Neil Walker started the game with a bad throw to let the first runner that AJ Burnett faced this spring, Ben Zobrist, get aboard. Burnett helped himself out of that jam by picking off Zobrist, who he caught leaning, and cruised the rest of the frame. Not so the second.
A couple of ground ball singles, a solid knock, a couple of errors (by Pedro and RF Brad Hawpe) and a wild pitch gave the Rays a 4-0 lead. The Bucs put runners on the corners in their half with one away on a Pedro two bagger and Gaby Sanchez knock, but Jeremy Hellickson whiffed Hawpe and the Fort to end the frame without any damage. Wandy came on and gave up a two-out, run producing double to Luke Scott. The fourth went quietly, with six up, six down.
Gerrit Cole came on in the fifth and walked lead-off hitter Desmond Jennings. It's pretty apparent that Cole has Bucco bloodlines just by watching his meticulous delivery. Jennings stole second and third off Cole and scored on a sac fly to make it 6-0. He worked the sixth, yielding a single to left by Jose Molina. The Bucs got on the board when JT led off with a double and came home after a two down knock through the right side by Matt Hague.
Jason Grilli gave up a pair of runs on three hits and yet another error, a wayward pickoff toss. JT got one of those runs back with another leadoff double, coming around on an Alex Presley knock. Jared Hughes gave up a leadoff triple to open the ninth, but three swinging K kept the Rays at bay. The Bucs left a leadoff walk at first, and Tampa iced an 8-2 win.
That's how spring goes. The guys in competition come in sharp and ready to compete; the guys that are set slowly work their way into game shape. Bill Brink of the Post Gazette tweeted that Burnett was working with just a fastball/changeup combo today, no slurve/curveball, and said he might not mix his breaker in until his third start. That's the kind of luxury the fringe guys don't have.
The Red Sox will close out February with a 1:05 visit to McKechnie Field tomorrow. Jameson Taillon will start for Pittsburgh.
- Tom Singer in his blog Change For A Nickle examines what kind of offer Pittsburgh might have to make to ink long-term deals with Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez along with a couple of potential scenarios.
- USA Today's Paul White writes that some of the Canadian WBC players (ie, Justin Morneau) are unhappy with Russell Martin's decision to skip the tourney. Martin's reply (warning - crude language alert): "I know people are going to be pissed," he said. "If Morneau is pissed he can go catch and I'll play first base."
- Martin told Tom Singer of MLB.com that he feels "much better today," and thought that his soreness was from "rushing warm-ups" on Sunday.
- ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider pay article) claims the Pirates have the most difficult April schedule of any NL team, just like last year. 33 of the Bucs' first 42 games come against teams that had a record of .500 or better in 2012.