BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) — The Pirates’ McKechnie Field woes continued Saturday with a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Bradenton, Fla., but presumptive ace A.J. Burnett took another step as he gets ready for his Opening Day start.
Burnett’s pitching line – 4-and-2-3 innings, 2 runs, 2 hits, 2 walks. He left the game in the 5th with 2 on, 2 outs and a 1-0 lead.
Jared Hughes allowed the tying run to score on a bloop single and then another run on a soft liner to leftfield – both runs charged to Burnett, but manager Clint Hurdle saw improvement.
“Today, first pitch strikes improved,” Hurdle said. “He got up and down 5 times, his fastball command was much better in and out. He spun some balls very well, threw some very good change-ups … very good outing for A.J.”
The Pirates only had 4 hits, one was an Ivan DeJesus, Jr. solo HR off the facing of the leftfield deck.
DeJesus is a favorite of the McKechnie Field PA announcer who gives him the flourishing “Juuuuuuuuuuuuuunior.” DeJesus replaced Chase D’Arnaud who jammed his left thumb making a tag during defensive drills earlier in the day.
Another back-up infielder, Anderson Hernandez, was hurt in the Baltimore game Friday night when he fell on his right shoulder and may be out for a bit. It sounds like Jordy Mercer and DeJesus will replace those 2 when the Pirates play the Twins Sunday in Ft. Myers.
Both Russell Martin and Brandon Inge, who have been DH-ing, will play in the field Sunday. Inge will start at third base against the Twins while Martin will catch Gerrit Cole against the Orioles in Sarasota.
Hurdle will make the longer trip to Ft. Myers so he and pitching coach Ray Searage can watch Jonathan Sanchez make an important start. Sanchez has not had a good spring.
Listen to Burnett’s complete postgame comments below, but here are some nuggets:
Burnett allowed a leadoff single to Darin Mastroianni (who somehow got away from Team Italy) then picked him off – “I know they’re going to run on Burnett. I know it. So any little thing I can do to help make this team better, I’m all in. I’ve shown twice thus far that it does help.”
Burnett had props for catcher Tony Sanchez – “It was my first time throwing to him. I threw a lot of curves and tried to get one by him, but couldn’t.”
Burnett was almost a casualty of a Sanchez throw to second after the last warm-up pitch in the first inning.
“I usually just stand there and the throw missed me by a foot, so in the dugout he asked me to please move … maybe you saw him in the 3rd inning; I ran off the mound.”