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Pirates

Pirates notebook: Chad Kuhl attempts to add changeup to his arsenal

Jerry DiPaola
| Saturday, March 17, 2018, 7:01 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl delivers during the first innng against the Braves Monday, March 5, 2018, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl delivers during the first innng against the Braves Monday, March 5, 2018, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Chad Kuhl pitched into the fifth inning of the Pirates' 13-5 victory Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.

But that wasn't the most encouraging aspect of his outing. Even though he gave up five hits and three runs, the best part of his day was gaining trust in his changeup.

"It was one of those things I didn't have full confidence in," he said of previous attempts to throw it. "I knew it was a good pitch when it worked. But when it didn't, it was up (in the strike zone).

"I'm building it so I can throw it anytime, anywhere. Just like I would my fastball, my slider."

Manager Clint Hurdle liked that Kuhl had only two 3-ball counts.

"I thought he took a couple of steps forward in a couple different areas," Hurdle said. "Overall command was much improved, mixed his pitches extremely well."

Hurdle said the changeup could become a pitch that will lead Kuhl into that third time around the opponent's lineup.

"There has to be some separation of the fastball and slider because the man throws hard," Hurdle said.

Kuhl's effort was better than his most recent outing a week ago against the Baltimore Orioles when he allowed seven hits, eight runs and three walks in 21/3 innings. He said he was sick that day.

Don't laugh

Sean Rodriguez's fourth home run of the spring cleared the bleachers, but he said he doesn't know if it was his longest in three exhibition seasons at LECOM Park.

Unlike some power hitters, he doesn't watch the ball.

"I'll be honest. I don't like to show pitchers up," he said. "I just basically put my head down and run."

But he will not compromise on another point:

"I said it before and I'll keep saying it," he said. "I'm the backup center fielder. A lot of people typically laugh. I hold true to that."

Hurdle agrees.

"I would probably move him there after (starter Starling) Marte, if he needs a rest," he said. "(Adam) Frazier could get a look as well. (Rodriguez's) versatility and track record are proven. He makes defense look effortless at times."

Hurdle added, also with certainty: "We are not moving (Gregory) Polanco (from right field)."

Dad knows best

Rodriguez proudly declares his ability to play multiple positions, a team attitude he learned at a young age.

"Since I was maybe 9 or 10," he said. "That's the one time I asked my dad why I wasn't playing shortstop.

"(He said), 'You're going to play where the team needs you.' From that time on, it comes natural for me to do that.

"My will to win always supersedes the selfish desire to want to do things. I'll embrace it until I die."

Go ask Johnny

Rodriguez's father Johnny Rodriguez has coached, managed and scouted in eight different organizations.

"Go speak to him. If he's being truly honest, he thinks he's going to manage in the big leagues," Rodriguez said.

"He's a 60-something year-old man and he's still chasing that dream and I respect him for that."

48 left

Tyler Eppler, who allowed three solo home runs Friday against the Atlanta Braves, was re-assigned to minor-league camp, leaving 48 players with the big club. Eppler, who has been a starting pitcher, was 8-9 with a 4.89 ERA last year in Indianapolis.

Long-standing partners

Entering the 20th year of their partnership, the Pirates and Altoona Curve extended their Player Development Contract for four years, running through the 2022 season. Altoona is the longest-running minor league affiliate in the 137-year history of the Pirates.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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