Pedro Alvarez swing

WHYGAVS Spring Training Extravaganza Day 1: James McDonald pitches like James McDonald

I think I say this every year, but one of my favorite parts of spring training games is the just the way that the players walk from the locker room and batting cages onto the field in front of  the fans, where they stretch and play catch and talk and joke around and sign autographs. 

Ivan DeJesus should change his name to Lemieux. They'd sell a ton of jerseys that way. 

Jose Tabata is in The! Best! Shape! Of! His! Life! 

I

I couldn't hear what Gaby Sanchez and Brad Hawpe were talking about, but I bet it put Plato and Socrates to shame.

Spanky!

In my head, they're re-enacting Reservoir Dogs

Check out who photobombed my picture of the team at the National Anthem. 

The game itself did not get off to a great start. Overcast skies and a very light drizzle lead to an hour rain delay. It was nice to be able to have some extra time to wander around the newly renovated McKechnie Field (and the renovations really are pretty great; McKechnie has always had a nice "old park" kind of feel to it, but the extra seating and more room to hang out and drink beer and eat and talk really bring it to a different level), but spring training games have a tendency to run on sometimes and so a rain delay can be worrisome.

James McDonald came out after the delay and immediately got into trouble. Shane Victorino smoked a triple that seemed like a certain home run, then Jackie Bradley singled into no man's land in shallow left, Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked, and Ryan Lavernaway smoked a two-run single before McDonald recorded his second out. He pitched his way out of the jam after that, but only because Boston's lineup was mostly full of scrubs this afternoon and after Lavernaway it was a vast wasteland of a lineup. 

You can see some of the new walkway at McKechnie behind McDonald here.

After that first inning, though, McDonald sliced through the awful Boston lineup the way you'd hope that James McDonald would slice through a Quadruple-A lineup. In his last four innings of work, he struck out five, walked two, and only allowed one hit. Even with the walks, his command seemed to improve throughout the afternoon. The level of opposition makes it hard to really judge his outing, but he defintely improved quite a bit after the bad first inning. Can't really ask for more from a spring training start, I suppose. 

Unlike the Red Sox, the Pirates had a lineup that pretty closely resembled a Major League lineup (Ivan DeJesus Jr. was at short, Brad Hawpe was in right, and Felix Pie was in left, but other than that it was all regulars). That lineup struggled pretty badly against Clay Buchholz. Neil Walker lasered a home run in the bottom of the second inning that didn't need any help from the strong wind blowing out, but that was the only hit the Bucs mustered off of Buchholz all afternoon. My memory could be failing me, but honestly, that might've been the only hard hit ball. 

This looks like it could be Pedro Alvarez mashing a ball into the fifth dimension. It's really just Pedro Alvarez bouncing out harmlessly to first base. 

Things turned around with Buchholz out of the game. Josh Harrison drew a walk (let's try that again: JOSH HARRISON DREW A WALK!!!!!!) off of Not That Chris Carpenter to lead off the seventh inning, then Gaby Sanchez destroyed a home run into the left field bleachers to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead. In the eighth, Mike McKenry took advantage of the wind by hitting a fly ball that carried out over the left field fence. 

Those four runs were enough to beat the Red Sox taxi squad. Jason Grilli followed McDonald with an easy inning. Mark Melancon followed him and he had some command issues, but he seemed to be changing speeds nicely and racked up a couple of strikeouts. Chris Leroux had a really easy eighth inning. Bryan Morris seemed to be throwing hard (the only thing lacking at the new McKechnie is a radar gun, though I suspect that the lack of one in a spring training park is more by design than an oversight), but he got himself into a bit of trouble before closing things out in the ninth. 

This picture has been included to show you that Jason Grilli has done the hair-growing that is the only requirement to become a Major League closer. 

A few other observations: 

  • Starling Marte (who was in center with McCutchen getting the day off) covered a lot of ground to make a really nice sliding catch in the first inning and crushed a double off of Koji Uehara in the sixth.
  • Pedro Alvarez didn't do much at the plate, but he did hit a warning track fly ball on what sounded like a broken bat. 
  • Mel Rojas was the prospect that got called up from Pirate City to play late in the game and bat a couple of times. Mel Rojas looked pretty lost at the plate. 
  • So did Brad Hawpe, for that matter.

The Pirates are off tomorrow and in Orlando on Wednesday, so I won't see them again until Thursday. I'm planning on uploading more pictures from today to a Picasa site, but it's late and the internet here is not great. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.

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