday (signed up for the BP experience before the game) then the game in Lakeland on Saturday before heading back. Is there anything exciting going on for the “off day” on Thursday? If so, i’ll probably spend some time at Pirate Citcy

  • Darkstone42
    March 4, 2016 2:03 pm

    Well, Kramer doesn’t look like he’ll ever be a shortstop, at least not unless he gets quicker on the exchange, especially on the turn. Newman, on the other hand, has that part down, and that skill could help him stick there.

  • Travis Persinger
    March 4, 2016 1:11 pm

    I need to find a Pirates Prospects shirt to wear it and connect with you other Bradenton guys when I’m out there. I’ll make sure to put “Travis” on the back of it. lol.

    • Darkstone42
      March 4, 2016 1:54 pm

      If I could ever come down, I’d be wearing a shirt that said “Internet Commenter Darkstone42.”

      No I wouldn’t. That would cost money to make.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    March 4, 2016 9:56 am

    Niese and Locke better step it up….Holdzkum and O’Flaherty both had rough appearances as well this Spring…
    I guess Ramirez had a good day yesterday, as did Vogelsong…

    • The bad appearances for pitchers don’t mean much this early, but of course you’d rather see them pitching well. anything before the 12th or so IMO is just getting the feel back. Anyone who looks good early is just a bonus.

  • Good stuff. This really is the deepest I’ve ever seen AA/AAA for the Bucs. I hope the Bucs have a lot of young guys pressing for playing time in the next few years. Anyone who thinks the Pirates window is closing isn’t paying attention. It’s just starting to open.

  • A late arrival, but I also stopped by Pirate City long enough to meet a lot of good people, especially the 3 folks at the gate and a family down from Plum Borough. Also had time to watch the fielding and hitting drills that were ongoing on at least 2 of the fields – particularly very impressed with the fielding of Ke’Bryan Hayes at 3B, Cole Tucker (no long throws) and Adrian Valerio at SS, and Mitchell Tolman at 2B. Of the hitters I saw, the most eye-catching were Hayes, Tucker, Austin Meadows, Ty Moore, Jose Osuna, and Michael Suchy.

    Then we went down to McKechnie for the game. In person, Josh Bell is an absolute specimen, looking a lot taller than the 6’2″ he is listed. Niese did very well, and the play from Rogers was inexperience – IMO, he had time to make the play with his glove and throw to 1B for the 3rd out, but opted to try to bare-hand the ball and did not catch the ball. Vogelsong and Tony Watson did very well, Holdzkom and Knudsen were BP, and I am sorry I did not stay after the game got to 10 – 2. We had decided to stay up in Tampa at the Sheraton Riverwalk (beautiful) in downtown Tampa, and had plans for visiting the Hard Rock Seminole Gambling Casino. Looking forward to another day at PC and then McKechnie, and then up to Orlando for the Braves on Saturday.

  • I cannot wait for Doc to shoehorn a Meadows reference into a random Sunday afternoon NHL game lol. Great job Tim!

  • I stopped by Pirate City real quick and took a few pictures and got to see a little before most players took a break around noon. Saw Brett McKinney throwing some heat with some movement on it too. Got to see Adrian Valerio take a few swings right as I got there and he looked good if it was really him. I think I’ve heard Tim say before that guys may not have the actual # that is on the sheet they hand out? The guy wearing 95 today looked too big to be Valerio. I wish I had more time but it was great to see some baseball in action.

    • Valerio is #95

      • Thanks John. He definitely has filled out some from his 5’11” 150 pound frame. I love the atmosphere at Pirate City although I always manage to get reprimanded by security every time I go. They tell you not to walk across the middle of the concreted area in between fields because players could be running through…then how do I get over there? …walk the entire perimeter all the way around until I am on the other side? I am saying this humorously and not angrily because they tell you politely…yet this is twice in the two times I’ve been there. I just want to make the people at Pirate City happy heheh…and I don’t want to be the guy who walks out in front of Yeudy Garcia and makes him fall on his shoulder and become the next Brien Taylor.

    • I’m jealous Freddy. I got left behind this Spring.

    • You should have let me know you were there. At that time I was either in the clubhouse getting interviews, or in the media room editing video.

      • I had to stop in at Darwin to set up my internship and decided as I was leaving to head over to P.C. or I definitely would have. I am still setting up my schedule there but am pretty sure I will be there every Tuesday for the rest of March and probably some of April.

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