Pirates Working to Give the Prospects Plenty of Looks in Big League Camp

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.”

Other Notes

**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:

Here is the lineup for tomorrow’s #Pirates game at the Braves.

A photo posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

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:

**What Do the Pirates Pitching Prospects Need to Work On?

**Glasnow and Taillon Show What They Need to Work On

**Pirates Are Set to Rely More on Their Prospect Depth in 2016

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.

  • I’m not convinced that Cole Figueroa is all that super, as far as being a “Super Utility Player”, as Clint Hurdle said.

  • Marte actually was one of the Pirates best hitters in April, though that isn’t saying much because the whole team wasn’t hitting.

    In April, Marte had the best slugging pct at .521 and his OPS was .821.
    He also had 6 homers and 17 RBI. Not too shabby, but compared to the rest of the team, he was the best. The only other guys hitting then were Cervelli & Kang, but not as good as Marte. At least Marte was producing runs and coming through against the tough pitchers while the rest of the team flailed about.
    We’d still had a handful of Marte Partay’s at the ballpark by May 1st.

    Nonetheless, I expect a big season out of Marte, he’s matured and hitting clean-up will definitely provide him with better opportunities to knock in runs.

  • I was reading the Jennry Meijia article where he is pointing some blame at the MLB for him using horse steroids. He has to be one of the dumbest athletes ever. Jake DeGrom is trying to give him a run for his money though.

  • Finally get to go to my first ST game since we moved here tomorrow. Looking forward to a day of baseball!

  • Sean: Marte hitting the ball off the fence in RC was one of the best hits of the day, but Polanco gets my vote for hitter of the day – 3 hits, and two of them were line drives with one up the middle and the second was in the 3-4 hole. Of course, his base running on two of those occasions left everyone shaking their heads. In the first with Harrison on 3rd and Polanco on 1st and a 3-2 count to ‘Cutch, he got a late break from 1st, ‘Cutch was called out on strikes, and he was thrown out by 10 feet at 2B. Luckily Marte knocked Harrison in with his triple. Then later in the game Polanco singles, steals second, then ‘Cutch hits a GB to SS and he was caught off 2B.

    Ngoepe and Hanson both looked very smooth at SS/2B.

  • Considering how much Jaso needs practice at 1B, why was he at catcher on Friday?

    • Jim: I was at the game and do not remember Jaso behind the plate. Cervelli and the other starters went around 5 innings, then Easley took over Catching when Cervelli left. I watched Jaso walk down the RF line after being taken out, and then he was signing autographs for Pirate fans back behind the bullpen.

  • I’ll be in the third row behind the Pirates dugout for tomorrow’s game at Disney.
    Can’t wait to see this group of pitchers!

  • I’m sure none of us are interested in any coverage of our top prospects and how they are coming along after their first start anyways against top competition. I can just go to Pirates.com and get a box score. It’s all irrelevant right guys?

  • Harold Ramirez can flat out hit!

    • I know a lot of scouts have said Austin Meadows is the best “hitter” in our organization, but in my opinion, the “hit” tool is by far the most mastered at this time, by Harold Ramirez

      • Can’t wait to call him H-Ray when he makes the Pirates in the not-too-distant-future, to go along with J-Hay

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      March 4, 2016 10:25 pm

      Been saying that for two years – best hitter in the system IMHO

  • I sure wish that tomorrow’s game was on the tube.

    • We finished up our two day trip over to Bradenton/Tampa, and now we have some time in Orlando, so we decided to get reserved tickets for the game tomorrow – unbelievable surprise to see the pitchers making the trip to pitch against the Braves. Today Liriano and Melancon were very sharp following up Niese and Vogelsong yesterday.

    • I wish my dad was Ogden Nutting

  • piraterican21
    March 4, 2016 7:16 pm

    Any reason why Meadow is not playing with the big boys?

  • ArthurDayne
    March 4, 2016 6:18 pm

    Cole Figueroa in the mix for the legendary poopy Getaway/Sunday Hurdle lineup cards.

    • AD
      This has put me in much needed full belly laugh….thanks.

    • Florimon…to Figueroa…to Rodriguez…Double Play! …and Vogelsong heads off the field. We head to the bottom of the 1st, Pirates down 6-0. Leading off…Cole Figueroa. I’m not too worried, but this could happen once.

  • Indy rotation vs Braves, good talent, best I’ve seen in years