One point that I try to drive home every year during March is that spring training results don’t matter so long as the player in question is working towards something. That was a particularly difficult task with Edinson Volquez this spring since so many questions exist around him, but obviously Volquez was progressing towards something in camp, because he’s looked quite good in his first two outings.
I don’t want that to sound like I’ve proclaimed the Volquez Experiment to be a success: all we can do is judge Volquez one outing at a time. Today, he threw 34 of his 44 fastballs and sinkers for strikes today. That control set up his curveball nicely; of the nine strikes he got on curveballs, four of them were swinging strikes. As a result, Volquez only walked one batter in his 5 2/3 innings of work and didn’t really get into any trouble at all until the sixth inning (he set down 15 of 16 in the first five innings today). I will, again, stress the importance of not getting too far ahead of ourselves after one start, but it seems to me like this experiment has more merit than many of us thought it did over the winter and in spring training. Given the news about Jameson Taillon’s injury (more on that later this evening), that’s good news.
Of course, Volquez’s start would’ve been wasted if not for a little bit of offense and a strong bullpen behind him. The Pirates didn’t light Adam Wainwright up by any means, but three of the five hits they managed off of him were doubles (two by Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in the fourth inning leading to one run, and a third by Tony Sanchez in the seventh, leading to the decisive run) and that gave the Pirates just enough in the run column. It’s still awfully early, but I assume that the Chris Stewart/Tony Sanchez decision that is looming will be both more difficult for the Pirates and more controversial with the fans, though, again, it’s early and that’s still a ways down the road. We can discuss it when it happens.
Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli were all excellent today. Watson got out of a jam for Volquez in the sixth by striking out Matt Adams with runners on the corner, then was perfect in the seventh. Melancon only needed six pitches to navigate the eighth. Grilli had some control problems in the ninth, but started a nice double play off of a grounder up the middle by Matt Holliday and then got Adams to hit into the shift.
It’s hard to complain about a 4-2 start to the season, even with three one-run wins mixed in. Certainly, the pitching staff is off to an awfully solid start and there’s been just enough hitting to drive everything along. Tomorrow will be the Pirates’ last off-day until April 28th. On the days in between, the Pirates will have 20 more division games. This is certainly going to be an interesting stretch.