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Pirate City Notes: Connor Joe and Luis Heredia Show Progress


BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pirates’ Class-A teams played Toronto’s at Pirate City this afternoon.  The High-A lineup:

  1. Kevin Newman, DH
  2. Kevin Kramer, 2B
  3. Connor Joe, 3B
  4. Jerrick Suiter, 1B
  5. Taylor Gushue, C
  6. Jordan Luplow, 3B
  7. Pablo Reyes, SS
  8. Elvis Escobar, RF
  9. Tito Polo, CF

In addition to the above, Cole Tucker stepped in for three at-bats, getting one hit.  Tucker still is not making throws from short during drills, with his throws at this point being limited sessions after practice.

The afternoon started off on a negative note.  Stephen Tarpley warmed up to start the High-A game, but stopped, leading to a huddle with the trainer and coaches.  Tarpley threw one more test pitch, then left holding his side. (UPDATE from Tim Williams: I’m told it was discomfort in his right side, and that he will be re-evaluated tomorrow.)

Lefty Sean Keselica replaced Tarpley.  Keselica threw mostly in the upper 80s, with quite a few changeups.  He gave up a home run to his first batter and generally got hit fairly hard.

Luis Heredia, newly assigned to the bullpen, followed Keselica for one inning.  Heredia sat at 93 MPH and hit 94-95 several times, which is the hardest I’ve seen him throw since . . . well, ever.  His control started off shaky, as he walked the first hitter, but he settle down after that, fanning the next two, in part due to a nice curve that he threw for strikes a couple times.  The fourth hitter reached on a routine grounder that Connor Joe simply held onto for too long.  The fifth hitter singled, but Michael Suchy and Jerrick Suiter combined on a good relay to get the runner at the plate.

Christian Mota and Julio Eusebio followed Heredia.  Mota is a small lefty, but he threw a 91-93 MPH fastball, along with a few changeups.  Eusebio sat at 91-92.  Both had relatively quiet outings.

The offense produced some fireworks, as Joe showed signs of recovery from the back problems that limited him last year.  He hit a pair of home runs to left and also tripled to deep right-center.  Suiter added two longballs of his own, both to the opposite field just inside the foul pole.  One may have been wind-aided, but the other definitely wasn’t.  Michael Suchy had a triple off the batter’s eye in center.  Pablo Reyes hit several balls hard and had two hits.  Reyes has been a second baseman for the last two years, but he played short today and has also seen time at third this spring.  He had a good year in Low-A in 2015, but if he goes to Bradenton, the Pirates will have to search for a way to get him playing time.  The Marauders figure to have Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer, Joe or Luplow playing in the infield most of the time.

Speaking of Luplow, he’s been limited by an injury to his non-throwing shoulder and has been playing left field, but he replaced Joe at third briefly today.  The move produced unfortunate results, as Luplow collided with first baseman Sam Kennelly as the two were chasing a pop-up.  Luplow was down for a bit with an apparent leg injury, but returned to the game and, eventually, to left field.  Kennelly didn’t fare as well and had to be carted off with what appeared to be a left leg injury. (UPDATE from Tim Williams: Kennelly is getting a scan on his knee and shin area tomorrow, but seems hopeful that it’s not bad.) At the plate, Luplow had a double to deep right-center.

West Virginia

The Low-A lineup was:

  1. Mitchell Tolman, 2B
  2. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
  3. Casey Hughston, CF
  4. Carlos Munoz, 1B
  5. Ryan Nagle, LF
  6. Ty Moore, RF
  7. Albert Baur, DH
  8. Christian Kelley, C
  9. Alfredo Reyes, SS

The starter was righty Bret Helton.  He threw 90-93, but had trouble, especially early, getting his secondary stuff over for strikes.  He got hit hard at times.  Scooter Hightower followed Helton.  He threw in the upper-80s with a sharp curve.  After Hightower came Mike Wallace, who also threw in the upper-80s and added a changeup.  Shane Kemp finished.

I saw less of the hitters in the Low-A game.  Tolman had an opposite field home run and Alfredo Reyes hit a couple balls hard.  He also covered a lot of ground at short.  Hughston had a pair of hits, although they weren’t struck especially hard.

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Wilbur Miller
Wilbur Miller
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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