Today is a pretty big day, both in Pittsburgh and the minor leagues. Charlie Morton will make his first start of the season for the Pirates and Stephen Tarpley will make his first start for the West Virginia Power. The start by Morton is obviously more important, the Pirates need him to pitch well, since the back-end of the rotation has not done a good job this year. Morton has pitched extremely well in the minors, getting both strikeouts and grounders at a high rate. If he can carry over that success, the Pirates will be set up good to make a run at the playoffs, with the first goal being getting back to the .500 mark tonight.
Tarpley’s start is a big deal because he is the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Pirates’ system. He was also the big piece in the Travis Snider trade, though by his recent performances(and Tarpley’s missed time), Steven Brault could end up being better. Tarpley is far from a sure thing, especially since he is making his full-season debut at age 22, and he doesn’t have much of a track record. The struggles for the last month from Travis Snider have taken away some of the sting of the deal for some fans and if Tarpley looks good in his debut, he could make the deal look better.
We had some draft coverage yesterday, taking a look at a couple pitchers that could be possibilities for the first pick. Then we had some quotes from Neal Huntington, talking about the depth in this draft class, as well as what the Pirates will be thinking when the draft starts two weeks from now. I mentioned that there are players that have been linked to both of the Pirates’ picks. One of them is Cal Poly Pomona pitcher Cody Ponce, who started on Sunday night.
Ponce was pitching in the Division II championships and it was well-covered by draft experts, so there were updates all night. He was sitting 90-93, touching 94 MPH and multiple sources said his secondary stuff didn’t look sharp, but he still had a good outing. Ponce went seven innings and allowed four runs(two earned) on eight hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts. He has probably pitched his way out of consideration for the 19th overall pick, but when the Pirates make their second selection 13 picks later, he could be a player they strongly consider due to his great size and huge upside.
Another player that could be someone the Pirates look at with the 32nd overall pick, is Florida shortstop Richie Martin. He played Vanderbilt on Sunday and went 0-for-3 with a walk. He played five games in five days this week during the SEC tournament. Martin went 0-for-4 with a walk and his 20th stolen base, as well as his eighth error of the season on Saturday. He went 1-for-2 with a walk, stolen base and an RBI on Friday. Martin had two hits and scored two runs on Thursday and 1-for-4 with an error in Wednesday’s opener.
Going 4-for-18 in the tournament won’t help his draft stock, as many have dropped him recently. He will stick at shortstop and steal a lot of bases, so he has value, though some people don’t think his bat has a lot of upside. Shortstop is usually a tough position to fill through the draft, because many of them end up either not hitting enough, or moving to a different position in the pros. This year, shortstop is actually a loaded position early, so it gives teams many options and Martin is now lower among that group. The Pirates third pick is at #62 and it’s highly unlikely he would drop that far, so if the Pirates have interest in Martin, they will have to reach just a little to get him.
Pirates Game Graph
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Mets by a 9-1 score on Sunday afternoon, sweeping the three-game series. Charlie Morton makes his first start of the season for the Pirates tonight. He made three rehab appearances in the minors and allowed three runs over 20.1 innings. Morton had 22 strikeouts and a 3.11 GO/AO ratio. David Phelps will make the start for the Marlins.
In the minors, Stephen Tarpley will make his first start of the season. He was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in the Travis Snider trade. Tarpley was shutdown at the end of Spring Training with shoulder soreness. Wilfredo Boscan will make his first start since his brief call up to the Pirates in which he didn’t make an appearance. He has pitched one inning in relief since then. Jason Creasy is ninth in the Eastern League in ERA. Bradenton has off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.
MLB: Pittsburgh (21-22) vs Marlins (18-27) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (NR)
Here is a home run from Eric Wood, his first of the season. The 22-year-old third baseman is struggling with the jump to AA, hitting .208/.292/.283 in 33 games, with 31 strikeouts. He had a .642 OPS in April, which has dropped to .527 this month.
5/25: Stephen Tarpley added to WV Power roster.
5/25: Jerrick Suiter activated from WV Power disabled list. Miguel Rosario and Montana DuRapau promoted to Bradenton
5/22: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list. Andy Vasquez assigned to WV Black Bears.
5/20: Tyler Glasnow placed on disabled list.
5/19: Julio Eusebio, Cesilio Pimentel and Ryan Hafner assigned to Extended Spring Training. Bradenton adds Henry Hirsch, Felipe Gonzalez and Brett McKinney to roster.
5/19: Jose Tabata added to 40-man roster and recalled. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis.
5/19: Justin Seller transferred to 60-day disabled list.
5/19: Matt Benedict assigned to Altoona.
5/17: Jeff Roy placed on disabled list. Trace Tam Sing added to WV Power roster
5/17: Bradenton adds Julio Eusebio, Cesilio Pimentel and Ryan Hafner to roster. Henry Hirsch, Felipe Gonzalez and Brett McKinney assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/16: Luis Heredia added to Bradenton roster. Matt Benedict promoted to Indianapolis.
5/16: Wilfredo Boscan added to 40-man roster and promoted to Majors. Steve Lombardozzi sent to Indianapolis.
5/16: Brandon Cumpton transferred to 60-day disabled list.
5/15: Charlie Leesman placed on Indianapolis disabled list.
5/15: Antonio Bastardo activated from Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise optioned to Indianapolis.
5/14: Charlie Morton assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
5/14: Pirates sign catcher Paul Brands.
5/13: Hayden Hurst placed on Voluntarily Retired List.
5/12: Indianapolis placed John Holdzkom on disabled list.
5/11: Felipe Gonzalez added to Bradenton roster. Ryan Hafner assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/11: Charlie Leesman added to Indianapolis roster.
5/11: Antonio Bastardo placed on Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise recalled from Indianapolis.
5/11: Connor Joe added to WV Power roster. Trace Tam Sing transferred to WV Black Bears.
5/10: Pirates acquire Jayson Aquino from Toronto Blue Jays for cash. Aquino assigned to Bradenton.
This Date in Pirates History
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus current minor leaguer and first round pick Brad Lincoln turns 30 today. Among the former players, we have first baseman Randall Simon(2003-04), outfielder William Pennyfeather(1992-94), first baseman Jim Marshall(1962) and pitcher John Hofford, who played for the franchise in 1885-86, before the Pirates were called the Pirates(Alleghenys) and before they moved to the National League, which happened in 1887.
On this date in 1954, the Pirates traded outfielder Cal Abrams to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Dick Littlefield. The Orioles got one good season out of Abrams, while Littlefield pitched well for the Pirates in 1954, a season in which they lost 101 games. He struggled the next season, then was part of a deal that brought Bill Virdon to Pittsburgh.
On this date in 1935, the Pittsburgh Pirates won 11-7 over the Boston Braves, but an aging slugger for Boston was the big story. That day, Babe Ruth hit the last three homers of his Major League career. The last homer he hit, left Forbes Field over the right field roof, making him the first player to ever accomplish that feat.