Wednesday was the second full day at spring training for Curve crew in Florida and the weather was spectacular. The high was observed at 81 degrees with an abundance of sunshine in addition to a gentle, cooling breeze.
As for baseball, the big league team had the day off and the upper-level minor league squads were on the road.
I followed those teams to Clearwater where the Phillies make their home for spring training.
The Triple-A and Double-A teams that made the bus ride up from Pirate City suited up against players that could be in Lehigh Valley, Reading or Clearwater to open the season.
Plenty of familiar names took the hill during the two contests at the Carpenter Complex. In the Triple-A game, J.T. Brubaker, Dario Agrazal, Ronny Agustin and Matt Eckelman pitched while James Marvel, Pedro Vasquez, Scooter Hightower, Angel German and Sean Keselica all threw in the Double-A game. With the exception of Agustin and German, all of those pitchers wore Curve uniforms last season.
The Triple-A team bounced back from a tough opener on Tuesday against the Blue Jays and defeated the Phillies Triple-A spring squad, 6-2. Brubaker allowed one run over three innings before Dario Agrazal dealt three shutout frames.
Catcher Jason Delay tied the game, 1-1, during the fifth while third baseman Hunter Owen socked a two-run homer to break the tie.
Lucas Tancas had an impressive day at the plate. The first baseman ripped an RBI double during the sixth and finished the Bucs’ scoring with a solo homer to left in the eighth.
Agustin allowed one run in the seventh inning to the Phillies and Eckelman tossed a clean ninth frame to close out a 6-2 victory for the Triple-A squad.
Two fields over, the Double-A squad were not able to find the same formula for run support and were defeated, 2-1, by the Phillies Double-A team.
Marvel opened the ballgame with three scoreless frames. He held the opponent to two weak hits and worked around a fielding error by inducing a double-play ground ball.
Vasquez took over in the fourth and spun two hitless frames before the Phillies matched the Pirates’ run from the fourth inning to even the contest, 1-1, in the sixth. The Phils then got to Hightower for one run in the seventh and cruised to victory.
German and Keselica also added scoreless relief.
One thing that might stick out to some of you is the presence of facial hair on the Pirates minor league players. In the past, Pittsburgh’s minor league players were required to keep their faces free from facial hair but the restrictions have been loosened going into 2019.
In the middle of the contest, we happened to find Josh Bonifay’s reserved parking space at the Phillies complex. The Curve legend, who hit 55 homers and drove in 209 runs from 2003-05 in Altoona, is the new farm director for the Philadelphia organization.
Anther connection from the Phillies baseball operations department to the Curve is Charlie Hayes, World Series champion and father of Ke’Bryan Hayes. Charlie is currently a coach on the GCL Phillies-East staff and caught up with Jon Nunnally after the games.
Soon after the action concluded, the players were back on the bus and returned to Bradenton, where we will find them tomorrow morning for workouts and a 1 p.m. appointment with the Yankees Triple-A and Double-A teams at Pirate City.
After I returned from Clearwater, I got dialed in to Sports Central with Cory Giger to talk about this spring training trip.
Derek and I went our separate ways for dinner. He met with some of Eastern League umpires and I had the pleasure of meeting up with my grandparents in Tampa.
On the way out, I found a piece of Florida’s wildlife.
Thursday is the final full day at camp for the two of us. The major league team returns to action at 1 p.m. against the Phillies. Will Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen be at LECOM on Thursday? We’re not sure. Both started Wednesday for Philadelphia and the Phils have split-squad games tomorrow (one with the Pirates at LECOM and the other in Charlotte with the Rays).
Stay tuned to the Around the Curve blog and Curve social media (the ones that are working, anyway) for all the behind-the-scenes looks at Pirates spring training.
Single-game tickets are on sale now at the PNG Field box office, over the phone at 877.99.CURVE or online at AltoonaCurve.com. The Stockyard team store is also open during business hours and 24/7/365 at AltoonaCurve.com.