BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) – While it doesn’t have the same intensity, live batting practice is as close as Spring Training gets to the old-school ‘Okalahoma’ drill or modern-day ‘Backs on Backers’ in football.
Today saw more quality match-ups, such as Starling Marte vs. Gerrit Cole, Josh Harrison vs. Jameson Taillon, and Tyler Glasnow vs. Josh Bell.
- Yes, Bell took live batting practice today for the first time this spring, and the rookie first baseman admitted his timing may still be a bit off. “I still find myself kind of jumping at baseballs at times, so I’m trying to let the ball get deep, and if I can do that, that’s where the damage comes.” It was hard to tell that Bell’s left knee had been cleaned up just a few weeks ago, as with Dave Jauss tossing during Coach’s BP, he launched three balls in a row beyond the center field fence and into the neighboring Mazeroski half-field from the left side of the plate, before wrapping up by roping a line drive no more than 6 feet off the ground into the right field wall. “I’m still trying to get comfortable from both sides,” said Bell. “If I get started at the right time right-handed, I drive the ball pretty ball. I was underneath a tad bit today, but I’ll work on it and get back on it tomorrow.”
- Francisco Cervelli was limited to playing catch and hitting in the cage as he works his way back to full participation after taking Sunday and Monday off with right foot discomfort. Cervelli doesn’t expect to miss his involvement in the World Baseball Classic, where he’ll catch for Italy, “but I gotta feel 100% to go there,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been working hard to get better soon. I just follow Todd [Tomczyk, Head Athletic Trainer], and whenever he tells me I’m ready, I’m ready. I’m just a player. They went to school, and they know more than I do, so I have to follow orders.”
- Tyler Glasnow was able to chat with the hitters he faced after throwing each of his two simulated innings. “During live BPs I like to talk to hitters,” he said. “You’re not going to get a chance in a regular season game to ask an opponent what they think, and they said the change-up looked good, a good speed difference.” Glasnow has continued to try and refine the change-up he spent the offseason working on in an attempt to win the 5th role in the starting rotation.
- Manager Clint Hurdle caught up with Glasnow in-between innings as well, when they sat in a dugout discussing music. “It wasn’t baseball talk. It started off with some, and then he took it to another place, so I just rolled with it.” Asked if the two shared interests in music, the skipper said they “are polar opposites, which is interesting.”
- The players leaving for the World Baseball Classic will depart on March 5th, but Hurdle said that doesn’t mean they’ll be over worked before setting off for the tournament. “We’re not going to jam them in every game because they’re leaving on the 5th. I do think they’re going to want some game activity, so it’s a pretty quick transition into the Classic.”
- Jameson Taillon also threw today and felt pleased with his session, while still tempering any conclusions. “My two-seam changeups were dancing pretty good, but more than anything it’s just about arm strength at this stage.” The 6-5 righty admitted not necessarily being ecstatic about what would have been a pair of extra base hits suffered at the hands of Harrison. “We’re all competitive, so you’d rather not give up any hard contact, but that’s also why we do [live batting practice]. It’s for feedback, it’s for tightening up pitches, seeing what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to get better at.”
- The highlight of every live batting practice is watching Cole work, if for nothing else than to see his competitive fire burn nearly unabated. His frustration while pitching to Marte today was noticeable, and after his two innings, he stewed on a stool behind the cage, and Bill Mazeroski took note of the hurler’s demeanor. “Look, you can’t talk to him,” chuckled Maz to Manny Sanguillen sitting next to him.
- Sanguillen, who was relegated to mostly pinch-hitting duty as a 35-year old back-up catcher when the Pirates won their last World Series in 1979, nonetheless felt the good vibes as Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” came on over the speakers at one point and he began to nod along to the championship team’s de facto anthem.
- Somehow, that wasn’t even the musical highlight of the day. That came when Styx’s “Renegade” came on toward the end of Glasnow’s second simulated inning. While there weren’t any Terrible Towels visible in the crowd at Pirate City, Glasnow nonetheless felt the effect as “AHHHHHHHH!!! The jig is up, the news is out, they finally found me…” belted from the sound system just as he shoved what had to be near-triple digit heat through a Harrison cut to wrap up his throwing for the day.
- The hitting group of Harrison, Gregory Polanco, and John Jaso continued to look good with Bell joining them for the first time this spring. The trio of Harrison, Polanco, & Bell wrapped up their turn at the “Execution Game” on Field 2 by each going deep over nearly the exact same spot just to the left of the 370 mark in right right center field.
- Hurdle revealed who will be pitching the team’s two split-squad games on Saturday afternoon, their first Grapefruit League action of the year:
vs. Baltimore Orioles at LECOM Park in Bradenton, 1:05
Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, A.J. Schugel, & Pat Light
@ Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, 1:05
Josh Lindblom, Tyler Eppler, Dan Runzler, Edgar Santana, Jared Lakind, Dovydas Neverauskas, Cody Dickson, and “a couple other guys will come over to finish up on the back side,” as all of the pitchers in each game will pitch just one inning a piece.
- Wednesday is the penultimate day of workouts at Pirate City, as the team will move to LECOM Field after workouts on Thursday. Pitchers will work on fielding fundamentals, including a drill called “Pop Up Priority,” and live bullpens will be thrown by Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes, & Tyler Webb (2 innings each) as well as Williams, Neverauskas, Lindblom, Runzler, Santana, Dickson, Light, Eppler, & Lakind (1 inning each). Individual Defense will see Bell, Jaso, Jose Osuna, Jason Rogers, Joey Terdoslavich, & David Freese working at first base, Harrison, Gift Ngoepe, Max Moroff, & Chris Bostick at second base, Jordy Mercer, Phil Gosselin, Alen Hanson, & Kevin Newman at shortstop, and Adam Frazier & Eric Wood at third base.