Greetings from Bradenton, Fla., the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Curve are 23 days from the season opener in Akron and we are catching up with a lot of familiar faces and getting to know some new ones that we may see in Altoona in 2019.
General Manager Derek Martin and I have made the journey down south. We departed Altoona just before 5 a.m. on Monday morning to catch a 9:38 a.m. flight from Harrisburg to St. Petersburg/Clearwater. We touched down right at noon, grabbed our rental cars and sped to Pirate City for a quick visit. By the time we reached the complex, the players were enjoying the air conditioning in the dorms after they finished their workout earlier in the day.
From there, I took a quick tour around Bradenton to get prepared for a busy first full day around spring training.
Tuesday started early at LECOM Park. I met with Ke’Bryan Hayes for a couple of promotional videos and was able to visit with a few players from the 2018 Curve during the big league team’s morning media availability.
During the session, members of the media were informed Cole Tucker, Jason Martin, Jesus Liranzo, Aaron Slegers and Alex McRae were all being sent down in the next round of the Pirates’ roster cuts. I learned of Tucker’s demotion straight from him after he gave me a friendly greeting (as Cole does to everyone) and smirked, “I just got cut. But it’s good to see you!”
I departed LECOM just before 9 a.m. and made the drive across town to Pirate City, the minor league complex. I walked down to the field behind the complex building and immediately ran into Curve manager Michael Ryan.
Ryan along with new Curve hitting coach Jon Nunnally, pitching coach Joel Hanrahan and assistant coach Salvador Paniagua were all leading team drills on Willie Stargell Field.
The players went through batting practice and Gregory Polanco made an appearance as he continues his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery last September. BP wrapped up after about an hour and the players went indoors for a bite to eat before their first spring training action at 1 p.m. against the minor leaguers from Blue Jays camp.
It was a cooler morning and overcast with a slight breeze during the morning workouts. Just after the Blue Jays unloaded their buses, the skies opened up and the sunshine came out to warm the temperature to a high of 81 degrees for the day.
A few of the Pirates’ major league players came over to get some work in, too. Polanco stuck around for a few at bats while Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela and Richard Rodriguez each pitched one innings.
On a developmental note, Gage Hinsz pitched in the Triple-A game. He missed all of 2018 after having open heart surgery and could land with Altoona at some point in 2019.
After about three innings of action at Pirate City, I made the drive across town to LECOM Park where the Pirates hosted the Twins in MLB action.
I arrived just in time to see Adam Frazier connect on a two-run, go-ahead single that pushed the Pirates ahead, 4-3, in the bottom of the fourth.
Minnesota’s Tyler Austin tied the game, 4-4, on a solo homer off Jordan Lyles in the sixth and the Twins took a one-run lead with a Wynston Sawyer double off Michael Feliz in the eighth. Minnesota swelled their lead to 9-4 against Tyler Lyons, who hit Jon Kemmer with the bases loaded and allowed a three-run triple to LaMonte Wade.
Brandon Waddell, a member of the 2016-18 Curve teams, emerged in relief with two outs in the ninth inning with the Bucs down, 10-4. Waddell ended the visiting half of the ninth with a ground ball to third.
The Pirates lost to Minnesota, 10-4, heading into an off day for the major league team on Wednesday before welcoming the Phillies on Thursday.
After Tuesday’s baseball action concluded, the Curve coaching staff, owners and executives all gathered for dinner in Downtown Bradenton.
Pittsburgh’s minor leaguers will have their second day of games on Wednesday with the Triple-A and Double-A clubs traveling to Clearwater to play the Phillies.
Stay tuned to the Around the Curve blog and Curve social media outlets for the rest of the week for more from Pirates spring training.