Spring Training Analysis
Bradenton, FL — The Pirates dynasty is off to a 1-1 start after a 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees Wednesday afternoon. With spring training heating up, here are 8 observations from Bradenton
1. Moss getting every opportunity to make team? — There hasn’t been day when manager John Russell doesn’t go out of his way to praise Brandon Moss on the way he is hitting the ball in spring training.
There have been strong indications that the Pirates will give Moss every opportunity to make this team as an extra outfielder. Being a key player in the Jason Bay Trade in July 2008, Moss is likely to get the benefit of the doubt when its come to one of the final outfield spots but we may be looking too much into that.
For his part, he is hitting the ball well in live batting practice and is off to a good start going 2 for 2, with a home run in the Pirates opening game on Tuesday.
2. Alvarez showing patience at the plate — Top prospect Pedro Alvarez is a much more patient hitter entering his second professional season. Alvarez has embraced the heavy expectations, and is in excellent shape. Pirates scouts have been very encouraged by his patience at the plate. “He’s not pressing, ” a scout told me
3. Concerns for Clement at first base — A major concern for the Pirates in spring training has been Jeff Clement at first base.
It’s been an adjustment for the former first round pick and he has struggled mightily in the field during practices but he did fare pretty well on Wednesday against the Yankees, which was somewhat of a positive sign. However, I’m not sure he’s going to be ready for the position by the season opener.
4. McCutchen a positive influence on Milledge — If your looking for a player to have a breakout season, look to left fielder Lasting Milledge. Milledge has added 6-to-8 pounds in muscle and is highly motivated to have a breakout season.
Milledge and Andrew McCutchen have hit it off and McCutchen’s determination to be a great player has been a positive influence on Milledge.
5. Maholm at full health — The Pirates regard Paul Maholm as their No. 1 starter and Maholm indicates he’s healthy for the first time since about last May.
He is throwing the ball well and had a good outing against the Yankees on Wednesday. Maholm retired the side in order in his one inning, throwing 9 of 11 pitches for strike.
6. Pirates like Raynor’s versatility — A sleeper in spring training is outfielder John Raynor. I’m told the organization considers him a strong contender for the 5th outfielder spot due to his versatility. He covers a lot of ground and is the Pirates most viable option behind Andrew McCutchen in center field.
7. Eric Kratz on the Pirates map — Catcher Eric Kratz, a non roster player has been the talk of Bradenton the past two days. Kratz went 2 for 2, with a home run and 2 RBI’s in Tuesday’s opener and following that performance up with a two-run pinch hit double in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game to spark a three run inning.
Kratz is a line drive hitter and has caught the attention of manager John Russell. “He put himself on the map with a very solid AAA season and he’s doing a good job here, ” Russell said. “He’s a threat at the plate.”
8. Huntington will get a new contract before Russell — There’s been some buzz about Neal Huntington and John Russell entering the final year of their contracts. The Pirates at this moment have no intention to extend Russell. Russell is not on the hot seat but extending his contract won’t be explored until mid-season.
Whether the Pirates get off to a slow start or not, ownership has all intentions of extending Huntington’s contract and look for something to get done by June.
*Reliever Joel Hanrahan threw today for the first time this spring. There were not setbacks. Hanrahan will do some soft toss on Thursday.
*Closer Octavio Dotel is at least a week away from throwing off a mound. Due to the age of the Pirates bullpen, their health is going to be question mark all season.
*Charlie Morton will start on Thursday, projected to throw two innings.