* The Bucs rocked the Phils 8-2 today to open the Grapefruit League. Nine guys got an inning each on the hill, and the good news is the Pirate wild children all found the plate in their brief stints: Donnie Veal got the win, giving up a single, while Chris Hansen struck out two and Evan Meek one in perfect innings.
Chris Bootcheck also had a perfect frame with a K, and Ron Uviedo retire all three of his batters. Juan Mateo gave up a double and whiffed one. But not everyone was sharp quite yet.
Matt Capps took a walk on the wild side and issued three free passes on twelve straight pitches, but a K and DP ball cleaned up his mess. Romulo Sanchez wasn't that lucky; he got nicked for a couple of hits and a run. Jesse Chavez gave up three consecutive singles and a run to start the ninth, but got the next two hitters to strike out and ended the game with a come-backer.
Not much to take to school from the first outing, but one sign to watch for in the future: the pitchers threw a lot of change-ups. That philosophy may finally be taking hold.
The hitting heroes were Shelby Ford, who smacked a three-run shot over the right field wall, Freddy Sanchez, who went 2-for-2 with a double, and Steve Pearce, who played some first and went 1-for-1 with a two-bagger and a walk. The Bucs drew seven walks; whether that's Philly rust or a sign of a little plate discipline will be seen.
Oh, and don't expect Pedro to be in the opening day lineup this year. Alvarez was called on to pinch hit - against a lefty, yet - and swung and missed three breaking balls, the last a 55-footer. Welcome to the show, kid, and take a seat.
The opening lineup was: 1. Nyjer Morgan LF, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2B, 3. Nate McLouth CF, 4. Ryan Doumit C, 5. Adam LaRoche 1B, 6. Craig Monroe DH (NL teams can agree to use a DH up to two weeks before the end of spring ball), 7. Brandon Moss RF, 8. Ramon Vazquez 3B, 9. Jack Wilson SS.
* OK, the CHONE and PECOTA projections are out. Looks like a long year for Pittsburgh. The CHONE Central Division picks, by Sean Smith:
Chicago Cubs 88-74
Saint Louis Cardinals 83-79
Cincinnati Reds 82-80
Milwaukee Brewers 81-81
Pittsburgh Pirates 73-89
Houston Astros 72-90
And PECOTA, from Baseball Prospectus:
Chicago Cubs 96-66
Milwaukee Brewers 86-76
St. Louis Cardinals 81-81
Cincinnati Reds 79-83
Houston Astros 66-96
Pittsburgh Pirates 64-98 *ouch*
* Those globe-trotting Pirates have nine players on final WBC rosters, two from the big team: RHP Ian Snell and IF Ramon Vazquez (Puerto Rico). The farmhands are: LHP Dave Davidson (Canada), RHP Josh Hill and LHP Paul Mildren (Australia), IF Ray Chang (China), LHP Chi-Hung Cheng (Chinese Taipei), LHP Eliecer Navarro (Panama), and SS Gift Ngoepe (South Africa).