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Pirates notebook: Max Moroff ready to relive Little League memories

Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, 6:57 p.m.
Pirates' Max Moroff celebrates his walk-off hit against the Brewers to win 3-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Pirates' Max Moroff celebrates his walk-off hit against the Brewers to win 3-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen watches a home run by the Cardinals' Paul DeJong clear the outfield wall during the third inning Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen watches a home run by the Cardinals' Paul DeJong clear the outfield wall during the third inning Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, at PNC Park.

Max Moroff had just turned 12 in 2005 when his Maitland, Fla., team played in the Little League World Series. He was a blonde-haired shortstop, 4-foot-11 and 89 pounds.

When ESPN turned on its cameras, Moroff mugged for the national viewing audience by flexing his preadolescent muscles.

“I'm still getting a lot of trash (talk) for that,” Moroff said with a laugh. “But that was not me. It was the camera guy. He said, ‘Do something for the camera. Just flex.' I was like, OK.”

Moroff will be back in Williamsport on Sunday when the Pirates play the St. Louis Cardinals in the Little League Classic. Before the game, which will be ESPN's “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast, the players will stop by the Little League World Series.

“I'll have to do that (flex) again when I'm up there, so they can do a side-by-side (of the images),” Moroff said. “I'm excited to go back, check everything out and watch the kids play.”

In 2005, Moroff's Florida team went 2-1 in pool play and was eliminated by Vista, Calif., 6-2, in the quarterfinals.

“I don't remember specific details about (games),” Moroff said. “I remember the game room off the field. I remember the dorms, the cafeteria, the fields, the cages. I remember all that, but if you were to ask me how many outs there were when I did something (in a game), I couldn't remember.”

Moroff has been thinking about what message he'll give to the Little Leaguers he'll meet Sunday.

“I'll tell them to enjoy the moment and remember as much as you can,” he said. “Have fun. That's all you need to do when you're that age: go out and have fun. Some of them might think there's a lot of pressure. Block that out and have fun like you've been doing all summer.”

LeBlanc goes on DL

Left-hander Steven Brault was called up to replace Wade LeBlanc, who went on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left quad.

On Thursday, LeBlanc tossed one inning and gave up four runs on four hits against the Cardinals.

Brault last week was named International League Pitcher of the Week after going 2-0 and not allowing a run over 14 innings. Overall this season, the lefty is 10-5 with a 1.94 ERA. He has allowed two or fewer runs in 15 of his past 16 outings.

Brault has made two appearances with the Pirates this season. He gave up two runs in one inning July 22 vs. the Rockies and tossed three scoreless innings July 25 vs. the Giants.

Benoit out of control

Joaquin Benoit was tagged for three runs in one-third of an inning during Thursday's 11-7 loss against the Cardinals. He gave up a single, hit a batter, then served up Dexter Fowler's tying triple.

“I missed my spot, he put a good swing (on it) and got a triple on it,” Benoit said. “That's what's been wrong this whole year for me, missing my spots. And I'm not missing away. I'm missing down the middle. It's a control issue right now.”

Since being acquired July 31 from the Philadelphia Phillies, Benoit has been scored upon in four of his six outings and has an 11.81 ERA. However, the problems with his fastball command have been around all season.

Benoit's velocity has remained steady, so the culprit likely is poor mechanics, not an injury. His walk (3.4 per nine innings) and strikeout (8.4 per nine innings) rates are close to his career averages.

“It's only the fastball,” Benoit said. “Every other pitch, if I miss, it's either pulled foul or a popup.”

He admitted it's frustrating trying to fit in with a new team while also battling control problems.

“The worst part is it's not just you, it's not just your teammates, but everybody is seeing it,” Benoit said. “You can feel the vibe from the fans. It's a tough situation right now.”

Keep the faith

Manager Clint Hurdle and several players participated in the “Faith Night” activities Thursday. The game took 31⁄2 hours to play, plus 92 minutes of rain delays.

“I think we finished at 1:30 a.m. with 5,000 people or more who stayed,” Hurdle said. “We had kids there who'd never been up at that time of the morning before. It was really good. We won Faith Night.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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