TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Spring training blooms with experimentation for Pirates pitchers

Pirates/MLB Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Pirates podcasts

  • Loading...

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, March 16, 2013, 11:37 p.m.
 

BRADENTON, Fla. — Spring training is a time for players to experiment, but it isn't always easy to set aside competition and settle for the sometimes undesirable results.

“Sometimes it'll take over, and you'll get a little mad,” pitcher James McDonald said. “When I'm up there and all my pitches aren't as sharp, you get a little frustrated, but you have to think, ‘I have to prepare for a job.' Regardless of the situation, I've got to get the feel of something on the mound and get in the groove. You have to be smart about it. But deep down inside, you're gritting your teeth sometimes.”

McDonald threw only two sliders in a recent four-inning outing against Baltimore while working on the feel of his lesser-used changeup. He still allowed just one hit.

In A.J. Burnett's first outing of the spring, he wasn't throwing any curveballs, then used the pitch on a limited basis in his second game. The right-hander walked in a pair of runs and was unhappy about his struggles to deliver first-pitch strikes in an outing of 1 13 innings that pushed his ERA to 13.50. After the game, Burnett said that even though he was where he needed to be at that point in spring, he still wanted to do well and get decent results.

And sometimes it isn't the pitches that cause problems.

The Pirates have been preaching the running game all spring, and catcher Russell Martin suspected that when Gerrit Cole fell behind Baltimore's Ryan Flaherty before dealing a home run pitch, it was because Cole was worried too much about Manny Machado, his first baserunner of the game, on first.

Pitching coach Ray Searage said that if he sees an alteration or believes a pitcher's stuff would be enhanced if he incorporated a new pitch in certain situations, spring is the time to test it. Still, encouraging players to work on a weaker pitch or try a new sequence sometimes requires a certain touch.

“They're trying to make an impression and trying to make the team,” Searage said. “Obviously the stuff we're working on with some guys is new, and we don't want to set them up for failure. We want them to succeed.”

Searage said he seldom tells a pitcher he can't throw his best pitch, unless it's someone whose roster spot isn't in question.

“Then I'll say, ‘Hey, let's get this going today and see what happens with it,' ” Searage said. “Usually what it all comes back to is that fastball with good location, down in the zone, in or out or whatever the case may be. That's usually everybody's go-to pitch.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pirates

  1. Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
  2. Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 28, 2015
  3. Pirates notebook: No sign of improvement for RHP Sadler
  4. Cole collects MLB-best 14th win as Pirates take series against Nationals
  5. Starting 9: Pirates help and the illusion of help
  6. Making splash at MLB trade deadline not always in buyers’ best interest
  7. Pirates minor league report: Moore a breakout star in Morgantown
  8. Pirates notebook: Ramirez thrown into spotlight upon joining Pirates
  9. Nationals pound Burnett, Pirates
  10. Gameday: Pirates vs. Nationals, July 26, 2015
  11. Pitt football notebook: Boyd returns from monthlong suspension