Thursday, March 27, 2014

Another record spring at McKechnie Field

Low temperatures, a steady drizzle and gray clouds did little to deter another big crowd from filling McKechnie Field as 8,134 fans took in the Pirates' final exhibition game in Florida on Thursday.
The Pirates lost 4-2, but the crowd - the seventh sellout in 12 games in Bradenton - helped establish a new average attendance record of 7,587.
The previous mark of 6,229 was set last year.
"The Pirates are humbled by the support we received this year at McKechnie Field," team president Frank Coonelly said in a statement, "from Pirates fans living in the Bradenton area and the thousands who have visited from Pittsburgh and beyond for an opportunity to watch their baseball team play in the Friendly City.
"The Pirates thank our fans and friends in Bradenton for giving us such a tremendous start to the 2014 season."
The total attendance of 91,046 wasn't enough to break the record of 93,433 set last season. Weather was the culprit - the Pirates lost three home games because of rain. Factor the in the average attendance, and McKechnie Field would have played host to over 110,000 fans had Mother Nature cooperated.
Other records did fall, however. The Pirates' home-opener this spring against the Yankees drew 6,870, a new McKechnie Field standard for the first game of the season.
The annual night game against the Baltimore Orioles was played before a crowd of 8,186, the most to watch a evening spring training game in Bradenton since lights were installed in 2008.
And on March 22 against the Philadelphia Phillies, a total of 8,566 fans passed the through the gates, the biggest crowd in the history of the 91-year-old ballpark that has served as the Pirates' southern home since 1969.
"You see it when we got to Washington, you see it when we got to Baltimore - you even see it during spring training games on the road," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "It's building. We kind of joke here that we're building Buc nation one Buc at a time, but it's starting to happen. And it's fun to watch. They're wearing the colors, they're wearing the gear, and to see the kinds branded up, that's fun to watch."

And now, the end is near...

"Well it's time to say good-bye, my friends, we're glad you stayed until the end..."
It takes a real man to quote White Lion in a sports blog. But that's what I'm here for, right?
The Pirates play their final Grapefruit League game of the year today at McKechnie Field against the New York Yankees. Then they head to Philadelphia for a pair of exhibition games against the Phillies before hosting the Chicago Cubs on Monday for Opening Day.
Today's lineups:
Ichiro Suzuki, cf
Eduardo Nunez, 3b
Mark Teixeira, 1b
Brian McCann, c
Zoilo Almonte, rf
Yangervis Solarte, 2b
Dean Anna, ss
Zelous Wheeler, dh
Adonis Garcia, lf
CC Sabathia, p

Starling Marte, lf
Jordy Mercer, ss
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Gaby Sanchez, 1b
Russell Martin, c
Jose Tabata, rf
Josh Harrison, 3b
Neil Walker, 2b
Tony Sanchez, dh
Stolmy Pimentel, p

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wandy Rodriguez: Power hitter.

So it's 21-3 Pirates here in the seventh.
Yes, 21-3.
The Pirates have banged out 27 hits, though none more memorable than the 2-run home run off the bat of pitcher Wandy Rodriguez in the second.
Rodriguez, who has never homered in over 400 regular-season bats, hit a 3-2 pitch into the fierce jet stream blowing toward right field. The ball landed in the bullpen, where the Pirates pitchers raised their arms in celebration.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, did the same rounding first.
"You know what? A 3-2 count, I know a fastball's coming," said Rodriguez, who allowed three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. "I have good contact with the ball, and the wind helped me, too. I don't have a lot of power, so the wind helped me."
Jose Tabata and Starling Marte also homered for the Pirates, and Matthew Tuiasosopo hit one for Toronto.
All went to right field.

Penultimate lineups

The Pirates' clubhouse at McKechnie Field is cluttered with boxes and bags, ready for the big move back to Pittsburgh and the start of the 2014 baseball season.
There are two more games remaining at Bradenton, including today's contest with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Matthew Tuiasosopo, rf
Melky Cabrera, lf
Edwin Encarnacion, dh
Erik Kratz, c
Dan Johnson, 1b
Brett Carroll, cf
Macier Izturis, 2b
Ryan Goins, ss
Jonathan Diaz, 3b
J.A. Happ, p

Starling Marte, lf
Russell Martin, c
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Gaby Sanchez, 1b
Jose Tabata, rf
Neil Walker, 2b
Jordy Mercer, ss
Wandy Rodriguez, p

Pirates cut 11 players

Outfielder Jaff Decker was among 11 players cut by the Pirates on Tuesday morning. The roster is now at 31 with Opening Day a little less than a week away.
Decker was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis along with pitcher Jared Hughes and outfielder/first baseman Andrew Lambo.
Assigned to minor-league camp were pitchers Adam Wilk, Daniel Schlereth and Zack Thornton; infielders Robert Andino and Michael Martinez; outfielder Chris Dickerson; and catcher Omir Santos.
"We had some really hard decisions today. Today's hard," general manager Neal Huntington said this morning at McKechnie Field, where the Pirates are set to play the Toronto Blue Jays. "As we've gotten better, today's gotten harder. We've got any number of guys that don't deserve to get sent out of camp."
A notable cut was Lambo, an outfielder and the Pirates' Minor League Player of the Year in 2013 who was battling to make the team as a first baseman.
He hit .095 (4 for 42) this spring while trying to learn a new position.
"We talk all the time about not making emotional decisions based on spring training results, and that means good or bad," Huntington said. "But as we looked at a young player with some challenges remaining in front of him, we thought the best for him was to start the season in Indianapolis."
Lambo will continue to play first base with the Indians, Huntington said.
"We asked him to tackle a new position and try to compete to make the major league team at the same time. We threw a lot at him," Huntington said. "He handled a lot of it very well. Hopefully, again, with the ability to go to Triple-A, he'll take a deep breath, get comfortable at first base in a regular setting and get back to a level he's done well at, and let that confidence play."
The Pirates have three more games remaining in Florida, including today, and play two exhibition games in Philadelphia against the Phillies on March 28 and 29 before opening the regular season March 31 at home against the Chicago Cubs.
Huntington said the Pirates may take more than 25 players up north before making their final cuts in Philly.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tarp off. Game on - for now.

The tarp is off McKechnie Field and the Pirates are taking infield in preparation for today's game against the Detroit Tigers, which will be broadcast live on ESPN.
It's ESPN's first trip to McKechnie since Daisuke Matsuzaka made his American debut in 2007 while with the Boston Red Sox.
Here are the lineups:

Andrew Romine, dh
Ezequiel Carrera, lf
Austin Jackson, cf
Tyler Collins, rf
Nick Castellanos, 3b
Bryan Holaday, c
Aaron Westlake, 1b
Hernan Perez, ss
Danny Worth, 2b
Rick Porcello, p

Starling Marte, lf
Russell Martin, c
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Gaby Sanchez, 1b
Neil Walker, 2b
Jose Tabata, rf
Josh Harrison, 3b
Jordy Mercer, ss
Wandy Rodriguez, p

Saturday, March 22, 2014

History today at McKechnie. More to come?

Today's crowd at McKechnie Field is 8,566, the largest in the history of the venerable ballpark, which opened its doors in 1923. It also pushes the total attendance this spring to 75,952 in 10 games.
Despite losing two games to rainouts, including one against the New York Yankees on St. Patrick's Day, the Pirates have a chance of shattering last year's total of 93,433, which established a McKechnie Field record.
It's a record that is well within reach.
The Pirates have to draw 17,482 fans and have three more home games, which averages out to 5,827 fans per game.
The average crowd at McKechnie this spring is 7,595. (The per game record is 6,229, also set last season.)
Bettering the chance is the opponents. The Pirates host the Detroit Tigers on Monday in a game broadcast live on ESPN. The Tigers didn't come to Bradenton last spring and always draw well, and should this season, especially since fans have a chance of seeing high-voltage stars such as Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.
The Toronto Blue Jays will be here Tuesday. They drew over 8,000 during a trip last year.
And things wrap Thursday against the Yankees, who lured 6,870 McKechnie on Feb. 26. It was the largest crowd to ever attend a Grapefruit League opener at McKechnie Field.
So if you have some time and a little bit of cash, head out to McKechnie next week. You could make history by just walking through the gate.