Competition is the Real Game Story

During the first inning of yesterday’s ballgame, we were given a glimpse into another reason to largely ignore Spring stats as after 2/3 of an inning and with the Pirates still in business, the Orioles coach called “enough” on his pitcher.

A new wrinkle in Spring competition this year, designed to focus more on training and readiness for the upcoming season than wins and losses. We were also treated to both coaches coming together to decide although they had decided to play a 9 inning contest the night before, 8 was enough to see what they wanted to see.

In other words, nobody should really take much from the records this Spring. That’s always been the case as prospects filter in and out of the lineups and pitchers are asked to work on a specific pitch vs approaching a matchup with an individualized game plan, but this is simply too in your face to even pretend it can be reported as a ‘normal’ game.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to learn, or look for in these contests, but it certainly does mean some coaches like Tony La Russa might be a bit uncomfortable with the change.

I see that, but for the Pirates, Spring Training record and stats might actually be a distraction from the work they’re doing.

So instead of that focus, we need to hone in on the important nuggets and battles taking place and that’s where we’ll focus.

The most in your face and legitimate battle being waged is in the middle infield. First of all, we have not been made to believe that Adam Frazier’s injury is long term, certainly not something that would prevent him being moved should the right offer come along, but his absence also creates a bit of an accelerated chance to get opportunity to the gentlemen competing to be the short stop.

On this day Kevin Newman would get the call while his competition Erik Gonzalez manned second base. Even something like this shows you something. Purely with the glove, Erik is superior to Kevin, but because this is a very real competition, Newman got to get started ahead of him.

The game started with Kevin rapping a single to the opposite field which is very reminiscent to the Newman that tore it up in 2019. He would go on to have a 2 for 2 afternoon with a walk. Not a bad way to start.

Gonzalez was not to be outdone. He matched Kevin with the exact same stat line, but added a slick double play after Newman had been removed from the game giving way to Rodolfo Castro.

With Cole Tucker as the only short stop option who hasn’t seen the field yet, it’s up to him to tell the Pirates they are in fact owners of a good problem to have.

Todd Frazier looked to show he still had something and while he did hit a homerun it was extremely wind helped, and he was, at least according to Bob Walk and Greg Brown, behind on the fastball all day.

Polanco had a two run homerun, and again, wind played a role.

That’s not to take anything away from either of them, wind driven homeruns happen everyday in baseball and we don’t asterisk those, it’s just to further illustrate, things aren’t always what they seem in the box score.

Quite possibly, no Pirate struggled more than Carson Fulmer. The homerun he gave up was no joke and the lack of movement on his fastball is exactly the type of pitch that will lead to Fulmer missing out on his latest chance in this league. Just shows you no matter where you’re drafted or what program you came from (Vanderbilt) at the end of the day, you still have to do the job.

All in all, nice to have the Bucs back in action and get the win, even if it’s harder than ever to take it as gospel. Hey, at least in Tony’s mind the Pirates are well on their way.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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