Sunday, March 27, 2011 a broken record


No spring saw more fans come through McKechnie Field's gates than this one.
Today's Pirates-Rays game drew 6,583 fans, pushing this spring's total to 88,003. The previous mark of 87,206 was set in 2009.
But wait - there's more!
The Pirates' 16 home games this spring averaged 5,500, establishing a new mark and taking a Louisville Slugger to the previous mark of 5,404.

The end is near...

Hard to believe, but another spring at McKechnie Field is coming to a close. The Pittsburgh Pirates host those fun-loving guys from St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rays, today for the final exhibition game in Bradenton.
If that above logo from gave you a chill, that's only normal. That was the look of the Devil Rays, who unlike the Rays, never went to the World Series, never went to the playoffs and never sniffed anything close to a .500 season.
Now that I look at it, that really was a bad logo - and I'm not even talking so-ugly-it' was was just plain ugly.
Well, this is John Lembo, and let's give a look at some of the guys suiting up for this capper at McKechnie:

B.J. Upton, cf
Johnny Damon, lf
Evan Longoria, 3b
Kelly Shoppach, c
Ben Zobrist, rf
Sean Rodriguez, 2b
Dan Johnson, 1b
Elliot Johnson, dh
Reid Brignac, ss
David Price, p

Jose Tabata, lf
Neil Walker, 2b
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Lyle Overbay, 1b
Matt Diaz, rf
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Ryan Doumit, c
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Paul Maholm, p

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

All 'Stros


Joe Morgan and Sonny Jackson would be proud.
Their Houston Astros belted 16 hits and pelted the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-6 today at McKechnie Field, thanks in part to Hunter Pence - 3 for 3, 2 RBIs and a home run.
Hard to believe, but spring training baseball is practically over. McKechnie Field will host its final game of the spring at 1:05 p.m. Sunday against those pesky Tampa Bay Rays.
If you come, you could be part of history - the Pirates are 5,787 fans shy of setting an all-time Mckechnie Field attendance record.
You could the one who walks in the park Sunday and sets the record.
How 'bout that?
This is John Lembo, signing off.

Magic Number: 5,787


Today's paid attendance at McKechnie Field is 4,259 - meaning Sunday's game needs to draw over 5,787 fans to break the ballpark's all-time attendance record.
The good news? Sunday's game, the last Grapefruit League game at McKechnie this year, is against The Tampa Bay Rays. In their previous two trips to Bradenton this spring, the Rays have lured 6,367 and 6,118 fans to the beautiful downtown ballpark.
The all-time attendance record at McKechnie is 87,206, which was set in 2009. This season could also see a new per-game average set, at well - through 15 games, McKechnie has averaged 5,428 fans through the gate.
The record is 5,404, set in 2008.

No More Mr. Zero

(photo from wikipedia)

Pedro Alvarez now has more home runs than errors.

The Pirates third baseman lined a solo shot over the wall in center today at McKechnie Field, where the Buccos trail the Astros 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh.
It was the first home run of the spring for Alvarez, who has been battling a bad case of the whiffs recently. He struck out twice before hitting his home run, giving him 21 strikeouts in 53 at-bats this spring.

But he hasn't made an error!

Pirates trail 7-6 heading into the eighth.

Houston, we have a ballgame


Today is the day I get to use one of my favorite logos of all. Ain't it a beauty? This was the face of the Astros' franchise from 1975-93, and it's one of the best from what I consider to be the golden age of baseball unis.
Well, the Astros are in Bradenton today to face the Pirates, donning their ho-hum, modern day practice jerseys.
This is John Lembo, detailing the action from McKechnie Field's next-to-last game of the spring.
(Notice I said SPRING and not YEAR. Why? The Marauders are coming...)
Here are the people starting today's game:

Jason Bourgeois, cf
Angel Sanchez, ss
Hunter Pence, rf
Jason Michaels, lf
Brett Wallace, 1b
Chris Johnson, 3b
Humberto Quintero, c
Anderson Hernandez, 2b
J.A. Happ, p

Jose Tabata, lf
Neil Walker, 2b
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Lyle Overbay, 1b
Matt Diaz, rf
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Ryan Doumit, c
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Brian Burres, p

Monday, March 21, 2011

Over and out...


OK, so maybe the Twins didn't toast their 4-1 win Monday over the Pirates with the same sort of enthusiasm as they did after they won the 1991 World Series, where this Sports Illustrated cover was snapped.
But they still won. And the Pirates lost. And another spring is one day closer to a conclusion.
There are two games left at Mckechnie Field - Wednesday against the Astros and Sunday against the Rays.
And come the Marauders!

This is John Lembo, signing out. See ya Wednesday.

Some observations...


Some observations from McKechnie...
- A yellow hilighter is still on the net above home plate after it fell from the press box during Sunday's game. It does look good up against the Pirates bright yellow unis.
- For a guy drafted as a catcher and tried at nearly every other position, Neil Walker looks like a natural at second base. (It doesn't hurt, of course, that he spent most of the spring working with Hall-of-Famer Bill Mazeroski...). He has two putouts and four assists today, and made a quick pivot to turn a nifty double play in the fifth inning.
- Pedro Alvarez has as many home runs as he does errors this spring. The bad news? That number is zero. The good news? That number is zero.
- Shelby Ford, one of last year's Bradenton Marauders, has just entered the game as a second baseman. I'm looking forward to Marauders season, and curious to see if more people come out to watch these guys play.
- Some Twins fans in the bleachers have copied the Roll Call made famous by the Yankees' Bleachers Creatures. Call me crazy, but "Ma-at Tol-bert!" doesn't sound as good as "Der-ek Jeet-er!"
- It's 2-1 Twins, top of the 7th.

Twins - and MLB Network - in the house


The Minnesota Twins are at McKechnie Field this morning to face YOUR Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. MLB Network is here, too, filming footage for the Pirates' portion 30 Clubs in 30 Days that airs Tuesday on the network.
(That above logo is from the Twins' 1976-86 era).
This is John Lembo, and here are the lineups:

Denard Span, cf
Matt Tolbert, ss
Joe Mauer, c
Delmon Young, dh
Jeff Bailey, 1b
Luke Hughes, 2b
Brian Dinkleman, lf
Chase Lambin, 3b
Jason Repko, rf
Brian Duensing, p

Andrew McCutchen, cf
Neil Walker, 2b
Steve Pearce, lf
Lyle Overbay, 1b
Matt Diaz, rf
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Josh Rodriguez, ss
Jason Jaramillo, c
Paul Maholm, c

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Biggest crowd ever. Again.

(photo from wikipedia)

Another day, another record crowd at McKechnie Field.
The Pirates and Red Sox are playing in front of 6,644 fans - the most ever to pack the downtown ballpark.
The previous record didn't stand for long - it was March 13 when 6,602 fans came to see the Pirates and...yep, those Sawx. That's now the second-biggest crowd, ahead of the 6,315 who were here last Wednesday to see the Pirates and Blue Jays.
Been a busy year at McKechnie.
John Bowker hit a two-run home run for the Pirates here in the seventh, giving them a 7-4 lead.

Mr. Baseball, Kevin Correia


Ever see that cartoon where Bugs Bunny, all by himself, defeats the Gas-House Gorillas?
(Here's a sample for ya.)
Pirates pitcher Kevin Correia is having a day like that against the Red Sox. Aside from throwing four shutout innings - though the Red Sox have touched him up here in the fifth - Correia has singled twice off Josh Beckett. His second hit drove in two runs in the fourth, when the Pirates took a 5-0 lead.
The Pirates lead 5-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth.

Mother and child reunion

(photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie)

The McCutchens are a talented family.
You may know the family's son, Andrew, who the MLB Network recently anointed as the best centerfielder is baseball right now.
But Andrew's mother, Petrina, will sing the National Anthem here in a few minutes at McKechnie Field. Petrina sang here last year and was so good, the Pirates asked her back for an encore.
I have no idea if Andrew has his mom's pipes, but he can play some baseball. He entered today's game against the Red Sox batting .378 this spring, with two home runs, seven RBIs and a team-best 14 hits in 14 games.

Sox-Pirates live from Bradenton

Thought I'd go with an old-school Pirates logo today, since the Pirates are the home team in Bradenton. This is John Lembo, and the above piece of art from was used from 1948-59.
The 2011 Pirates host the Red Sox today at McKechnie Field. The Sox were here last on March 13, where a crowd of 6,602 - the biggest in the ballpark's history - watched the Buccos rally for a 9-4 win.
Today's men at work:

Marco Scutaro, ss
Dustin Pedroia, 2b
Jarod Saltalamacchia, c
Kevin Youkilis, 3b
Mike Cameron, dh
Darnell McDonald, cf
Daniel Nava, lf
Josh Reddick, rf
Nate Spears, 1b
Josh Beckett, p

Jose Tabata, lf
Neil Walker, ss
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Lyle Overbay, 1b
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Matt Diaz, rf
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Dusty Brown, c
Kevin Correia, p

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Orioles 13, Pirates 3. That's the final. I'd love to cap the day with some witty, edgy post, but watching 16 runs, 28 hits and three errors packed into 200 minutes of baseball is draining.
See ya Saturday, when the Pirates host the Boston Red Sox - and presumably 5,000 of their fans.
This is John Lembo. And I'm going home.

Boom goes the bird

(photo from

The Orioles lead the Pirates 8-3 in the seventh thanks in part to the power of Jake Fox.
Yes, Jake Fox. Fox has been a part-time player in three seasons with the Cubs, Athletics and Orioles, and has shown some power - 18 home runs in 428 career at-bats.
Today, however, he hit his sixth and seventh home runs of the SPRING. His first, off Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, bounced off the roof of the Boys and Girls Club in left.
His second shot, off reliever Scott Olsen, landed just right of the building. Both were two-run shots, giving Fox seven home runs and 12 RBIs in 16 games this spring.
Not too shabby...

Speedwagon hits McKechnie Field

(photo from Wikipedia)

The best thing about a baseball game is you never know when you'll see a no-hitter, a perfect game - or a bit-past-its-heyday rock band throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
We won't see the first two today at McKechnie Field, where the Pirates lead the Orioles 1-0 and each team has at least one hit. But we did see REO Speedwagon throw out the first pitch.
The 1970s rockers/80s balladeers are at the Van Wezel tonight, where you better fire up your Bics for this classic heart-tugger.

McKechnie Field: A fitting place on St. Patrick's Day


The bases are green, which can only mean one thing...well, two things, but none of the members of the grounds crew look it must be St. Patrick's Day at McKechnie Field.
This is John Lembo, and 40 years ago, the Batlimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates met in an epic seven-game World Series. Today, it's just another game on the Grapefruit League schedule.
This is John Lembo, and I don't have a speck of Irish blood in my veins. That being said, happy St. Patty's Day to whom it applies.
McKechnie has seen two of its biggest crowds the last two games, but I don't see it happening today - less than 3,000 fans came out to see the last Orioles-Pirates game, and even though we're still an hour away from first pitch, I don't imagine today being much different.
The lineups:

Felix Pie, cf
J.J. Hardy, ss
Nolan Reimold, lf
Matt Weiters, dh
Jake Fox, c
Randy Winn, rf
Brendan Harris, 2b
Josh Bell, 3b
Brandon Snyder, 1b
Chris Tillman, p

Jose Tabata, lf
Neil Walker, 2b
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Lyle Overbay, 1b
Matt Diaz, rf
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Jason Jaramillo, c
Ross Ohlendorf, p

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Huge crowd and high drama


Turns out there was a big crowd today - one of the biggest, in fact, as the Pirates lost 5-3 to the Blue Jays.
The Pirates put two on in the bottom of the ninth before Corey Wimberly flied out to center.
The paid attendance of 6,315 is the ballpark's second-largest crowd ever, topped only by last week's count of 6,602 that crammed McKechnie to watch the Pirates and Red Sox.
Here is a list of the top 10 biggest crowds in the tradition-rich history of McKechnie Field.
*- sellout

1. March 13, 2011 vs. Boston 6,602*
2. March 16, 2011 vs. Toronto 6,315
3. March 31, 1994 vs. Toronto 6,221*
4. March 26, 2008 vs. Detroit 6,106*
5. March 20, 2007 vs. Detroit 6,102*
6. March 10, 1999 vs. New York Yankees 6,096
7. March 24, 1994 vs. Detroit 6,089*
8. March 25, 2003 vs. Boston 6,085*
9. March 16, 2001 vs. Boston 6,075*
10 March 24, 2010 vs. Boston 6.053*

The moral of the story? When the Red Sox and Tigers are in town, get your tickets in advance.

This is John Lembo, signing off from McKechnie Field in downtown Bradenton.

Update: Blue Jays 4, Pirates 2

BRADENTON - We're in the top of the sixth, and the Jays lead the Buccos 4-2.
David Cooper and Edwin Encarnacion have homered for the Jays, and Neil Walker hit one for the Pirates.
Some random thoughts:
- Stewart Harris, today's anthem singer, was incredible. His classy, understated renditions of both anthems earned a rousing ovation from the crowd, as well as one from us cynical folk in the press box.
- What a crowd! A Wednesday afternoon? The Blue Jays?! Haven't received an official attendance figure just yet, but this could be McKechnie's second straight sellout this spring. And the Blue Jays?! Oh, Canada, indeed.

I'll be back with more as the game rolls along.

Getting to know Kyle Drabek

(photo from

Kyle Drabek toes the rubber today for the Toronto Blue Jays, though his name should be familiar to Pirates fans.
His father, Doug, won 92 games in six years with the Pirates, playing an integral role in the team's three straight National League East titles (1990-92). He won the Cy Young award in '90, when he went 22-6.
Kyle has made a name for himself, a well. Though he went 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in three starts last year with the Jays, ranked him baseball's 12th-best prospect. And he was part of the monster trade that sent former Jays ace Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to last season.
Drabek is warming up in right field right now, and we are about 20 minutes from first pitch.

North vs. South at McKechnie Field


BRADENTON - The Toronto Blue Jays are here at McKechnie Field to face the Pirates on a gorgeous Wednesday.
John Lembo here, and I will be blogging periodically from the ballpark in downtown Bradenton, where two franchises who nearly met in the 1992 World Series go toe-to-toe in a Grapefruit League throwdown.
Don't know about you, but I miss that old-school Blue Jays look, such as the one pictured above, or the one Joe Carter was wearing when he blasted the home run that beat the Phillies in Game 6 of the '93 World Series.
No dice. Instead, the Jays are wearing their standard, modern unis, as are the Pirates.
Now let's see who will be inside those jerseys and pants today.

Blue Jays
Corey Patterson, cf
Mike McCoy, ss
Edwin Encarnacion, 3b
Eric Thames, lf
Jose Molina, c
David Cooper, 1b
J.P. Arencibia, dh
John Tolisano, rf
Jon Diaz, 2b
Kyle Drabek, p

Jose Tabata, lf
Neil Walker, 2b
Andrew McCutchen, cf
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Lyle Overbay, 1b
Garrett Jones, rf
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Dusty Brown, c
Paul Maholm, p

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Update: Pirates 7, Red Sox 3


Definition of a huge inning - a guy pinch hits and gets not one, but two at-bats.
Andy Marte did such a thing today during the Pirates' six-run fifth inning. Marte hit for pitcher Jeff Karstens and doubled...and then flew out with the bases loaded to close the frame.
In between, the Pirates exploded. Among the highlights were a solo home run by Ronny Cedeno, a two-run double by Pedro Alvarez and a two-run single by Lyle Overbay.
Joel Hanrahan, named the Pirates' closer early in camp, has taken the mound to start the top of the sixth with Pittsburgh leading the Red Sox 7-3.

Update: Red Sox 3, Pirates 1

(image from

Much to the delight of most of the people stuffed shoulder to shoulder here at McKechnie Field, the Red Sox lead the Pirates 3-1 in this rematch of the first ever World Series.
The Pirates struck first on a first-inning home run from John Bowker, but the Red Sox answered when Mike Cameron grounded a two-run double down the third-base line in the third.
Lars Anderson (God, I love that name) just homered off the Bradenton sign in right center here in the top of the fourth.
Over-under on when the crowd thins? Smart money says whenever the Red Sox remove Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew from the starting lineup.
Stick with his here on our spring training blog, or head to my other blog, Prep Rally, which garners some of the heaviest traffic on
Head there to read about how well Lakewood Ranch is doing in the state's academic team standings, why so many scouts are populating Palmetto's baseball games and who the area teams will play in the Sarasota Baseball Classic, which begins Monday.

Game time is coming...

(photo from

Congressman Vern Buchanan just threw out the first of three ceremonial first pitches at a sun-splashed McKechnie Field, where the Pirates and starting pitcher Brad Lincoln (above) are about to play the Boston Red Sox.
This place is about filled, and I see quite a few red shirts. From the looks of it, the Sawx will be guests on the scoreboard only today.

Here comes the Nation...

BRADENTON - The Boston Red Sox are here.
And judging from crowd clustering near the visting dugout, where Sox skipper Terry Fancona is signing autographs, their legion of fans are here, too.
Word around McKechnie Field is this puppy is sold out, and if that's true, it will be the ballpark's first sell out of the spring.
This is John Lembo, and I will be blogging periodically from McKechnie Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Sawx.
Sorry folks, but the Sox are sans CC - Carl Crawford did not make the trip to Bradenton, nor did Adrian Gonzalez.
Who did?
Let's look:

Mike Cameron, rf
Jed Lowrie, ss
J.D. Drew dh
Jason Varitek, c
Ryan Kalish, cf
Darnell McDonald, lf
Lars Anderson, 1b
Nate Spears, 2b
Drew Sutton, 3b
Josh Beckett, p

Jose Tabata, cf
Neil Walker, 2b
Pedro Alvarez, 3b
Garrett Jones, rf
Lyle Overbay, 1b
John Bowker, lf
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Dusty Brown, c
Brad Lincoln p

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Yankees 4, Pirates 2: A sour 16


TAMPA - It's over here in Tampa, where the Yankees beat the Pirates 4-2.
The Pirates struck out 16 times, and whiffed seven times against Yankees starter Bartolo Colon, who threw four innings and earned his first win of the spring.
"Worried wouldn't be appropriate word," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think the one thing you've got to look at is how you're getting to two strikes, and I think we're getting balls to hit early in the count that we're not getting on. Nobody likes to strike out 16 times. You have the two fly balls, and that's 18 soft outs out of 27. It's tough to generate offense.
"That's the challenge in front of our guys, it's been presented to them since the beginning of spring training and conversations had over the winter. So it's something they've got to continue to work at."
The Pirates will try to make better contact Thursday against the Baltimore Orioles, who head to McKechnie Field for Bradenton's lone night game of the spring.
First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m., and the gates open at 5. A fireworks display will begin immediately after the final out.
Thanks for hanging with me tonight, folks! This is John Lembo, signing off live from George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, and urging you to check out my blog, Prep Rally, and my story on Bayshore grad and Yankees hurler, Ryan Pope.

Soriano makes Yankees debut

(photo from

TAMPA - Remember Rafael Soriano?
The former Tampa Bay Rays closer turned Yankees set-up guy made his spring debut for the pinstripers tonight at George M. Steinbrenner Field against the Pirates.
Soriano pithced a shutout inning, striking out one.
Soriano had a monstrous year for the Rays in 2010, saving 45 games (tops in the American League) while posting a 1.73 ERA in 64 games.
He signed a three-year, $35 million contract with the Yankees in January, but can opt out after 2011 or '12.
The Yankees lead the Pirates 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Russell Martin and Andruw Jones have homered for the Yankees, and Steve Pearce and Chris Snyder have driven in runs for the Pirates.

My spring training wish: Retro unis


Here's an idea to spruce up the spring - dress every team in old-school uniforms.
Imagine the Pirates wearing the duds worn by Kent Tekulve in that picture above. Or how about the Houston Astros donning their neon orange and yellow uniforms. Don't you miss that bird smiling at you from those orange and white Orioles hats?
I know I am not the only one who misses the days when the Twins dressed like this, or when the Phillies dressed like this.
So fire away, folks. What are some old-school unis you would like to see?
As for the game, the Yankees have scored twice in the third inning and lead the Pirates 3-2.

Live from Tampa: The maiden post

TAMPA - Hello everyone, and welcome to's newest blog. As the title says, this will be dedicated solely toward Grapefruit League baseball, beginning tonight, as the Pittsburgh Pirates visit the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
This is John Lembo, and hopefully you know me from my other blog here at
In fact, if you head there later tonight, you can catch my interview with Bayshore grad Ryan Pope, a third-round pick by the Yankees in 2007 who has thrown three innings with the Yanks this spring. I talked to Ryan about the organization's prized catching prospects, Austin Romine and Jesus Montero, as well as his own experiences this spring. He even talked pitching with Yankees great Mariano Rivera, and tried to learn how to throw the closer's trademark cutter.
But come back here at some point, too. I'll be blogging sporadically on the happenings from The George, where first pitch is about a half hour away.