BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) – Day 2 of Pirates Spring Training is in the books, and the day granted glimpses at unfamiliar faces, familiar names, and insight from a couple of guys we hadn't heard from yet: Head Athletic Trainer Todd Tomczyk and Pitching Coach Ray Searage.
The day started with a brief conversation with Drew Hutchison, and oddly enough, ended in the media room with a discussion about… Drew Hutchison.
- Familiar Names: Fans want Tyler Glasnow to be in the Pirates' rotation. It's understandable. He's their top prospect and a "big donkey who throws fuzz." That was today's popular term, coined by Searage several years ago, to describe big, lanky pitchers who bring upper 90s heat. Hutchison is, in the minds of many, simply "that guy they got in the Liriano salary dump." There are some in the media though, who agree that even though no one in the organization will admit it, Hutchison is a solid enough 5th starter – especially when compared to Glasnow's lack of experience – that he has the inside track on the job. Hutchison, for what it's worth, believes in himself and his stuff, saying, "If I do what I'm capable of doing, I know things will work out." How will they work out, exactly? Well, over 359 Major League innings going back to 2013, Hutchison has struck out 335 batters. That's an 8.39 Ks per 9 innings rate, which ranks as the best among starters on the team right now over the same time period.
- Unfamiliar Faces: One portion of the throwing program today included Casey Sadler, Edgar Santana, and Pat Light, all three of whom could be expected to throw impactful innings at the Major League level this season. Sadler, coming off of Tommy John surgery, is a candidate to contribute in the rotation as a depth option from Indianapolis, and Light – with his late-arriving equipment today – and Santana can both peg the radar gun. Their ability to miss bats could have them throwing relief innings in Pittsburgh sooner rather than later, and if they're able to harness that heat, could have either of them pushing Jared Hughes and/or Juan Nicasio for a bullpen job this spring if either should stumble. Hurdle raved about reports he received on Santana from the Arizona Fall League. "The slider's a wipeout slider, the fastball's firm with life, he's got a changeup that's a legitimate third pitch, but he's a late developer, so he's a very interesting story and he's a guy who likes pitching late [in games]."
- Josh Bell still looks to be on target for his 2-4 weeks full baseball activities, and looks "really good," according to Tomczyk. He's been throwing, has taken some 'dry' swings, and is closer to "swinging full" than we think, Tomczyk added.
- Pitching Coach Ray Searage is "very, very encouraged" by what he's seen in the first two days of bullpens, and had a wealth of perspective on the 5th starter role in the rotation, from what the guys in the battle for the job need to do – "Stay aggressive in their attack and be themselves, and let the chips fall where they may" – to what the timeline for a decision may be – "We'll make an assessment at the end of spring training." When asked about Glasnow specifically, Searage continued. "You're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't, especially with Glasnow. One of the biggest things is where he is mentally in Spring Training, and I believe he's in a really, really good place, where he doesn't believe he has to be perfect. I tab him as a dark horse for us, and we'll see how it plays out and go from there."
It feels like the mental aspect of Glasnow's development may still be the biggest obstacle he needs to clear, as Searage wrapped up the rotation discussion by noting "when you push the bar on some of these young kids, you're going to find out if they answer the call, and we're going to let spring training push us in a direction, and it's going to push Glasnow as well."
More from Searage on the bullpen tomorrow, and be sure to listen in on his conversation with Cook & Poni, Thursday at 1:00pm.
- Manager Clint Hurdle has some ideas as to how he wants to construct his lineup, but wasn't willing to share those thoughts now, beyond his announcement yesterday that Andrew McCutchen will be the team's #3 hitter. "There's nothing else in pen, a lot of penciling in. We have thoughts, and we'll share them with you as we move along. That's a great topic for you guys to kick around all spring."
- Adam Frazier is looking forward to his first full season at the Major League level, but knows he has "things to work on at each position," and plans to prepare for those multiple positions – outfield, second base, and third base at the very least – by taking grounders at multiple positions on the infield and shagging flies during batting practice.
- Reliever Daniel Hudson was energized by his first bullpen session yesterday, saying "to see Frankie [Cervelli] behind the plate for the first time, was pretty cool." He also agreed with the sentiment that 'bullpenning,' the practice of bringing in a 'fireman' like Andrew Miller for multiple innings, could become more popular after Cleveland's success with the tactic last year. "I think you could start to see a lot of former starters moving toward the bullpen, but it won't be a quick change."
- 2011 9th Round pick Clay Holmes found a fellow Crimson Tide fan across from him in veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc, and they both share an odd relationship with the school: LeBlanc is the All-Time strikeout leader at 'Bama despite being a Louisiana native, and Holmes turned down a scholarship offer from the Tide's biggest rival, Auburn, so he could join the Pirates organization right out of high school. Despite being just 23, Holmes already has four full minor league seasons under his belt, and one year of Tommy John recovery on his resume. LeBlanc, on the other hand, is 32, has thrown nearly 1500 innings between the minors, Japan, and the majors, and is starting Spring Training with the team he finished the previous season with for just the 2nd time in 5 years.
- Jordy Mercer, another early-reporting position player, has been in Bradenton for several days after making the 18-hour drive over the course of two days from Oklahoma with his brother-in-law. His beloved Oklahoma State Cowboys will be at Heinz Field to play the Pitt Panthers this fall however, Mercer jokingly resigned himself to the fact that he'll miss it, as he'll be in Cincinnati with his teammates playing the Reds that day.
- Pirates legends Bill Virdon, John Candelaria, and Manny Sanguillen sat together behind the cage to watch batting practice.
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