Bucs’ Meadows homers during big chance

BRADENTON, Fla. — Prospects Austin Meadows and Jose Osuna homered, leading the Pirates to a 6-3 win over the Braves on Tuesday at LECOM Park.

Meadows hit a two-run homer to left field off Braves left-hander Jaime Garcia in the first inning. Meadows, a top prospect, will receive more regular playing time this month with the Pirates’ starting outfield participating in the World Baseball Classic.

“It’s a pretty swing. He hit the ball in the direction he needed to hit it,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We like the player. He’s getting some extra (opportunities) and reps while he’s here, so those things are always good when they happen for confidence.”

Osuna entered the game at first base and went deep to begin the Bucs’ three-run sixth inning. Competing to make the Pirates’ Opening Day roster, Osuna has put together a strong start this spring, batting .471 while playing first and right field. Osuna’s homer tied the game, 3-3, and the Pirates broke through with an RBI single by Chris Bostick and Eury Perez’s squeeze bunt.

A-Rod expands role

NEW YORK — After spending two postseasons as a guest studio analyst for Fox, Alex Rodriguez is expanding his role for the network.

A-Rod will be a game analyst and feature reporter for the network and FS1 and will continue to work in the studio, the network said Tuesday in announcing a multiyear deal.

A three-time AL MVP who admitted using performance-enhancing drugs during his playing career, Rodriguez was released by the New York Yankees last summer with more than a year remaining in his $325 million, 10-year contract. Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract.

Rodriguez worked in the studio for the 2015 World Series and 2016 postseason. The 41-year-old is fourth on the career home run list with 696 and a Yankees special adviser and instructor

Scherzer has new grip

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Max Scherzer has come to grips with a finger injury — by coming up with a new, unusual grip for his fastball.

The Washington Nationals ace won the NL Cy Young Award last season despite a stress fracture on his right ring finger in the second half. The problem didn’t totally heal during the winter, so Scherzer is trying something different this spring.

“It is strange that I am throwing with three fingers,” Scherzer said.

Sure is.

His normal fastball grip — the one used by nearly every pitcher in the pros — employs two fingers on top of the ball with the ring finger bent along the side, providing stability in the hand.

That formation aggravates Scherzer’s injury by pressing the ball onto the knuckle. Earlier this spring, he straightened the ring finger, placing it on top of the ball along with his middle and index finger, a grip that alleviates the pressure and pain.

“What else am I going to do?” Scherzer said. “I’m willing to do it. I want to do it. It’s just part of what I’ve got to go out there and do — to pitch right now.”

Scherzer figures that altering his grip affords the knuckle some ability to heal while also allowing him to continue to build up arm strength. It’s only the fastball grip that bothers the knuckle.

“If they didn’t let me do this then I’d be sitting here trying to test the two-finger grip left and right, and probably be hurting it even more,” Scherzer said. “If you let me throw it three fingers, I’m actually healing.”

On Tuesday, Scherzer faced live hitters for the first time this spring, throwing a live batting practice session to minor league hitters on one of the complex’s back fields prior to the Nationals’ game against Boston.

With manager Dusty Baker and general manager Mike Rizzo looking on, Scherzer worked from both the windup and the stretch, simulating two innings of action.

“It felt good to actually get out there and face hitters, have them swing at stuff, going through my routine, warming up in between innings,” Scherzer said. “That’s all fun.”

Halladay returns

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Roy Halladay is back wearing a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner returned Tuesday to serve as a guest instructor in spring training. Halladay, who threw a perfect game in his first season in Philadelphia in 2010 and a no-hitter later that year in his first postseason start, is considering a more permanent role in the big leagues.

“I definitely want to get back in,” Halladay said. “So just getting here and being around, obviously with a new front office they need to see who you are. I think it’s just a great opportunity to get out here again and be around the guys. Especially with so many new, young players, it’s exciting for a guy like myself to come in and watch them. If I can share anything that’ll help them, that’s awesome.”

The 39-year-old Halladay plans to work with pitchers on the mental side of the game along with the fundamentals and mechanics of pitching.

“Whatever concerns they may have, if any, or talking about things that helped me be successful, so it can cover a range of things,” Halladay said. “For me, it’s just a pleasure to be able to help out. If it’s throwing BP, I’ll throw BP.”

Halladay watched young starters Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson throw and talked with others on his first day in camp.

“He’s probably 95 percent mental whether it’s thought process going into pitches or sequence, it’s incredible,” Thompson said.

Eflin said he was excited to introduce himself to Halladay.

Darvish feels fine

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Texas Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish says he is no longer having strange feelings in his elbow when he starts throwing again in a new inning or game.

Darvish returned to the Rangers’ rotation late last May after missing all of the 2015 season following Tommy John surgery during spring training two years ago. He said Tuesday after his latest spring training start that he feels he’s progressing very well this spring.

The pitcher then said that he experienced what he described as strange feelings last season. But he said that he’s not having that sensation anymore and has had no pain at all.

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