Sights & Sounds from Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training – Double Trouble

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The Pittsburgh Pirates drop both halves of their split squad action today, but as the spring comes to a close, a lot of questions still surround injury concerns and the starting rotation.

 

In one week, the group that will form the core of the Indianapolis Indians will take on a large number of players destined to play for the Louisville Bats of the Cincinnati Reds organization at Victory Field in Indianapolis.  Eight days from now, fans will pour into PNC Park hoping the poor record from this spring and history of inefficiency in April will not carry over into 2016.

Inefficiency was the story of the day as it carried over from the Pirates 0-3 loss in Fort Myers to the Minnesota Twins opening day lineup to the first night game of the spring at McKechnie Field and a 1-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the pair of losses, the Pirates now sit at 7-17 on the spring, second worst in the Grapefruit League.  Of course, these games are meaningless, many of these games have centered on pitchers working on aspects they have struggled with in the past and hitters getting experience.

Here are the lineups from the afternoon game:

With the exception of Sean Rodriguez and Chris Stewart, the rest of the lineup was filled with players still pleading their cases to make the opening day roster.  Cole Figueroa was once again the biggest bright spot amongst the position players on the bubble.  He’s hitting .289 this spring after going two for three today.  Clint Hurdle has said Figueroa would get time in the outfield to prove versatility.  That has yet to happen, so he’s almost a certain lock in the lineup for much of the remaining six games.

Kyle Lobstein also was impressive through the first three innings, as he continues to seek a position in the opening day bullpen.  However, he ran into trouble in the fourth when hits by Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, and Trevor Plouffe drove in two runs to end his scoreless streak.  Cory Luebke and Jim Fuller combined to throw three shutout innings, but in between, an Eduardo Escobar RBI double off Rob Scahill ended the scoring.

Here were the original lineups from the evening game:

However, Gregory Polanco was removed from the lineup due to shoulder discomfort.  He is listed as day-to-day, but he is expected to play as soon as tomorrow.  The injury appears to be minor and should not impact his status long term or his availability at the start of the season, which bodes well for a Pirates team that has already sent down their closest outfield prospect in Willy Garcia.

In the first inning, Starling Marte’s foot got stuck leaving the box.

The official report is right quad tightness, and he is also listed as day to day.  I expect the Pirates to actually be cautious in bringing him back.  They want Figueroa to have time, and Polanco’s injury seems less likely to be re-aggravated.  If either is in the lineup tomorrow, it will likely be the one that is feeling better out of the two.

Elvis Escobar stood out in place of Polanco, as the minor leaguer went two for three at the plate.  David Freese brought home the only run on his first homerun as a Pirate to center field in the sixth inning.

As far as pitching was concerned, Francisco Liriano surrendered three runs on seven hits, walking none and striking out four.  He reached his pitch limit of roughly 100 pitches in just 4.2 innings.  He worked deep into counts.  He consistently struggled with command, and was plagued by the Rays ability to foul off pitches.  On multiple occasions, he spotted a fastball in the zone just trying to get the ball put in play.

A.J. Schugel, John Kuchno, Curtis Partch, and Trey Haley pitched 4.1 scoreless innings in relief of Liriano.  After making what is expected to be his final spring training start before opening day, Liriano will have some time to work behind the scenes with Ray Searage and staff.

 

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