The Pirates played split squad games, losing to the Orioles, 7-6, at LECOM and tying the Twins, 2-2, on the road. They’re now 4-11-3 on the spring.
The Orioles’ game went south in the second inning, as Rich Hill had a start that he himself described as “crap.” He got hit around for five runs and came out for Cam Alldred to finish the inning, then came back to finish well, throwing three and a third total. Considering that Hill’s been around since the deadball era and has always come back from bad days, this isn’t likely to register on anybody.
The bullpen got some good performances. The exception was Cody Bolton, who allowed two runs on a double and triple. The Pirates by then had tied the game, so that accounted for the loss.
Chase De Jong got, I think, four outs. (Gameday seems to have gotten messed up by the Hill in-and-out business.) Mike Burrows got sent down, but put up two scoreless innings, with three strikeouts, on his way out. He walked the first batter and that guy got to third with one out, but he got out of it. Dauri Moreta had another scoreless inning, going more with the fastball this time.
The offense got more going than usual. The most significant development was, perhaps, some movement toward clarity in the outfield job competition. Travis Swaggerty went 2-for-2 and is now hitting .368. He’s having easily the best spring of any of the team’s outfielders and he’s easily the best defender to begin with.
There are two other factors in Swaggerty’s favor. One is Jack Suwinski’s struggles in center field, where he played again today. He’s had a lot of trouble with the sun and that continued today. Of course, the Pirates don’t play in the daytime or in Florida much, but Swaggerty hasn’t had the same problems, so it should mean something, as somebody has to back up Bryan Reynolds, or maybe even start there. The second helpful event was Ryan Vilade, who’s still on the roster, being sent down.
Suwinski, by the way, went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He appears to have a starting job locked up, but he’s whiffed 12 times in 21 at-bats this spring, following a terrible second half of 2022, both in the majors and in AAA.
Two prospects continued their strong springs. Endy Rodriguez was 2-for-2 and Nick Gonzales 1-for-2. They’re hitting .412 and .389, respectively. Rodriguez got sent down, along with Jared Triolo, who finally got his first hit, a double.
The other notable job aspirant who played was Tucupita Marcano. He went 0-for-2 with a walk and also had some defensive trouble at second.
In the road game, maybe the most interesting occurrence was Kyle Nicolas getting the start. He replaced Vince Velasquez, who moved his start to Pirate City. Nicolas gave up a run over two and two-thirds. He didn’t exactly fill the strike zone, throwing 28 strikes in 50 innings.
Jose Hernandez got the last out in the third, stranding two of Nicolas’ runners, but he had a shaky fourth. He allowed a run on two hits and a walk, and threw 18 of 30 pitches for strikes overall.
Colin Holderman threw a scoreless inning despite throwing only eight of 16 pitches for strikes. This was another game in which the Pirates didn’t exactly fill the strike zone.
Daniel Zamora threw two scoreless innings, while throwing 19 sliders on 29 pitches. You have to wonder whether he has a shot at the opening day roster.
Tyler Chatwood and Juan Minaya each had a scoreless inning. Chatwood managed despite two walks, a wild pitch, a balk and an error, and only 11 of 22 pitches thrown for strikes.
The offense wasn’t much. Canaan Smith-Njigba helped himself by launching his first home run, in fact his first extra base hit. His big battle, of course, is hitting something other than ground balls. Matt Gorski, who replaced Smith-Njigba in the batting order, drove in the tying run.
Of the other hopefuls, Rodolfo Castro, Connor Joe, Miguel Andujar and Cal Mitchell all went 0-for-3. Ji-Hwan Bae was 1-for-3. Mark Mathias made his Pirate debut, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, so he looks like he’ll fit right in. Chris Owings, ominously playing center, had a single and a walk, and got picked off base.
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.
*March:spring training is meaningless
*April:it’s earlylet’s see how team gels
*May: ok not a great start but nothing counts until Memorial Day
*June: Tim, can someone explain MLB’s new anti-tanking rules & how will they impact our ’24 draft ?
The best thing that could happen this spring/early season is have a few guys step up and take OF/2B playing time. Enough guys are competing for both spots that hopefully a few just work their ass off and make themselves into major league starters
I know we’re supposed to take spring stats with a grain of salt, but I think the one stat that probably does warrant attention is a batter’s K %. Pitchers could be working on a new pitch, hitters could be working on tapping into in-game power, or a new bat or whatever, and the huge disparity in the quality of pitching and hitting you encounter renders a lot of stats kind of meaningless. But you shouldn’t K 57% of the time under any circumstances, any series of games, spring, summer or fall, ever.
Man, Suwinski does not look good. If this continues for another 2 weeks I don’t know how they explain bringing him north.
hope Suwinski is on a short leash in favor of an early Canaan callup in April
Smith-Njigba has hit for good average .274 at AA and .277 at AAA, and has shown the ability to post good BB/K Rates 45/66 in AA in 219 AB, 33/52 in 184 AB at AAA. Career .387 OBP.
He had some power in AA, but the wrist injury cost him most of the AAA season last year, and possibly a lot of power. He and Roansy Contreras are making that trade (Yankees – Taillon) look very good for the future of the Pirates.
The 108 mph long ball is BIG! He shows some improvement in getting more lift, so 2023 will be a very important developmental year for him. He won’t turn 24 until next month.
I am groot.
Anti-fungals may help.
O’s – Pirates Statcast
Twins – Pirates Statcast
Jack Brannigan and CSN with solid shots
Lots of hard contact by the O’s.
i know spring training doesn’t mean anything but uhhh. looks like the same ol same ol around here to me
We should look like a team that spent $35 mil on 7 players/pitchers who should lead us to a Winning Percentage of at least .400. Hopefully that group can allow some younger players to break in and be ready by mid-season. 6 of those 7 (Hill, Santana, Hedges, Choi, Velasquez, and Garcia) should not be with us after the Trading deadline.
Hopefully we have Don Kelly operating as our new Manager by the All Star Break