BRADENTON, Fla. – Wednesday in the Instructional League, the Pirates played another game that was practicing situations. I mentioned it in yesterday’s notes, but I should expand on it a little. They will start innings with runners on base and the team batting is usually trailing by 1-2 runs. They call the situations out and watch how the players handle the situation, then you’ll hear the coaches give them notes afterwards. Sometimes there are outs and sometimes the score will be tied. That last part led to an unusual inning which I will start with in the day’s recap.
Casey Hughston came to the plate and the situation was bottom of the ninth, score tied and a runner on first. The pitcher was Joel Cesar, who spent the season in the DSL. Cesar is a pitcher of interest because he reportedly hit 100 MPH before the season, and he works in the 96-97 MPH range. On his first pitch, Hughston crushed a long drive to center field that hit near the top of the fence and Hughston had himself a stand-up triple. Unfortunately, that meant that the inning was over and that ended up being the only pitch thrown by Cesar, so it wasn’t a good day for scouting him. Hughston also had a nice line drive single up the middle earlier in the game.
**Pedro Vasquez, who was one of the pitchers who returned in the Arquimedes Caminero trade, pitched an inning that started with one out and a man on first base. He got John Bormann to pop out to shallow center field, then gave up a single to Christian Kelley. Then Kevin Mahala hit a drive down the left field line that hooked foul, but Hunter Owen made a spectacular sliding catch right in front of the fence. That was one of two very impressive defensive plays on the day.
**Hard-throwing John Pomeroy pitched an inning and he displayed some wildness. His inning started with a man on second base and no outs. Gift Ngoepe came up and tried to put down a bunt, but Pomeroy couldn’t get the ball over the plate. On the last pitch, he threw one high and tight to Ngoepe and it ended up hitting him in the hand. Pomeroy got help from catcher Christian Kelley right after Ngoepe got hit. Kelley threw behind the runner at second base, and while the throw was strong, it one-hopped second base. That’s where Alfredo Reyes made the nice scoop and then dropped down the tag between his legs and behind him, where he got the out.
Pomeroy hit 98 MPH in an earlier Instructional League outing. This link includes video, where you can see some of the wildness. He also does a head tuck after throwing a pitch, which is worse on some pitches. You can also see that in the video and it was a problem on Wednesday as well.
**Shortstop Adrian Valerio was playing second base on this day. He had a couple routine grounders and handled all of the throws and situations well. Yesterday’s First Pitch highlighted the depth at shortstop in the system, and while Valerio is one of the better defensive shortstops for the Pirates, it can’t hurt to have some versatility. Catcher John Bormann was also trying out a new position, playing first base in this game.
**Besides the pitchers mentioned above, Matt Anderson, Matt Eckelman, Adam Oller, Dovydas Neverauskas, Matt Frawley, Robbie Coursel, Domingo Robles and Roger Santana also pitched. Eckelman, Coursel, Robles and Frawley had fairly quick innings, and not much of note. Neverauskas had to handle a bunt play and really looked slow off the mound. His third baseman called for the play and they may have had a chance for the out at third base (catcher Raul Hernandez was calling for the throw to go to third). Neverauskas cut in front of the third baseman and went to first base for the out. He looked good on the pitching side and while I didn’t get any radar readings, he was clearly throwing hard. He also kept the ball down well. Santana got hit around in his inning of work, but he was a DSL pitcher facing older hitters, so it’s tough to judge him on results.
Oller had a really nice first inning, then came out for the second frame and got hit around a little. He did make Gift Ngoepe look bad during his at-bat, getting a soft foul, followed by Ngoepe out in front of a breaking pitch, where he lost the bat and it went about 100 feet down the third base line. The at-bat ended on a soft grounder right back to Oller. After that, he gave up a few well struck hits, including a triple by Jhoan Herrera, who made one of the oddest defensive decisions you’ll see. On a slow hit ball towards second base, the second baseman (Cristopher Perez) ranged to his right to field it, then turned and fired to first base. Herrera was watching the play, and that’s about it. I could see not expecting a throw to first base in that situation, but he must have decided off the bat there was no play because he never made a move to cover first base.
**Clint Hurdle was there for a second straight day and addressed the players after the game was over.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.