Pirates notebook: Inside pitch not a hit with Diamondbacks
PHOENIX — One of the first things Pirates coaches told Ernesto Frieri after he joined the team was that he needed to pitch inside more often.
“That was my biggest mistake with the (Los Angeles) Angels,” Frieri said. “I was getting hit like crazy because I was pitching everything outside. Since I got here, they've been making me pitch inside, and I feel comfortable with it.”
In the ninth inning Friday, Frieri plunked Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt with an inside fastball.
The Pirates won the game, 9-4. Goldschmidt went on the disabled list Saturday with a broken left hand and could be out for the season.
“I feel bad,” Frieri said. “I didn't mean to hit him. I'm so sorry. I'm trying to get people out right now. If you look at my ERA, you'll see it's 100-point-something. I don't need to be hitting people and putting guys on base. I was just trying to make my pitch inside.”
Goldschmidt did not appear to have any hard feelings.
“It's part of the game. People get hit,” Goldschmidt said. “He was probably just trying to make his pitch and missed his spot. I can't change what happened, so I just have to move on.”
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson seemed stunned to lose Goldschmidt, who last season led the National League with 36 homers and was the runner-up behind Andrew McCutchen for MVP.
“The Pirates are a staff that pitches inside as much as, if not more than, anybody,” Gibson said. “They lead the (majors) in hit batsmen. That's part of their philosophy. It goes with the game.”
Pirates pitchers have hit 61 batters. The St. Louis Cardinals are a distant second with 48.
With a 9.31 ERA in 13 outings with the Pirates, Frieri is fighting to hold onto his roster spot and give management reasons to bring him back next year. He essentially is a two-pitch pitcher, relying on his fastball and a rarely used changeup.
When asked if the Pirates still should pitch hard inside with a five-run lead in the ninth, Gibson replied: “I don't know. You'd have to ask them.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a firm answer.
“We're gonna pitch the way we believe we need to pitch to be effective, to get outs,” Hurdle said. “If you look at where the glove setup was and where the pitch was, (Frieri) missed the glove. It's unfortunate. But to say when you're up by five you need to pitch away from the batter, I wouldn't agree with that. That's not how we're going to pitch.”
At the end of Friday's game, D'backs first base coach Dave McKay barked at Frieri and catcher Russell Martin.
“As he was running by, he said, ‘You've got better command than that,' “ Martin said. “I was smiling and high-fiving because we'd just struck out a guy on a perfect pitch. So, I was like, ‘Is he being sarcastic?' Then I realized we did hit Goldschmidt.”
Martin went over to explain to McKay that the plunking was accidental. A few players from both teams converged on the field, but things were defused before tempers got out of hand.
Walker out with sore back
Second baseman Neil Walker was scratched from the lineup about an hour before Saturday's game because of tightness in his back.
In 2012, Walker sat out 27 of the final 35 games because of a herniated disc. Last season, he went on the disabled list with a strained oblique.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (sore right lat), who's on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis, threw a bullpen session Saturday. Hurdle said the workout went well and the next step will be either another bullpen or a game with Indianapolis.
Cole had been scheduled to start Indy's game Saturday, but it was determined that ironing out some things on the side was a better approach.
“He's trying to find a way to get back to feeling what he's felt before he had the (injury),” Hurdle said. We want him to take the appropriate time and be honest in his evaluation of what he's feeling and how the ball's coming out of his hand.”
Hurdle stressed there is no timetable for when Cole will rejoin the Pirates rotation.
“The hard part of any young player is the urgency to want to return,” Hurdle said. “And also, they have a career. Especially now, I'm sure there's a little noise about the number of men who've gone down (with injuries). Nobody wants to be the next guy.”