Pittsburgh Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington has mentioned several times that the Pirates anticipate setbacks when it comes to players recovering from Tommy John surgery. Those setbacks aren’t always physical, but can sometimes be the hesitancy to throw a certain pitch or to face live batters. Most of these references by Huntington have been towards Jameson Taillon, who hasn’t seen any setbacks yet. But the Pirates have Clay Holmes also returning from Tommy John surgery.
I talked with Holmes today after he threw his latest bullpen session. He’s still on a schedule of throwing bullpens and live batting practice, but should be moving to sim games soon. He’s currently transitioning from a two-day per week schedule to a five-day routine, throwing on different days than the previous Tuesday/Friday schedule. The most important thing is that he said he hasn’t seen any setbacks.
“I’ve had a couple days here and there where I wouldn’t throw, but for the most part it’s been pretty smooth,” Holmes said of his recovery. “Throwing has been well right now. Nothing to complain about right now.”
Holmes said that he’s feeling good, and that his arm and body are both feeling good.
“Hopefully we’ll keep it up,” Holmes said. “This rehab progression is kind of drawn out, but it’s for the better. Everything is feeling good, and they kind of stay on top of that. Just trust what they’re doing and what they have laid out on the schedule.”
Just like Taillon, expect Holmes to begin the season in extended Spring Training. He will eventually move to Bradenton where he will pitch out of the rotation.
John Sever Strikes Out Rowdy Tellez
I wrote about John Sever last week, noting that he had the best strikeout rate in the Pirates’ minor league system in 2014. He made an appearance on Saturday, and looked impressive, sitting 89-91 MPH, and touching as high as 93. He was mostly working with his fastball, throwing one changeup and two sliders. The 93 MPH pitch came once, and was on his final pitch of the day. That was also his most notable at-bat, as he used the pitch to get Toronto Blue Jays prospect Rowdy Tellez swinging for a strikeout.
Baseball America rated Tellez with the best power in the Blue Jays’ system. He had a .782 OPS in the Appalachian League last year, before moving up to low-A, where he had a .949 OPS in 49 plate appearances. Tellez played Bristol last year when Sever was on the team, but the two never met during the season. You can watch the strikeout below, which begins with 2014 4th round pick Taylor Gushue throwing out a runner at third. For reference, the umpire in the video is a coach who is standing behind the pitcher, blocked by Tellez.
Other Pirate City Notes
**Frank Duncan went two innings in his start, although his second inning ended early due to his pitch count. He was sitting 88-89 MPH, and only threw four changeups on the day, with the rest of his pitches being fastballs. Duncan had a 3.58 ERA in 65.1 innings, with a 49:11 K/BB ratio last year in the Jamestown rotation. He looks like he’s getting prepared for an extended role. If he’s not a starter, then I’d expect him to be a long reliever, with a chance to move into a starting role if one opens up.
**Taylor Gushue, last year’s fourth round pick, went 1-for-3 in the stolen base attempts I saw. The two steals came with Duncan on the mound, with one steal at second and one at third. The caught stealing was with Sever on the mound, seen in the video above.
**Edwin Espinal displayed his power again, hitting a double to the wall. I like his power potential, but he looks like he might be a DH only unless he can get in better shape.
**Dovydas Neverauskas was sitting 89-91 MPH, which is down from his usual low-90s range and his consistent hitting of 95 MPH in the past. Marek Minarek was sitting 88-90 MPH, using a ton of off-speed stuff. The Pirates like both pitchers, so expect them to get a shot at either the West Virginia rotation, or a long relief role at the level.
**Luis Paula was a late round pick last year with a good fastball. He was sitting 90 MPH on Saturday, but had some late fade to the pitch and good downward movement. He threw one inning, needing ten pitches with two ground ball outs.
**Most of today’s action was taken up by the major league pitchers in camp. In the Triple-A game, Jeff Locke threw five innings, and was very efficient. He got seven ground ball outs in his first three innings, and had to stay on the mound to face extra batters due to his low pitch counts. Oh yeah, and Batman was in attendance to see Robin pitch.
**Meanwhile, in the Double-A game, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Antonio Bastardo all pitched an inning in relief to start the game. All three pitchers threw in the Pirates game on Saturday. Today was their first attempt at going on back to back days. The Pirates have done this in previous years, sending relievers over to Pirate City for their second appearance, rather than taking up innings in big league camp.
**Casey Sadler got his first start in minor league camp today, going on after the relievers in the Double-A game. Sadler threw four innings, and once again looked good, much like he did in most of his appearances in big league camp. He was sent down early to get stretched out to add starting depth.
**One other player who was getting stretched out today was Wilfredo Boscan. He went three innings in the Triple-A game, after Locke came off the mound. Boscan is being stretched out as a starter, although his assignment isn’t determined yet. He will either factor in with Indianapolis or Altoona. The Indianapolis rotation could have some opportunities early in the season, especially with Jameson Taillon beginning his year in extended Spring Training.
**Edward Salcedo, who the Pirates acquired from the Braves for Bryton Trepagnier, murdered a baseball today. His two run homer ended up on the roof of the clubhouse in left field. He’s expected to play in Altoona this year, splitting his time between third base and right field.
**Eric Wood, another third base option for Altoona, hit a shot off the wall in the left field gap for a double. Wood has shown some interesting power potential in the past.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Great angle on the Sever video, Tim. I think you can see a big reason why he’s been successful: very difficult to pick the ball up out of his hand. Hides it very well.
Tim: Thank you for the updates, especially the ones that include Locke’s outing at the AAA game and Melancon, Watson, and Bastardo getting innings in to start the AA game. It paints a great picture of how the whole system is in use during Spring Training.
How the Rotation plays out to start the season may be in doubt after Charlie Morton’s command difficulties against the Astro’s yesterday. If he needs additional rehab time, Worley and Locke both are in the Rotation. And, how that plays out has an effect on whether an extra reliever gets a break and/or the guys playing for the 25th man/lefty bench strength spot is still in play. Lots of moving parts with only a week left in ST.
Good stuff on the minor leaguers – I always like to hear how the various prospects are doing. Nice to hear Wood and Salcedo showing some power….I always liked Wood since his time with the Gulf League team that won the league championship 2-3 years ago..
tim are velo’s down because it is early in the season?
I think so. These are the first outings, and the velocity seems down across the board.