MORNING PIRATES BUZZ
After seeing Roy Halladay on opening day, it doesn’t get any easier for the Pirates tonight in game two of their opening three game series with the Phillies.
“We just didn’t get many pitches to hit,” Hurdle said following Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Phillies. Hurdle could be saying the same thing in tonight’s post-game press conference as Phillies ace Cliff Lee will take the mound for Philadelphia, while Jeff Karstens will start for Pittsburgh. Coming off a 17-8 season with a 2.40 ERA and major league-best six shutouts in 2011, Lee was sharp in spring training, posting a 2.45 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings and just four walks. Lee who is 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA in two career starts vs Pittsburgh, threw six scoreless innings against Pittsburgh on March 27 in spring training action.
With the lefty Lee taking the mound tonight, that prompted talk on Friday that Hurdle is likely go with a more right handed lineup against Lee.
Two of the potential lineup changes tonight could be Matt Hague replacing Garrett Jones at first base and Casey McGehee making his Pirates debut at third base, replacing Pedro Alvarez.
If Hague gets the call at first base, it will be his major league debut. While there is talk that Hague is likely the odd-man out when Charlie Morton comes off the DL in mid April, manager Clint Hurdle surely wants to give Hague a few looks in the next week before a roster spot needs to open up for Morton.
“This kid can hit, and now we’ll find out if he can hit here, ” Hurdle said this week, praising Hague’s ability to drive the ball. “I don’t think any of us are smart enough to have denied him the opportunity to go ahead and take this next step.”
LET ALVAREZ PLAY OR HIDE HIM ALREADY?
The intriguing lineup decision tonight for Hurdle will be at third base, whether he goes with Pedro Alvarez or Casey McGehee.
Last season Hurdle tried to hide Alvarez against lefties, where he batted .158 in just 38 at-bats against lefties, compared to seeing 198 at-bats against righties.
At somepoint the Pirates have to start letting Alvarez get regular at-bats against lefties but whether it happens early on in the season or at all, remains to be seen after how fragile Alvarez has looked at the plate since last season and into spring traning.
Alvarez was 0-3 with 1 strikeout in the season opener Thursday, seeing on average 5 pitches per at-bat. Alvarez is 1-2 in his career against Lee, belting a two-run homer last year.
The expectations for McGehee this season is that he will see the bulk of his playing time in a platoon role against lefties in place of Garrett Jones at first base and Pedro at third base.
Coming off a disappointing 2011 season where he hit .223 with 13 home runs, McGehee’s numbers were way down from 2010 when he had 23 homers and 104 RBIs. He also struggled mightily against lefties last season.
McGehee 2-for-9 (.222) in his career against Lee with 1 RBI and 1 double, hit just .169 against lefties last season with only 1 extra base hit in 124 at-bats. In 2010, it was a much different story for McGehee where he batted .316 against lefties with 8 home runs, 30 RBI’s and 17 doubles.
KARSTENS STARTS SEASON IN ROTATION FOR FiRST TIME
Jeff Karstens (9-9, 3.38) gets the start for Pittsburgh after posting a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings during the spring. This is his first time opening a season as part of a rotation, though he did make 26 starts last year, earning his way to open this season as the team’s No. 2 starter out of the gates.
“It’s my first year I’ve really trained to be a starter,” Karstens said, who had the lowest ERA on the starting staff in 2011. “I don’t think I trained with the mentality I have now. I think it’s a little different this year, knowing the expectations.”
Two Phillies to watch tonight: Jimmy Rollins is a .462 hitter against Karstens, while Hunter Pence is batting .381 (8-for-21) in his career against Karstens.