Francisco Liriano was scheduled to go five innings or 80 pitches today, whichever came first. He threw 81 pitches, but did it in four innings. Liriano had some command problems, due to rushing through his delivery and going to his front side too quickly. The problem almost led to a key moment in the third inning, when Liriano issued a walk to Rusney Castillo, putting runners on first and second with one out in a scoreless game. That’s when Francisco Cervelli came out for a visit to the mound. After the visit, Liriano struck out the next two batters.
“He just told me stay back a little longer. You’re rushing too much,” Liriano said of what Cervelli told him.
The All-Francisco battery has worked together twice now, with their first game coming in the B game earlier this week against the Twins. They had a few bullpen sessions before that, and are starting to work well with each other.
“He plays similar to Russell [Martin] back there,” Liriano said. “You can throw anything in the dirt, he’ll block it for you. We’re on the same page so far. Things are great.”
Liriano said that he feels confident in Cervelli, and has a good idea of what he can do behind the plate. Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle said that the two have a good feel and a good tempo.
“We’re kind of knocking the to-do list off for Francisco Cervelli as far as who he hasn’t caught,” Hurdle said. “He’s just about at everybody right now.”
The exceptions would be A.J. Burnett from the rotation, and maybe one reliever. Cervelli has been impressive early on with his defense, and with the way he has picked up the pitching staff so quickly.
“Every time out there it’s add experience,” Hurdle said. “Every time out there it’s a little more growth for both of them. I don’t think we’re very far apart at all. [Cervelli’s] got a good feel for the game. He’s picked up on our guys. He’s been a quick learner.”
Jung-ho Kang Not Injured
There were concerns today that Jung-ho Kang was injured, due to the fact that he didn’t participate in workouts today. Clint Hurdle said after the game that today was a work day for him, and that he’s not injured.
“We’re just slowing him down a little bit,” Hurdle said. “We’re doing some work. Basically things we talk about during the season, work days. Specific work days. So we just kind of re-created what we’re doing with him.”
Kang has been struggling at the plate lately, so it’s possible the Pirates were just giving him a break. He also just moved over to second base to get reps at the position.
“He’s a very solid defender,” Hurdle said. “And actually, in 2008 he played second base. It’s not the first time he’s been there. It’s just giving him the reps.”
Andrew McCutchen Starting a Base Running Progression
Andrew McCutchen has been out with a lower body injury. The Pirates are taking a cautious approach with their superstar, as McCutchen has said he would be playing right now if it was the regular season. It looks like he might be nearing a return.
“He’s going to go through a base running progression on the bases tomorrow,” Hurdle said. “Had another full day of work activity. He’s feeling better.”
The Process For Getting Minor Leaguers a Big League Look
Austin Meadows has made a few appearances in big league camp this week, including a start in Friday’s split-squad game down in Fort Myers. I asked Hurdle today what led to the decisions that brought guys like Meadows up for a look in big league camp.
“Number one, I trust our farm system evaluators,” Hurdle said. “It’s Kyle Stark. It’s Larry Broadway. We ask for a list of players, of guys we’d like to present with opportunity to cut their teeth a little bit. It’s not just Austin Meadows. It’s [Elvis] Escobar that came up the other day and hit a triple to the right-center field gap. We got Reese McGuire up here the other day, didn’t find an opportunity. But it’s a lot of different players. JaCoby Jones is a guy we’re going to look at. It’s not really about advancing their development, it’s just exposing their development. Giving them an opportunity to play in a different environment, a different atmosphere. We’ve done it with guys in the past. It works for us, we believe in it, and we’ll continue to do it.”
Other Hurdle Notes
**Hurdle thinks that Antonio Bastardo will fit nicely with the Pirates in PNC Park.
“He’s finding a comfort zone. We’re trying to keep him from over-trying. He’s come here. He’s pitched a hitter friendly ball park his whole career. If he doesn’t change anything and just comes pitching for us, we’re defense outfield, defense infield, defense the park. We just think he’s going to be better.”
**Hurdle said that the Pirates aren’t concerned with Andrew Lambo’s struggles this Spring, and that it’s not reflective of his game.
“He’s working hard everyday. He’s been in a much better place mentally through this Spring Training. He’s not fighting anything. He’s just trying to have good at-bats, play when he’s asked to play, move around the outfield and first base. He’s had a very positive attitude. I told him not to read anything into it, other than just give us the best at-bat you can each time you grab that piece of lumber and go up to the plate.”
**As I reported yesterday, Stetson Allie has moved to right field, following his move to the minors last week. Hurdle talked about the move.
“We had conversations with him in the exit interview when we talked to him. Very athletic kid. See if we can provide him with some more freedom out there in the outfield to run around and go. He embraced it. There wasn’t a second thought on his part. He was looking forward to another opportunity. With the people and the players that we have playing positions, this could open up something for him to have a little more versatility as well…He’s athletic. The people that have watched him can tell you the guy can move. He can run. So at first base, you might not have been utilizing all the athleticism that he does have, so we’re going to find out what more is there, and what he can do out there.”