Pirates Notebook: Luis Escobar, Dario Agrazal, Jin-De Jhang, Minors Updates

BRADENTON, Fla. – Today was a rough day for the Pirates, as they lost 13-2 to the Red Sox. It was also a rough day for two young pitching prospects making their debuts in big league camp. Dario Agrazal and Luis Escobar were both scheduled to pitch an inning, and both were lifted early with two outs after reaching their pitch limit.

Agrazal gave up a run on a hit with one walk and one strikeout. Escobar gave up four runs on three hits and one walk, thanks to back-to-back home runs that ended his day.

Both pitchers showed enough talent last year to get them on the 40-man roster this offseason, but both looked off today, with nerves likely playing an impact. Agrazal wasn’t hitting his spots, despite being good with his control. Escobar hasn’t had the best control, but was especially wild today, with his second pitch hitting the backstop wide of the plate, and a few other pitches well outside of the zone.

Clint Hurdle said after the game that Escobar got some good learning experience, getting a chance to pitch on the big stage.

“It’s going to be a good learning experience for every young guy that goes out there and plays,” Hurdle said. “There’s nothing like it. You can’t get it anywhere else if you haven’t been in a Major League camp. What you might see out there is not what he’s feeling inside. It’s probably one of the biggest games he’s ever been a part of. We’re trying to get that adrenaline burnt off, the anxiety burnt off, and give them the opportunity to pitch a little bit. They’ll learn some lessons while they’re here as well. It still comes down to fastball location. It comes down to the ability to locate secondary pitches.”

Escobar has had one other big stage performance, coming at the MLB Future’s Game. He was a bit wild in that outing, but got away with it. His ability to get amped up and get wild in the process is going to be something to watch going forward, as he’ll be less effective the more he moves up if he doesn’t fix the issue.

I’d expect both Agrazal and Escobar to remain in big league camp until about the second week of March, when minor league games begin. The first minor league game is on March 13, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some cuts leading up to that date, with Agrazal and Escobar being among the first to go. Agrazal will get prepared to pitch in the Altoona rotation, while Escobar will prepare for Bradenton.

Jhang Returning From Injury

Jin-De Jhang had his winter ball cut short this offseason after suffering an elbow injury. He’s still in the recovery process, and started hitting recently, but hasn’t gotten cleared for throwing. I spoke with Jhang this morning, who said that he will get checked out today, and hopes to get cleared to throw soon. I should have more updates on him on Wednesday.

Minor League Camp Starts

Today was report day for pitchers and catchers at minor league camp. Tomorrow will be the first workouts for pitchers and catchers, as well as for early arrival position players. The full camp reports next week, with the first full squad workout being March 6th. I’ll have video tomorrow from Pirate City with the first workouts.

Other Notes

By John Dreker

**Connor MacDonald, who was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in January, was released last week. He had spent four years with the Houston Astros before being released last year. MacDonald was showing some power this winter in Australia, so it was quite surprising to hear that they signed him as a pitcher. It was even more surprising to hear that it was based on one shutout inning of mop-up work in his only inning ever as a pro. It was apparently impressive, as was another shutout inning two weeks later, but now MacDonald has been released before he could ever make it to Spring Training.

**When the Pirates signed 19-year-old outfielder Fabricio Macias, they also signed his 37-year-old teammate Luis Borges. He won’t be a player though. Borges is a new scout for the Pirates. He announced his retirement as a player on Tuesday, while simultaneously announcing that he is the new South-Southeast scout for the Pirates in Mexico. That’s quite significant because it means they are expanding their presence in the country, plus Borges is considered a superstar in Mexico. He played 17 years of summer ball and another 11 of winter ball in his home country, collecting over 2,000 hits total. The Pirates have signed five players out of Mexico since July 2nd, which is five more than they signed the four previous signing periods combined.

**The Pirates signed two more international players to bring their total to 47 since July 2nd. These were likely low-priced signings, as they were on the older side. They are right-handed pitchers Willy Basil and Lizardi Dicent (yes, that’s his real name, though the transaction note spelled it Lizardy). Basil seems like the better player despite the 80 grade name for Dicent. Basil is 6’4″, 189 pounds and 20 years old. Dicent is 6’3″, 160 pounds and 21 years old. He has apparently worked hard for a while to finally sign a pro deal, so you like the dedication to the game, but he is legit 160 pounds at 6’3″ and has a wiry thin frame, so he won’t fill out that much.

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