BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pirates played to an 11-11 tie with the Blue Jays today at LECOM, with the most encouraging thing being Gerrit Cole’s five inning start. Cole gave up just one run on five hits, with no walks and five strikeouts. He was using an approach that was similar to what you’d see during a game in the regular season, and any sign of success with that approach is good to see after the year he had last year.

“I think he moved into that form today,” Pirates’ Manager Clint Hurdle said about Cole’s approach. “Once you know you’re going to try and get stretched out to five innings, you’re going to throw all of your pitches, you’re going to compete. I liked the right-on-right changeups. He did some things today that were just fun to watch. The velocity, the finish, the execution, balls in, balls away, balls up. It was good.”

**There were some other good signs today, with one highlight being Alen Hanson’s play in left field. Hanson threw out two runners at the plate, showing off his ability to play the outfield. He’s not a polished guy by any means, but he’s good enough to have the Pirates looking at him as a super utility option.

“I think there’s work to be done,” Hurdle said. “Because there were plays out there that were complicated for him. And there were two throws to home to throw people out. So it’s gaining experience. There’s going to be plays he hasn’t had out there. We like the versatility.”

Hanson also went 3-for-6 at the plate with two doubles and a stolen base. The versatility and the speed will provide an asset to the Pirates this year, and he’s a lock to make the team due to being out of options. But Hanson is looking to open some eyes and is ready to finally establish himself as a major leaguer.

“If they give me the opportunity, I’m ready,” Hanson said after the game.

**Jared Hughes has struggled this spring, but had a perfect inning today with two strikeouts.

“It was real good to see him bounce back,” Hurdle said. “The sink looked real today. It was late. Good movement down. That was definitely a positive.”

**Tony Watson has also struggled this spring, and had one of his worst outings. He gave up five runs on three hits and two walks, while getting only two outs in the inning.

“The overall execution — there were two walks in the inning, and balls were elevated,” Hurdle said about what didn’t work for Watson today. “Without having the consistency to keep the ball down, it was a challenge for him today.”

That’s a concern for Watson, who also saw his velocity down in the 88-90 MPH range on Thursday at Pirate City. The combination of execution issues and lowered velocity doesn’t pair well with his poor season last year, which also saw a drop in velocity and lowered execution.

Pirate City Notes

**Juan Nicasio pitched three innings at Pirate City this afternoon against the Phillies. A year ago, Nicasio was over at Pirate City, getting stretched out as a rotation option. That’s not the case this year, as he’s only being planned to be used as a reliever. The extended outing today was about getting him work in multiple innings, so that he could be an option as a long man during the season if the situation arises.

“You need to get guys to throw three innings if you’re going to look in the season to have them get three ups,” Hurdle said. “It could be two and a third inning, but that means they need to get three ups. There’s a handful of guys that we’ve done this with, that we’re getting up to getting three innings. He’s one of the guys that we’re getting in position to be able to do that now, and not be the first time that he’s done it come season time.”

**Yeudy Garcia threw 1.1 innings today, dealing with control issues that were very similar to the issues he saw last year. He struck out three, but walked two, and needed 39 pitches to get through the outing. He was also only sitting 90-93 MPH with his fastball, which is a far cry from where he was during his breakout season in 2015. He dealt with shoulder soreness all last year.

**Cody Dickson went three innings today. He didn’t walk anyone, but was effectively wild, sitting around 90-91 and touching as high as 93 with his fastball. Dickson looked good early in the outing, getting some ground balls and easy outs. His command slipped later, but it didn’t cost him much. He’s going to have a difficult time making it as a starter in the Pirates’ system with all of the options they have, and his best route might be a reliever, where it’s possible his fastball could play up in shorter outings, and the effectively wild bouts might work better for him.

Pirates Sign Cuban Pitcher

By John Dreker

The Pirates signed 25-year-old Cuban right-handed pitcher Dany Hernandez on Thursday. He had been training in the Dominican Republic before signing with the Pirates. Hernandez played three years in the Cuban National Series, which is the Major Leagues in Cuba. He posted a 3.88 ERA in 67.1 innings during the 2013 season, which was about league average. Hernandez had a 3.18 ERA in 22.2 innings the previous season. He is listed at 6′ 5″, 215 pounds, and his bonus was $30,000. Under the international bonus rules, 25-year-old players are exempt from the bonus pool if they have five years of pro experience (it goes up to six years on July 2nd under the new CBA). Hernandez has the age, but not the experience, so his bonus counts against the Pirates 2016-17 international bonus pool. He’s the 22nd international player they have signed since July 2nd.

The Pirates have not had much success in Cuba, with Hernandez now being the lone player in the system from the country. They signed Yoslan Herrera for three years back in 2006 and he briefly made the majors with them in 2008 for five starts, though the expectations were much higher. He was followed by Cesar Lopez and Carlos Mesa, who received a combined $1,090,000 to sign and neither made it out of A-ball. There was also a $125,000 signing of a pitcher named Serguey Linares, who signed in 2007 at the age of 24, and was released the following season. He was sitting 92-94 MPH with a plus curve when the Pirates got him, but his performance did not match the arsenal. Linares had some issues after pro ball and his life ended tragically in 2015. Hernandez doesn’t compare to any of those players as far as the bonus total, but he is a big pitcher with pro experience in Cuba, so it doesn’t hurt to give him a chance.

As for a possible placement for Hernandez, we won’t know that until he is in the system and starts throwing down at Pirate City. He will likely start lower than his current talent level, meaning that if they plan to send him to Altoona, then he will make a brief stop in Bradenton first to get some games in at an easier level. Since he is older than your average international signing and has three years of experience in the Cuban league, he should start higher than rookie league. There is no rush to get him through the system though, since getting signed as a minor league free agent means they have him for this year and the next six seasons.

UPDATE: According to a Cuban newspaper, Hernandez hits 95-96 MPH with his fastball and has a slider, curve and changeup for his off-speed pitches. He was topping out at 91 MPH when he pitched in Cuba. I’ve seen his first name as Danny and Dany, but it appears he uses the latter, so that’s what we will use. I changed it up top.

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37 COMMENTS

  1. All I want is for the Bucs to take their top relievers north when they break camp. We have too many good arms to have Watson throw 9th inning BP to teams because of seniority. He is obviously having some issues that need corrected.

  2. Watson drop in heat is a concern. Bastardo is a pain with men on base. Hughes is a mystery in what they see in him. He has been bad going on three years now. At least all three are gone next year and have no contractual issues.

  3. I’ll be shocked to see this happen, but it would be refreshing to see the Pirates go north with the likes of Hanson, Osuna, and Diaz.

    If Glasnow can replicate his most recent start, and not the one previous to that, he will be a strong candidate for the final starter slot. I’ve personally been disappointed in his performance so far this Spring, as he’s been very up and down. But, I still believe he will be a very good major league starting pitcher – with him, I know he will very likely progress and improve, given his obvious stuff.

    Frazier – all that kid does is hit and get on base. He has to be on the 25 man, as he’s a good leadoff bat, has speed, and is a sparkplug in the lineup. He just needs to find a position where he can be at least competent – and I think that may be second base. I’d move Harrison, if I thought I could get a good LH arm for the bullpen who has some years of control left. Bastardo is not the answer and he needs to go.

    Overall, the Pirates pitching has looked very good. There is a lot to like on that staff – and there is a lot of potential and room to improve.

    Infield defense remains a concern and needs to improve.

    • I agree with that the bucs should trade Harrison for a Bullpen arm. Probably could get a solid relief guy for him. That would allow Osuna, Hanson and Gosselin to be on opening day roster and frazier to start as 2nd baseman. Also, if they could somehow trade Bastardo for anything. But I don’t think Diaz will be up until Stewart or Cervelli gets hurt

  4. The Pirates haven’t had much success in Cuba because they’ve only signed marginal talents at best – and Hernandez looks like the next one. They will have more success in Cuba when they get serious and actually TRY to sign Cubans with legitimate major league talent or potential. They aren’t even in the game – and that generally applies to their recent history with all Latin American players – choosing quantity (cheap, raw, long shots, overlooked prospects) over quality. Other than Marte and Polanco (who were signed 8-10 years ago), has this philosophy produced any fruit at the major league level for the Pirates?

  5. What is going on with Ngoepe and his .947OPS. I think he has had the most improbable spring of anyone at 27.

    • It’s nice to see, but it’s a small sample size and he’s been facing late inning pitching a lot. He leads the team with 11 strikeouts, which isn’t what you want to see. He’s going to make the majors at some point due to his glove and speed, but it’s unlikely he will hit his way to the big leagues.

      • I would be happy if he hit .250+ at AAA. He’s definitely still having the career long K issues but for a guy who could be facing his last year or two at a high minor league level it is cool to see him tearing it up and making hard contact when he does make contact.

  6. I’ll bring this up again probably on the next post, but there are clearly 3 pitchers that do not belong on this team, whether anyone on the team gives a crap is hard to say because I’m hearing – NADA – on what to me is maybe the biggest issue going into the season.
    Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo, and Tony Watson.
    Yea, I really don’t give a rats ass about historical anything. They’re beat. They’re either hurt or beat – Velocity is gone. Snap is gone. Location is gone. This is not the Melancon situation from before – this was happening with all three of them last year. They’re not three of the best options for this team going north. Not right now, and maybe – never again.

    • Don’t you think this is a little dramatic? It is not even the third week of March. I’m sure they don’t want Bastardo but they want him more than Jon Niese.Watson says he is fine and Hughes has been nearly the same guy for 3 years. Hughes is a guy that either pitches solidly or they send up and down until he gets straightened out because no one will jump on his money to claim him…he is just an insurance policy/decent last guy in the pen. I don’t get all the Hughes hatred….although Watson does worry me.

    • Id imagine the bullpen will look much different at the end of the year than it does now. Obviously injuries will always be a factor but with Edgar Santana and Neverauskas as legit bullpen prospects knocking at the door, I doubt the middle relievers like Hughes and Bastardo have as long of a leash performance-wise as they may have had in prior seasons.

      • I also think light could be a good piece to the Bullpen. Maybe even a clay Holmes or Trevor Williams later in year.

  7. If Cole makes it to the All Star break healthy, how serious does NH get about trading him?
    Obviously, if we are in contention, he isn’t going, but if the Pirates are playing the way they did last season, is there a consideration?

    • I don’t think they would trade Cole this season. This was just his first year of arbitration. Next year at the trade deadline possibly. If they are not playing well this July I would think guys like Cutch, Harrison and even Kang could be moved.

      • I would agree with everything you said here, Frank, except the part about trading Kang. Not that I would not do it if possible, I just seriously doubt anyone taking him given his off the field issues, both in Chicago and the DUI in Korea.

    • They would definitely listen to offers, but if Cole is healthy and pitching well, the bucs will most likely be contending. I do see a day where the trade will happen, winning or losing, but that’s the financial side of things and why the Pirates must always produce their own top of the rotation pitchers. That’s why I look forward to following Mitch Keller, Taylor Hearns and Gage Hinsz as much as possible in Bradenton this year, those guys could keep the playoff window open for years to come.

    • That is concerning. I am already assuming he can’t be the loser at this point. But it could be worse than just that.

    • Yep, I’m worried about that too, not for the Bucs (I think they have the guys to cover that spot) but for Watson himself, who has always been a great teammate and competitor.

    • Absolutely not disagreeing, my first thought was that he is in line for TJ surgery, since the drop in velo, especially this drastically, is usually a precursor by a year or so to the surgery.
      That being said, this is exactly the same things we were saying last year about Melancon, it that worked out ok for the Pirates.

    • Kang won’t be there Opening Day, as there is no timetable for his visa, so there is room for both players. Stewart, Jaso, Frazier, Hanson, Gosselin

        • Osuna has flashed power, and is a RH hitter, same as Gosselin. With Stewart and Freese as holdovers and Hanson probably in the mix, I would rather go with the youth and power of Osuna than Gosselin. Jaso is another short-timer that could be traded if Osuna is the backup to Bell at 1B.

          • There is just no reason to start Osuna in the majors. Let him go play in AAA every day, there is no benefit to getting him 5 AB’s per week at the major league level. In Indy, he can hopefully keep hitting, and playing every day.

      • Sorry, but Stewart should go to Indy or be traded and Diaz used as backup.(Or let Jaso pick back up the “tools of ignorance” and give the Bucs a true lefty-righty hitting option behind the plate.)

        • Jaso is done catching due to concussions. Stewart can’t be sent to Indianapolis, too much service time. Diaz is being sent so they keep their depth. Diaz will see the majors at some point this season. If Cervelli and Stewart somehow stay healthy the first five months (unlikely), then you will still see Diaz on September 1st.

    • Right now he makes the team since Kang will not be ready for opening day. Once Kang is ready to play , a decision will have to be made as to whether Hanson or Gooslin goes to AAA.

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