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Pirates’ pitching struggles early on

From Mirror, wire reports

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox scored three times in the seventh inning in a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in exhibition play Wednesday.

Jose Osuna and Cole Tucker each had a hit and an RBI for the Pirates (0-5-1). Starter Mitch Keller struck out three in a 12/3 innings of work, but did give up two earned runs.

Nick Burdi, James Marvel and Richard Rodriguez each struck out two in an inning of work for the Pirates. Losing pitcher Sam Howard gave up three earned runs in on two-thirds of an inning.

The Pirates are slated to play Baltimore today at 1 p.m. Hector Noesi is expected to start for Pittsburgh.

Astros feeling it

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houston’s Alex Bregman was hit on the back by a breaking ball from St. Louis reliever Ramon Santos on Wednesday, the seventh Astros player plunked in five spring training games.

“It was a splitter,” Bregman said. “It just got away from him.”

Some opposing players have called for retaliation against the Astros following Major League Baseball’s finding that Houston broke rules against electronic sign-stealing en route to its 2017 World Series title and again in 2018.

Dustin Garneau was hit Sunday against Washington, and Jose Altuve was grazed Monday against Detroit, when Osvaldo Duarte and Alex De Goti also were hit. Aledmys Diaz and Jake Meyers were hit Tuesday by Miami.

Santos’ 1-0 pitch in the fifth inning struck Bregman on the left shoulder blade. The two-time All-Star trotted to first, then was replaced by a pinch runner.

“I think I got hit like 10 times last year, or something like that,” Bregman said. “One of them got me good last year, but that one was just a split-finger.”

Bregman hit his first homer of spring training, a tying solo shot in the third on an 0-2 pitch from Angel Rondon. Houston hit four homers in a 7-5 loss to the Cardinals in a split-squad game for both sides.

Houston pitching coach Brent Strom was ejected by plate umpire Mike Eastabrook in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

“I could tell it was brewing,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “Some of those pitches were kind of close for a spring training game. He called a good game, but it was tight, a tight zone.”

Slugger injured

TAMPA, Fla. — New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton will likely miss opening day because of a strained right calf, another significant injury for a team that was beset by health problems last season.

Manager Aaron Boone said Stanton was hurt near the end of defensive drills on Tuesday. An MRI found a Grade 1 strain.

“It will probably put us against it a little bit,” Boone said Wednesday. “I would say it’s time for him to get back, but then getting built up and stuff. We’ll see.”

The announcement came a day after New York said All-Star pitcher Luis Severino needed Tommy John surgery and would miss the entire season. Slugger Aaron Judge and lefty James Paxton already had been slowed this spring by injuries.

The Yankees put a major league-record 30 players on the injured list last year, with Stanton missing most of the season.

Asked if felt snake-bitten, Boone replied “No.”

The AL East champion Yankees open on March 26 at Baltimore.

Stanton played in just 18 games due a number of injuries last season, batting .288 with three homers in 59 at-bats. He hit 38 homers in his first year with the Yankees in 2018, one year after a going deep a career-high 59 times in 2017 with the Miami Marlins.

Boone feels Stanton will be able to take advantage of replicating at-bats from last year’s rehab assignments and indoor work.

“So, I feel like from a hitting standpoint, he saw a lot of reps last year for being in a way a lost season,” Boone said.

The outfielder/designated hitter signed a $325 million, 13-year contract after the 2014 season.

“It’s disappointing because you want to get guys going and built up,” Boone said. “But it’s just a little bump in the road and we’re equipped to handle it.”

Boone doesn’t know if Stanton’s latest injury will mean more time at DH.

“We’ll have those conversions as he gets healthy and going,” Boone said.

Japan in lockdown

TOKYO — Japan’s professional baseball league says it will play its 72 remaining preseason games in empty stadiums because of the threat of the spreading coronavirus.

The regular season is to open on March 20.

The virus that began in China is disrupting all of the country’s sports schedules and has raised concerns about the Tokyo Olympics. They are to open on July 24 followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 25.

Representatives of the baseball league’s 12 teams made the move at a special meeting on Wednesday.

“This was a bitter decision to make,” Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted Commissioner Atsushi Saito as saying.

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