Man, this vacation thing is wearing me out. Just like Monday's post, I've got a slew of pictures and observations from today's game to share. The absolute first person I saw today when I walked up to the field today was the one and only Lloyd McClendon, overseeing his Tigers take batting practice.
Memories! Lloyd was a popular guy today, spending a lot of time talking to various members of the Pirates' coaching staff. I've told my dad several times that I think Lloyd will get another chance to manage. Seeing him today confirmed that he really is a popular guy among the players and other coaches. And after the Jim Tracy era, I can definitively say that Lloyd isn't even close to my least favorite Pirate manager.
After that my brother and I walked down to the batting cages to watch Steve Pearce hit some extra BP with Don Long, while Long worked a bit on his form. There really wasn't anything too exciting going on there; I just like watching coaches coach. In this case, Long was working with Pearce keeping his left arm in by having him hold a ball under the arm before he swung.
The Tigers got off the field shortly after that and the Pirates again took the field to stretch and warm up right in front of the stands. Bobby Crosby was the first guy to head towards the dugout today.
Jose Tabata followed him out. In my unofficial tally, I think Tabata's signed more autographs for fans than any other player in the two days I've been at McKechnie this week. He seems like an incredibly friendly guy.
Meanwhile, Kevin Hart warmed up on the warning track. If only we all knew what was about to hit us. I'm really, really surprised to see him listed as 6'4". He didn't look nearly that all while he was out there warming up today.
As the other players took the field and stretched, my brother looked at me and said, "Look at Andrew McCutchen! The dude just exudes coolness. Like, anything he does just seems like it's probably awesome." It's really hard to disagree with that.
Akinori Iwamura agrees with that assessment.
Without Milledge there to mess around with McCutchen, Brandon Moss and Garrett Jones amused everyone by screwing around with fake swings followed by imaginary home run watching.
Finally Pedro Alvarez headed towards the dugout chatting with Bill Virdon. Holy crap, that was cool.
After that came the National Anthem, which included maybe the best moment of the game (and let's be honest, the game itself didn't provide many moments). A really young (we're talking three years old young) little girl was singing the anthem. She got totally lost in the rocket's red glare and was starting to repeat lines and clearly getting scared when suddenly, everyone in the crowd picked up the singing and helped her finish. Cool stuff from the McKechnie crowd, even if there were a lot of Tigers fans in there.
Then, Kevin Hart took the mound. And he walked a hitter. And then he struck out Don Kelly on three pitches, which was encouraging. Then he walked another hitter. Then he picked a guy off. Then he walked another hitter and another hitter. Look! I got a picture of Hart pitching with runners on base!
His line for the first inning was crazy: 0 H, 0 R, 2 K, 4 BB. His second inning wasn't much better. He got two quick outs, hit a batter, walked two more, gave up a hit, and got yanked while Jeff Karstens cleaned up his mess, which he did nicely.
I don't know if I can say this strongly enough: Kevin Hart cannot start the season in the Pirates' rotation unless something drastically changes in the next two weeks. His 1 2/3 innings were torturous to watch. He just couldn't get the ball near the plate. I understand that there's a lot of potential somewhere inside of him, but he's just got to show something before he gets a spot in the rotation. He's got an option left. Use it.
On the flip side of things, Tony Beasley exhibited some of the worst third base coaching I've ever seen in the first inning today. With Andrew McCutchen on second base, Garrett Jones singled sharply into right field where Ryan Rayburn was waiting. 'Cutch cruised into third and started to pull up with no signal from Beasley, who then decided to wave 'Cutch home after Rayburn's throw had already left his hand and was sailing home. No one, not even Andrew McCutchen, is that fast. Ugh.
Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church did team up for a run in the next inning, with Church doubling Crosby in after a walk and then scoring later on a balk. Crosby crushed a few foul balls today, though he didn't have any hits to show for it. It's nice to see the bench guys hitting well, I guess.
After Hart and Karstens, most of the bullpen guys struggled quite a bit. DJ Carrasco gave up two runs (though a weird dive by Akinori Iwamura over the ball cost him an out and may have let both runs score in the long run), Brendan Donnelly gave up two more, and then Vinnie Chulk put four guys on base (two walks, two hits), struck out two hitters, and gave up another run. Maybe I should stop telling people that pitching is going to be this team's strength.
In any case, here's a picture of Carrasco warming up as an excuse to link Jen Langosch's excellent article about Neal Huntington owing Carrasco a quarter.
After the Tigers rolled up their 6-1 lead, the Pirates did get one more run. It started with Pedro Alvarez lacing a double over the Tigers' center fielder's head. Whoever was in center for the Tigers should've made the play, but damn, the ball just rockets off of Pedro's bat.
Jose Tabata batted next, which let me take this "OOOOOOOO! THE FUTURE!!!" picture. He drew a walk.
Alvarez did eventually score. The inning ended on a pop-up by Gift Ngoepe. I tried to take a picture of him batting, but he's so short you can see him over the umpire.
He did make a couple slick plays in the field, including sticking with a hard grounder that he booted a little bit to end the top of the eighth inning. So I'd like to make up for making fun of his height by also including this picture of him coming off of the field with the rest of the infield (from L to R that's Doug Bernier, Steven Jackson, Ngoepe, and Steve Pearce).
So the Pirates lost again, and Hart imploded and the bullpen was terrible and so far in three spring training games I've only seen the Pirates score six runs, but it was incredibly cool to see Ngoepe play. And Pedro Alvarez doubled and McCutchen played well. Seriously, I'm not complaining here, folks (even if I am terrified of what happens if Hart makes the opening day rotation).