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Spring training games mean different things to different folks

BRADENTON, Fla. — Spring training means different things to different teams. Take the Pirates, for example. The Bucs’ first week of Grapefruit League action featured both highs and lows.

The Pirates started with three straight wins over the Phillies, Marlins and Red Sox then lost four in a row to the Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees and Phillies.

Few “regulars” saw action the first week. In fact, Corey Dickerson didn’t get his first at-bat until the fifth game. Adam Frazier is expected to get his first action over the weekend.

Why?

The Pirates are ensuring playing time for prospects and offseason acquisitions while taking it slow with veterans like Dickerson and Frazier and many pitchers.

A 10-6 win over the Marlins in Monday’s home opener was exciting and showcased the talents of future star Ke ‘Bryan Hayes. Hayes, the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect and the Curve third baseman the past two seasons, had a pair of home runs and drove in six runs.

Hayes socked a game-winning, grand slam homer on a 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Bucs over the Marlins which produced a mob scene at home plate as teammates raced out to congratulate him.

Jung Ho Kang, making a bid to win back the third base job after being idle a couple seasons, has been impressive, smacking three home runs – two against the Marlins and one against the Yankees.

Jason Martin, who spent part of 2018 as the Curve center fielder, hit a pair of homers as he bids to open eyes of Pirate brass.

As pitchers go, free agent signee Francisco Liriano has looked good in a couple relief appearances and appears to be on track to win a job as the club’s fifth starter or late-inning reliever.

On the down side, Stephen Brault continues to be inconsistent, which doesn’t help his bid to become the fifth starter, Elvis Escobar’s switch from the outfield to the mound has been shaky, at best, and catcher Elias Diaz is battling an illness which has sidelined him from the start. If he can’t start the season, it could mean a backup role for Jacob Stallings.

Fandom

Altoona area folks seen at LECOM Park included Tom and Lenora Irwin, Bill and Fritz Beard, Dick Beard, Dave Beard, Bob and Joan Lozinak, Matt and Jen Cacciotti and son.

Autographs

Among players signing for Jean and Joan: Felipe Rivero-Vazquez of the Pirates, Don Mattingly, Pedro Alvarez, and J.J. Riddle of the Marlins, and Alex Cora and Gorkys Hernandez of the Red Sox.

Altoona Day

The annual Altoona Day bash was held at Duff’s Original Buffet in Bradenton with a record 163 persons attending.

Special gifts went to Joe Burns and Anna Mae Helsel as the oldest attendees. Burns, 88, is a 1949 Altoona High grad and lives in the Villages, Fla. while Helsel, 95, is from Newry and is a 1940 grad of Hollidaysburg High.

Gotta eat, too

Restaurant stops included Bella Mia Italian Kitchen, Cortez Kitchen and Primo’s Ristorante.

Until next week …

Lane, a former Mirror sports editor, writes from Florida in February and March.

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