BRADENTON, Fla. — Right-hander Jeff Karstens tossed three scoreless innings in his first Grapefruit League start of the spring. After tossing two scoreless frames on Friday’s intrasquad game at McKechnie, Karstens cruised through his outing, needing to throw extra pitches afterwards and finished by riding the stationary bike.
“Usually I try and work as quick as possible. It’s just one of those things where I was able to locate a lot better than I did in the ‘pen before I went out there,” Karstens said of his quick outing. “I felt pretty good. I was sweating out there. I think the training staff has a pretty good workout program in place. I kind of bought into it. I feel better than I felt in a long time. Then with the offseason workouts. I think it’s all working together and paying off.”
“He was very sharp today,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “So efficient. 35 pitches over three innings. [He] threw all his pitches, used both sides of the plate, spun the ball really well. He threw some good changeups, cutter. He’s worked extremely hard this winter and right now it’s very, very good command, which we’ve seen from him in the past.”
Overall, Karstens gave up two hits over his three innings with a strikeout.
“I’m still trying to get better,” Karstens said. “There was a couple of situations where I had 0-2, 1-2, and I could have probably made better pitches that I got outs on. That’s what spring training is for, get all he kinks out of there and get better.”
“I think my fastball location was pretty good for the most part. I got away with a couple of pitches that were moving. My changeup is coming along like it has in the past. It’s something I really haven’t had over the last couple years. I think it’s really something that can benefit me if I can get it back to the way its been working the last couple times I’ve thrown it.”
The Pirates connected for three-homers on the day –Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones and Starling Marte each picking up a their first’s of the season.
“Seven straight hits is a lot,” Hurdle said on Marte. “I never got seven straight hits. He looks very, very confident at the plate…He’s seeing the ball well. He’s put the ball on the ground with a bunt, swung the bat, drove a ball big time to left-center field today. He looks good at the plate.”
Alvarez, whose home run was his first hit this spring over seven at-bats, is looking for a bounce back season.
“We need to give some guys some time,” Hurdle said. “He went and kept working. He drove a ball well to straight away left field. Then smoked another ball back up the middle today. Some progress is made today. A little confidence is the best elixir for anybody. A little success builds confidence.”
“Success helps everybody. He’s worked extremely hard. It’s just finding that balance once the games starts. It’s what I’ve talked about everyday, him finding some balance, and today was a good day for him. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and hopefully that will give him some traction, give him some confidence. He’s just got to trust all the work he’s put in. You trust all your training when you get into games. You don’t get mechanical. You don’t over think. You go compete. And that’s what we’ve encouraged him to do.”
Another hot bat by the Buccos came from Josh Harrison, who is battling for an infield utility role, picked up two doubles on the day with a run and a RBI.
Both right-hander Brad Lincoln and lefty Jeff Locke struggled in their outings against the Blue Jays’ hitters, combining for seven earned runs on 11 hits over their 3+ innings of relief.
After escaping a bases loaded jam in the 4th, Lincoln took the mound for a second inning but was able to retire a batter. Brian Bocock hit a leadoff triple, then scored on a RBI single by Yunel Escobar. Two more runs scored after allowing a two-run homer to right. Travis d’Arnaud -(Chase’s younger brother) picked up a double off Lincoln for the fourth straight hit in the inning. Adam Lind followed with a RBI single for the fourth run of the frame. Hurdle pulled Lincoln and went to reliever Jose Diaz, who was an extra arm in the ‘pen from the minors, and he ended the inning.
The Blue Jays took the lead in the 7th when Jan Gomes hit a solo homer off lefty Jeff Locke.The Blue Jays tacked on two more runs when Jonathan Diaz hit a two-run double.
- Relief: Brad Lincoln: 1+IP, 6H, 4R, 2BB, WP; Jose Diaz IP; Jeff Locke 2P, 6H, 3R, K, HB, HR; Evan Meek IP, 2H, R, 2K, HR; Jason Grilli IP, K
- Josh Harrison went 2-for-2 with two doubles a run and a RBI; Pedro Alvarez 2-for-3 with a run and a solo-homer; Starling Marte went 2-for-2 with a two-run homer. Marte now has seven straight hits.
Thursday Game Info:
- Right-hander James McDonald (three innings) will start for the Pirates against the Phillies in Clearwater. McDonald will face lefty Cole Hamels. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05.
- Following McDonald in relief are: Justin Wilson, Daniel Moskos, Jared Hughes, Bryan Morris and Mike Crotta.
- After the game there was not a lineup for the Pirates, but the following Bucs will be traveling to Clearwater:
Catchers: Rod Barajas, Ramon Cabrera, Tony Sanchez, Eric Fryer
Infielders: Casey McGehee, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison, Chase d’Arnaud, Yamaico Navarro, Anderson Hernandez, Jordy Mercer, Jake Fox, Nick Evans
Outfielders: Alex Presley, Nate McLouth, Brandon Boggs, Starling Marte, Gorkys Hernandez, Robbie Grossman
Not much mentioned about the rather large Mr. Diaz, but he did a great job of cleaning up Lincoln’s mess. Karstens and Grilli were the only two pitchers that I thought looked good today. Drabek looked like batting practice, but in fairness to him, the Pirates did have their starting lineup in with the exception of the catcher and 2nd basemen, but Harrison did have two doubles playing 2nd today . McHenry did not look good at all catching today.
Marte’s home run and Alvarez’s shot up the middle where the loudest cracks of the bat I heard all day, even Alvarez’s home run did not have the sound of that shot up the middle.
Marte is terrific, but I would be shocked if he sees Pittsburgh this year, they would need a couple of long term injuries for that to happen.
He will be in Pittsburgh if he destroy AAA pitching and Presley struggles. Mark it down haha
Good news with Karstens, very encouraging.
I agree. If the Pirates have a hope to contend in the division this year, Karstens will need to have a great year.
Considering the way Marte has played so far in Spring Training, at which point does he start to become an option in the short term?
Coming into the year, he seemed like a consensus September call-up, but could he be in Pittsburgh in May or June? Or I guess, rather, should he?
Everyday he continues to hit, it seems more difficult to exclude him from the talks about what’s happening with the team right now.
NH said that Marte needs a full year in AAA, but to me that seemed like he was taking the pressure off of him so that media don’t clamor for a quick call up.
I’ve contended all along that he’ll be in July, if he’s hitting well with moderate power/great speed.
I like Presley a lot, but he’s not going to hold back Marte. Even if all 3 starters are healthy, if Marte is hitting he will be up here any time after July 1.
I would think he is still up for september. If the outfield stays healthy, mclouth can fill in nicely if needed, plus Jones could spot start as well.
If an injury happens, i think McLouth moves into the lineup and someone like Boggs gets the call while Marte plays every day in AAA. UNLESS, marte is batting like .350 or something and forces NH’s hand.
I definitely don’t want him to come up and be the 4th outfielder. I’m interested to see how he works out in AAA this year. If he has a really nice start and one of the guys in the outfield goes down with a 60-day DL type of injury, I think you have to see that as an ideal situation to bring him up.