BRADENTON, Fl. – For the third time in the last four days, the Pirates saw some good things in the second half of the game from their young prospects. Today, with the team down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, they managed to score a run, ending the game in a tie.
Juan Diaz walked and Harold Ramirez singled to put two runners on base. Ramirez then scored two batters later on an Adam Frazier single, tying the game.
It was a more extreme situation yesterday, as they came back from down 10-2 to make the score 10-8 in the final three innings. All of this is good to see from the young guys, many of whom are in their first big league camp, and almost all of them ticketed for Indianapolis or Altoona when the first cuts come around.
“It’s good experience for them,” Clint Hurdle said after the game. “We kind of gave them a heads up that opportunities would be presented to them. There will be some innings, there will be some at-bats. Stay ready, stay fresh. And they have. The focus is good. It’s hard for them to grasp a Spring Training game, that it doesn’t count, but it matters. Because they’re of the mindset that everything counts and matters right now, which is kind of cool. And it’s fun to watch.”
While the young players are in camp, Hurdle is looking for ways to maximize their reps and get them on the field. Reese McGuire, for example, will get designated hitter opportunities like today when he doesn’t get behind the plate. And the infield prospects will move around, including having Adam Frazier moving to the outfield, where he moved today.
“We want to see some of our young guys play,” Hurdle said. “I want to put my eyes on them, as well as our coaching staff. Obviously our player development people have seen them. Right now, we can use Frazier more in the outfield than in the infield, but there will be a day where he’s a guy who will come back in the infield, because he’s shown the ability to play there.”
Eventually, the Major League starters will get more innings, leaving less time for the prospects. And their seasons will start down in minor league camp, at which point it will be better to send them down. The first games in minor league camp are on Wednesday, March 16th, and that’s also the day after the first off day in MLB camp. The Pirates usually make their first round of cuts at that point. So you can probably expect a mass exodus of prospects from big league camp on the 16th. Until then, you can expect to see a lot more opportunities in games.
“There will be a day when they are going to go out, and they’re going to get ready for their own seasons,” Hurdle said. “We don’t want to freeze them here. We want to get them involved, we want to get them some competition. And there will be more opportunities in front of us to do that. We’ve got everything mapped out for them.”
Good Start For Liriano
By Sean McCool
The front end of the starting rotation, as well as the back-end of the bullpen, gave the Pirates extremely efficient innings in their Spring Training game on Friday against the Twins.
Francisco Liriano gave the Pirates a much obliged strong start from the starting side, going six-up and six-down with four strikeouts at McKechnie Field. Liriano struck out the side in the first inning without throwing a ball in the inning. He then followed up his extraordinary first with a one-two-three second inning, with the ball never leaving the infield.
The lefty said after the start that he was working with all of his pitches, and threw 23 pitches between the two innings. He was schedule for two innings and a maximum of 40 pitches, which means he came in well under his workload.
“Physically I feel fine and everything feels good,” Liriano said. “Probably would have thrown a couple in the bullpen, but it’s the first outing.”
After the game, Hurdle praised Liriano for his ability to throw strikes, having good finish on his fastball, and a good swing and miss breaking ball.
Mark Melancon relived Liriano in the third inning and didn’t allow a ball out of the infield. Twins batters couldn’t get any solid contact against Melancon, as the only blemish was a ground ball in-between Jaso at first and Harrison at second, and Jaso couldn’t get back to the bag in time to properly cover for the out.
Marte Comes Out Swinging
By Sean McCool
Starling Marte has come out of the gate swinging the bat well this spring. He singled on a hard hit ball up the middle on Wednesday, and he added a triple off of the wall today as well as a hard hit line out to second.
A strong hitting Starling Marte out of the gate in the regular season would be welcomed for the Pirates, as he was one of the players who did not hit well in April last year. He hit .103 through his first eight games last year, and his average was still at a measly .234 on May 1st.
Recently, Neal Huntington talked about the importance of avoiding a slow start this year, and how individual players could be better prepared for the season.
“We do plan to individualize some programs. We do plan to shift the mindset a little bit, and put ourselves in a position to be ready to go,” Huntington said. “We felt like we’ve been ready to go from day one [in the past]. We have no questions about our work in Spring Training. It just hasn’t worked. When it doesn’t work, you make an adjustment, and we’re working towards putting something in place where we’ll roll out of Spring Training with our offense, because it has been challenged early. If we can get our offense rolling, we’ll be in a good spot.”
**Adam Frazier got time in right field today, which was interesting because that’s a position he hasn’t played before. He played left field a few times last year, and mostly played center field when he was in the outfield. The move to right field is new for him. It’s the same situation with Harold Ramirez, who played right field last year, and center field in the past, but was in left field today. Just like moving the infielders around to different spots, the Pirates are taking that approach with the outfielders.
**One other player who is moving everywhere is Cole Figueroa. He played in the outfield the last two games, and will start at shortstop tomorrow. Neal Huntington has seemed high on him with his comments, grouping him in with guys like Sean Rodriguez, who are locks to make the club. Figueroa also spent a lot of time working with the big league guys early in camp. The fact that they’re giving him a lot of looks early further leads to the idea that he’d got a good shot of making the team.
“Just trying to find out where we can go with him,” Hurdle said of his usage. “We profile him as a super utility guy that can play in the infield, play in the outfield. So we’ve got to get him out there and take looks. Plus, it maximizes the opportunity to get at-bats, when we’ve got different people playing different positions. He can move around, it opens up some different avenues for him.”
**Here is the lineup for tomorrow’s game at the Braves:
The game will feature Tyler Glasnow starting, followed by Jameson Taillon, and then Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, and Trevor Williams in some order. I won’t be making the trip over for that amazing lineup of pitchers, as we’ve written three articles about those guys this week, which you can find here:
I’m not going to be able to write anything different about those guys tomorrow, and I expect there will be some good things as minor league camp starts to pick up a bit more. So for now, enjoy this tweet by Adam Berry, and check back tomorrow for a lot of content from Pirate City.
Pirates are taking the kids to Disney tomorrow. Glasnow, Taillon, Brault, Kuhl and Trevor Williams will pitch vs Braves in Lake Buena Vista.
— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) March 4, 2016