Tonight at 7:05 the Pittsburgh Pirates took the field and faced off against the Cleveland Indians in the first exhibition game of Spring 2.0.
Much of the game saw promising performances, Joe Musgrove pitched three scoreless and struck out five on the way. More importantly he looked unhittable doing it, mixing his pitches masterfully while Jacob Stallings stole 7 by my count strikes off the plate to make it even better.
Let’s stick with the starters because they all performed really well, Brault and Kuhl each handled their two innings and looked in control though Brault started looking fastball heavy again in the beginning. Really positive results through seven innings.
The bats were sporadic but that’s to be expected early in any season, the pitchers always have the advantage. Reynolds got the ball rolling in the first with a sharp single up the middle. Bell doubled off the wall, but Erik Gonzalez and Colin Moran were dialed in leading to a 3-0 lead as the game reached the 8th.
Then the Pirates called on Kyle Crick, closer candidate, and no that doesn’t change because of one night, but it sure looked familiar. Up 1-2 on the first batter and he gave up an uncontested walk, I mean to tell you there was nothing to induce a swing. Next batter goes down 3-0 and battles back to 3-2 where he tosses a noncompetitive slider about a foot outside. This is when I started feeling the homerun was coming.
First pitch was an absolute piped, center center slider that the batter let go. Exactly the script from last year, walk yourself into trouble and pipe one to get a strike, boom. The next pitch was popped up and I briefly sighed in relief. Then a sharp single to right that was played nicely to prevent a score, but you felt it coming. Next batter catches a slider hanging a bit too high and belts it over the left fielder’s head for a bases clearing double.
Neverauskas came in and gave up his requisite single to make it 4-3 then settled down to escape the inning.
The ninth brought in promising Nick Burdi who showed great stuff but gave up a lead off double and an error brought home the fifth run of the game for the Tribe. All things considered though, Burdi showed what we knew he would, 98+ stuff and biting breaking balls, insane stuff he has really.
Kyle Crick is for better or worse expected to contribute in the back end of this bullpen, and it doesn’t matter if he’s a closer or set up guy, he still needs to get outs. This fact has been amplified by the absence of Keone Kela but he’d still be someone the club is counting on regardless.
It’d be one thing if Crick just got jumped and gave up a couple hits, you could just dismiss it as that, a couple hits, it happens to everyone. Instead Crick repeated his formula, get ahead with great looking stuff then fail to put the guy away by never sniffing the zone again. Or sweating the walk so much that he pipes one. The high fastball still sails a foot over the zone far too often and it leaves his slider exposed. The spin is impressive but if you have to look like you’re hitting a righty to maybe nibble the outside corner, maybe it needs toned back a bit.
Because a pitcher with great stuff who can’t hit the zone is like a Ferrari without a steering wheel. I’m no pitching coach, but Oscar Marin is, one thing I’m far more confident about this season is there will be adjustments made. They better be good ones, because Crick is one of those guys a bit too important to the cause to fall on his face.
All that said, one game. It was great to watch baseball again and even better to write about an actual game. Back to action Monday Night in Cleveland.