BRADENTON, Fla. – Trevor Williams and Steven Brault trained together over the offseason and now live together while in Bradenton for Spring Training. The fact they are close friends doesn’t change the reality that they are in a fierce competition for the last spot in the Pirates’ starting rotation with fellow pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Drew Hutchison.
The competition between Williams and Brault is a little more contested in camp, as they have piggybacked off of each other for each of their Spring Training appearances, with Williams getting the start and Brault coming off of the bench today.
Williams’ pitch count was elevated this afternoon, preventing him from going his scheduled three innings of work. He finished after going 2.2 innings and allowed two runs on three hits. He struck out two batters and walked two, as well. Brault finished his three innings of work after allowing three hits, while walking one and striking out three.
Neither pitcher was overly sharp with their command today, but they competed to keep the game from getting away from them.
“I thought both Trevor and Brault pitched behind in counts and didn’t have their best stuff,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They still competed very well without having their best stuff. Whatever situations they get themselves in, it’s good to sit back and watch them try to figure it out. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work today.”
Williams said that they were working a lot on four-seam command to both sides of the plate. He only threw one curveball, and the batter was well out in front of the pitch. Also, Williams said that his changeup and slider felt good out of his hands.
He is, of course, another of the list of pitchers who came into came experimenting with his changeup, going with a new grip on the pitch this year. He felt that the changeup was his best off-speed pitch last season; however, it was a little too slow, sitting around 78-80 MPH.
With the new grip, he saw his changeup velocity up a tick around 84-85 MPH, which disguises it more like a sinker. That is where he is hoping the pitch settles in at velocity-wise going into the season.
Brault has seen a little uptick in velocity on his fastball this spring, and he attributes that to better training and maturity.
“Trevor and I worked really hard together this past offseason,” Brault said. “I feel the best that I have coming into any spring. The velocity coming out of my hand feels the same as it did before, but it’s just coming out a little harder.”
No matter friends or foes, the two pitchers are in a battle for a roster spot this spring. They have both seemed to embrace the challenge.
“We’re pulling for each other in general,” Williams said. “We all have the end goal in mind to help contribute at the Major League level. It’s a great thing for the Pirates to have this many guys going for that last spot. That competition will take care of itself. I’m just going to do my best to roll with it and give it my best.”
Brault chimed in, agreeing that their end goal is to both contribute at the big league level.
“It’s a friendly competition,” Brault said. “We’re not going to stay away from each other and pretend we hate each other when we don’t. We’re really good friends, but we both want to get that last spot. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t want it, and that I want Trevor to have it. No, I want it. I also want Trevor to get as good as he can, because the best competition you can get is if you both are at your best. That’s what we are trying to do — trying to push each other.”
Brault joked that he set up their house like Home Alone, but Williams “hasn’t fallen for any of it yet.” No need to get the blow torch, spiders, or marbles out; let’s keep things as friendly as possible down in sunny Bradenton, Florida.
Chris Stewart Takes the Field for the First Time this Spring
After surgery in September on his knee, Chris Stewart made the final step in his recovery today by making his first start this spring. Stewart said that they really slow played the recovery process as to be sure that everything heals properly, and he had to be on crutches for two weeks following the surgery. In early December, he began testing out the knee and working out some. Finally, in late-December or early-January, he was able to go full speed on the repaired knee.
“We focused on getting back strong and not just trying to get back for games, so that helped out a lot,” Stewart said. “There were no setbacks during the recovery, so I was excited.”
Stewart didn’t do any catching until he got to Bradenton, but they have been able to test out all components of the game throughout the last few weeks.
“I tested everything — blocking, throwing, hitting, running — and I felt great,” Stewart said. “That is the first time in long time.”
The plan wasn’t for Stewart to catch until Friday of this week; however, he said that he got the itch and felt good to go, so they allowed him to move the process up.
As for the actual game, Stewart impressed with him arm in the second inning, as he picked off a runner at second who was leaning towards third. He then did his part in the second half of a “strike ’em out, throw em’ out” situation by recording a caught stealing at second to end the inning.
“It was good to see him behind the plate,” Hurdle said. “It was probably the best inning a catcher could have in that second inning.”
Trevor Williams, who pitched to Stewart for the first time today, joked with the media following the game that Stewart will probably be good to go for the rest of camp, so he was “going to talk to Clint to see if he can take the rest of spring off so he can get ready for the season.”
Stewart said that he has to be much more conscious of his recovery now as he ages, but it is all a part of the process in trying to stay healthy.
“I used to just shower up and go home, but now I have to work on the finer things — a little more ice tub and a more massages. I know it sounds terrible — more massages — but I just have to take care of my body and do my job.”
Hey, if we all can get a few more massages, I think everything will be perfectly fine.
Meadows Hits First Opposite Field Home Run Since 2013
Austin Meadows has hit 29 home runs in his minor league career, and the number of homers that he has hit to left field is a hefty two. Those two home runs to left field came back during rookie ball in 2013, and every home run of his has been pretty much straight pulled down the right field line since.
Check out his home run chart from last year:
Obviously, I wrote about Meadows’ opposite field double yesterday, where he lined it down the left field line to score two runs, so revisiting this subject today is a little overkill; however, his home run down the left field line today was something to write about.
“Off the bat, I knew I hit it really well,” he said after the game. “I was just trying to be aggressive in that at-bat, and he threw it where I wanted it. I was fortunate enough for it to go out.”
Meadows said that he was looking middle-away for the pitch, and the ball came into his wheelhouse. Right now, he focus is on barreling up the ball then get some of his timing back as camp rolls along. Today, it helped him stay back on the pitch and drive it to left field.
He isn’t necessarily looking to develop opposite field power, but he welcomes it for now.
“Those gaps will come as I work on getting the barrel out a little more, but for now, it’s just working on timing and staying behind the balls.”
** Jose Osuna hit his third spring training home run today after he entered the game to play first base. He took a low, inside breaking ball and put a good barrel on it to essentially golf it out on a line drive. I talked to Osuna today, so look for an article on him soon.
** Adam Frazier played third base and hit leadoff for the Pirates, and he started the game with a hustling double to right-center field, then he sent one back up the middle for a single in the third. He said that it felt good to have a couple fall and get on the bases again after a couple days without hits. Frazier also stole a base in the third, which is something that he said he wants to do more this spring.
** Eury Perez and Max Moroff executed a perfect squeeze play in the sixth inning to extend the Pirates’ lead, with Perez laying down the sacrifice bunt while Moroff broke for home.