So far, Pirates have mixed results
BRADENTON, Fla.–After one week of Grapefruit League games, we’ve seen both good and bad results from the Pirates, who won six of their first eight games.
First, the good
Pitcher Tyler Glasnow had an impressive performance, fanning six of seven Oriole batters in his first outing, including three American League all-stars consecutively – Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo.
Ivan Nova, who pitched well for the Pirates after coming over from the Yankees on Aug. 1 last season, also had a good first outing, hurling a pair of perfect innings against the Blue Jays. Nova is expected to start the club’s home opener against the Braves on April 7 and should stabilize the rotation.
Gregory Polanco rapped out three hits, drove in two runs and stole two bases in a win over the Orioles, raising talks of a possible 30-30 (homers and stolen bases) by Pirate fans. Jin-De Jhang, who caught for the Curve a year ago, homered in an early win as did Chris Bostick, who has eyes on the club’s utility role.
Josh Lindblom, a non-roster invitee who spent the last two seasons in Korea, tossed two scoreless, hitless innings and John Jaso socked a homer in a win over the Twins.
The Pirates belted four homers, including a grand slam by Jordy Mercer, while pounding the Tigers, 11-1. Former Curve standout Jose Osuna homered against the Orioles Friday and has been the Bucs’ hottest hitter, going 6-for-11 with two homers.
The not-so good
After serving as the primary set-up man for two seasons, Tony Watson took over the closer’s role when Mark Melancon went to the Nationals last year. Watson struggled in his Grapefruit debut, failing to get three outs while giving up three runs to the Blue Jays in just two-thirds of an inning.
The same game in which Watson was the losing pitcher, another bullpen hopeful, A.J. Schugel was torched for three home runs in one inning. Jared Hughes also had a rocky first performance, and Gerrit Cole did not look like the team’s ace in his first start.
Starling Marte, not known for his patience at the plate, drew three walks in his first eight at-bats this spring. Marte walked only 23 times in 529 at-bats in 2016.
Former Altoona Curve players Robbie Grossman and Matt Hague are trying to win jobs with the Minnesota Twins. In a recent loss to the Pirates, Grossman doubled and scored on a Hague single.
Next week figures to be one of the biggest and best of the spring with four games scheduled here. The Yankees visit Monday, the Braves come to town Tuesday and the Bucs will entertain the Dominican Republic’s powerful World Baseball team on Wednesday. The Tampa Bay Rays will be at LECOM Park on Friday.
On the move
We recently made a couple of trips to the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City where we enjoyed shows by country stars Willie Nelson, who drew a sellout crowd, and Little Big Town.
Blair County/Altoona folks seen recently at the ballpark included Stephen and Jodi Pyo and sons, Tom and Lenora Irwin, Bill and Fritz Beard, and Gene and Patrice Yingling. Friends Fred and Barb Woods also have arrived.
Recently visited restaurants included Olive Garden, Sage Biscuit, Sweet Berries, Five Guys, Anna Maria Oyster Bar and Hooters.
Until next week …
Lane, a retired sports editor of the Mirror, writes from Florida during the months of February and March.