Friday, February 29, 2008

Bottom of the 9th

Knotts will be called on to make this one stick - he is back out for the bottom of the ninth, as the wind begins to blow in.

Raul Chavez grounds out to second, and the Pirates lose 5-4 in front of 4,077 fans.

The only reason I am happy to see this thing end in nine is every time a game goes into extra innings, someone says, "Free baseball."

I hate that phrase. Extra innings is not free baseball. You buy a ticket to see a game - not just nine innings. Whether the game goes nine or 99, you pay to see a full game. You're not getting a bargain if the thing is deadlocked.

So no free baseball. Not today. Not ever.

Thanks for hanging, folks. This is John Lembo, signing off from McKechnie Field.

Top of the 9th

The Pirates put the opener in the hands of new pitcher Hector Carrasco. And with the threat of a tie - yes, spring training games can thankfully end without a winner - looming, the crowd is beginning to thin a bit.

Casey Smith, No. 74 himself, gives the Phillie-friendly crowd a jolt when he hits a home run that lands on the roof of the Boys and Girls Club.

A masterstroke of managing by Charlie Manuel, keeping this guy in the game.

What foresight!

5-4, bottom of the ninth. The Pirates' winning ways are in jeopardy.

Bottom of the 8th

What's a tie without Knotts?

Gary Knotts is the Philles' new pitcher.

He allows a pair of baserunners, but gets Josh Wilson to pop out.

4-4, top of the ninth.

Top of the 8th

T.J. Beam, all 6-foot-7 of him, is the new Pirate pitcher.

I guess if your last name is Beam you should be tall. Wouldn't you rather have a six-foot beam than a five-foot beam? I would.

Then again, I don't like "Centerfield," so what do I know?

A name like Beam should help T.J.'s chances of making the club - seriously, how can you build a bridge to a closer without a beam?

(I can go all day, folks.)

You know what will also help Beam's chances? Holding a lead. He can't do that today, however, as he walks Jayson Werth - who steals second - and allows Greg Dobbs' RBI single.

We're tied at 4.

Bottom of the 7th

Stretch time here at McKechnie - though I've been standing for three innings because the bar stools in the press box are a tad uncomfortable.

The announced attendance is 4,077, many of whom are still around to watch the Pirates go down quietly in the bottom of the 7th.

Pittsburgh still leads 4-3.

Top of the 7th

Didn't catch a foul ball at the ballyard?

No problem. Just buy one from a guy standing on 9th Street, who yells his sales pitch through a chain-link fence lining the concourse.

"Ryan Howard hit all three of these," the man says, referring to the three baseballs in his left hand. "Three for $20."

Can't blame a guy for trying.

New Pirate pitcher Evan Meek allows a run, as the Phillies trim their defict to 4-3.

Bottom of the 6th

Joe Bisenius takes the hill for the Phils, and of the four Philadelphia pitchers on the day, he wins the prize for Lowest Uniform Number - 49.

The wind has died down, and very few of the fans have left McKechnie, and good thing, too - it's time for another T-shirt throw!!!!!!!

Oh, the Pirates go down quietly. They still lead 4-2.

Top of the 6th

Josh Wilson (shortstop), Raul Chavez (catcher) and Franquelis Osoria (pitcher) all make their way into game, entrusted with pushing Pittsburgh's winning streak to two.

Up steps Ryan Howard. In three-plus seasons, he's whacked 129 home runs...been named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player...brought a division championship to Philadelphia...nonetheless, someone screams, "Howard, you're a bum!" as he walks to the plate.

Howard grounds out weakly, however. Chris Snelling flies out, and the Pirates take a 4-2 into the bottom of the sixth.

Bottom of the 5th

Shane Youman, a lefty who went 3-5 for Pittsburgh last year, comes in to face his former team.

Youman appeared in 16 games for the Pirates last season and struggled, posting a 5.97 ERA and allowing 65 hits in just over 57 innings.

Now his struggles are spilling over into the spring. After allowing Jack Wilson's third hit of the day, Youman walks Freddy Sanchez, Ryan Doumit, Steven Pearce and Jose Bautista, giving Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead.

Youman throws a first-pitch strike to Doug Mientkiewicz, prompting a mock cheer from the Philly fans. (It's the spring, folks!)

Mientkiewicz flies out, and Pittsburgh leads 4-2 after five.

Top of the 5th

Jonah Bayliss is the third Pirate pitcher of the day, and Andrew McCutchen is the new leftfielder.

Quite a busy day for A-Mac, who went 1-for-4 this morning during the Pirates' "B" game with the Phillies at Pirate City.

How do you make a bullpen full of guys run for cover? Hit it their way. Shane Victorino lofts a towering fly ball to right field, and the Pirate relievers, most of whom are sitting in fair territory, duck and run for cover. Pirate rightfielder Steven Pearce tries to run it down, but the ball glances off his glove and Victorino legs out a triple.

He scored on a wild pitch, tying the game at 2.

Bottom of the 4th

The new third baseman for the Phillies is Brennan King.

This sparks a Pittsburgh writer to respond, "Jeff King?"

It was done in jest, of course - Jeff King spent eight of 11 seasons with the Pirates, and was a member of the club that won three straight division titles from 1990-92. His best year in a Pirate uniform was '93, when he drove in 98 runs and batted .295.

Doug Mientkiewicz is thrown out trying to steal second. Hard to believe a speedster such as Mientkiewicz - 14 career stolen bases, including a career-high four in 2003 - is gunned down.

But give some credit to catcher Jason Jaramillo.

2-1 Pirates.

Top of the 4th

More kudos to McKechnie's music man for giving The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love" a spin.

Chances are diehard fans of the Cure - a band known for a darker brand of pop - don't much care for the shamelessly sunny "Friday I'm In Love." But it's a killer track, and it fits right along with the bouncy vibe here at McKechnie.

And it's nice to see a crowded park. Clearwater was a ghost town on Thursday - granted, it was about 15 degrees cooler - but McKechnie Field is filled with bodies. Even the bleachers, practically empty around game time, are pretty packed.

Sean Burnett gives them something to cheer for. Flashing a textbook figure-four slide, Burnett snares Pedro Feliz's swining bunt, and, from his knee, fires to first to get him by a step.

Wes Helms grounds out harmlessly, and Pittsburgh is up 2-1.

Bottom of the 3rd

Call them what you will, but the Phillies aren't hapless - now pitching for the Phils is J.A. Happ, a lefty in to relieve J.D. Durbin.

(Can't any of these guys just spell out their first names? Their roster reads like an eye chart.)

Happ has the stuff to cool the Pirates, as he makes quick work of Jason Bay, Ryan Doumit and Steve Pearce, keeping Pittsburgh's lead at 2-1.

Top of the 3rd

This is the only time I wish I was in the bleachers instead of the press box - it's time for the T-shirt toss, and I love free T-shirts.

More than that, however, I love the way people chase, grab and lunge for these things, as if there is a cluster of $100 bills wrapped in each piece of cloth.

Then again, maybe there is. I never caught one myself. All my T-shirts are store-bought.

Ian Snell's day is done - no runs, no hits and a walk in two innings - as Sean Burnett, a lefty, takes to the McKechnie hill.

The Phillies get to Burnett, scoring a run on double and two singles. But Nyjer Morgan chases down Ryan Howard's line drive to centerfield, and the Pirates lead 2-1.

Bottom of the 2nd

Doug Mientkiewicz will hit second this inning, and the best part of his coming to the Pirates is getting to see his name on the back of his jersey.

Gotta love last names that make like a parabola - beginning on one shoulder, peaking near the neck before dipping back down and finishing at the other shoulder.

There was no such treat last year - Mientkiewicz was a Yankee, and the pinstripers go nameless.

The Pirates continue to swing. Jack Wilson strikes again, ripping a single to center to score - geez, I have to type his name AGAIN - Mientkiewicz, who reached on a fielder's choice.

Pittsburgh leads 2-0 and has scored 13 runs in 11 innings this spring.

Top of the 2nd

Here's hoping all the fans down here from the City of Brotherly Love didn't make the trip just to see Ryan Howard - the superstar swings at Ian Snell's first pitch and bounces out to first.

Snell, who won just nine games last year but posted a 3.76 ERA was among the top 10 in the National League in strikeouts (177) and innings (208), pitches around a four-pitch walk to Pat Burrell and posts his second hitless inning.

Bottom of the 1st

Now we're talking!

As J.D. Durbin warms on the mound, Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town" rocks through the wind blowing right to left.

Jack Wilson follows suit. The Pirate shortstop homers to deep left field - Phillie outfielder Pat Burrell barely gives chase, the ultimate test when gauging a how far a home run travels - for Pittsburgh's third home run in two games.

Following Wilson's wallop, Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay lace singles to center. But Ryan Doumit and Steve Pearce ground out, and the Pirates take a 1-0 lead into the second.

Top of the 1st

I love baseball. I love rock music. I love Creedence Clearwater Revival.
So you'd figure "Centerfield," written and performed by CCR frontman John Fogerty, would be my nirvana.

Not so much. I'm not a fan. I find it hokey and childish. Fogerty can do better.

Nonetheless, the Pirates trot on to the diamond with "Centerfield" blaring over the McKechnie speakers.

At 1:07, Pittsburh's 40th year in Bradenton begins when Ian Snell flings a strike past Shane Victorino. It's 67 degrees.

Snell cruises through the first inning, inducing a pair of groundouts and a lazy fly to right.

The biggest cheer award goes to...

...Ryan Howard?

Yep. Philadelphia's burly first baseman got a bigger ovation than Jason Bay, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez combined. McKechnie is getting more and more packed, but judging from the sea of red, coupled with the tepid reaction for the home team, this is a Phillie-centric crowd.

Get over here!

The weather is warming up and the seats are starting to fill, which begs the question - why are you reading this?

Get out here! Play hooky. Call in sick. Tell your boss you dropped a frozen t-bone on your big toe. Get to the ballpark. We're about 30 minutes from first pitch.

(Then again, scratch the t-bone idea - unless you are up for attaching a phony cast to your foot and picking up a limp. If you don't, the boss will get wise to your ruse.)

Starting lineups

Here the lineups, live from McKechnie:


1. Shane Victorino, cf
2. Eric Bruntlett, ss
3. Geoff Jenkins, rf
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Pat Burrell, lf
6. Pedro Feliz, 3B
7. Wes Helms, DH
8. Jason Jaramillo, c
9. Casey Smith, 2B
J.D. Durbin, P

OK, so there's no Chase Utley and no Jimmy Rollins. But Ryan Howard, who hit a home run yesterday in Clearwater that landed somewhere in Fort Lauderdale, is in the lineup. And only one of the starting nine - Casey Smith - has a number in the 70s.


1. Nyjer Morgan, cf
2. Jack Wilson, ss
3. Freddy Sanchez, DH
4. Jason Bay, lf
5. Ryan Doumit, c
6. Steve Pearce, rf
7. Jose Bautista, 3b
8. Doug Mienktiewicz, 1b
9. Luis Rivas, 2b
Ian Snell, P

Jason Bay returns to the Pittsburgh lineup, adding muscle to a lineup lacking boppers such as Xavier Nady and Adam LaRoche. My money is on Bay garnering the biggest first at-bat cheers - but don't sleep on veteran Jack Wilson.

Should be interesting...

Welcome To The McKechnie

To paraphrase Brent Musberger, I am looking live at McKechnie Field, roughly two hours before the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Philadelphia Phillies in the spring home-opener.

(Yes, they hosted the boys from MCC on Wednesday, but that was an exhibition...then again, this is the spring, so aren't they ALL exhibitions? Anyway...)

I am John Lembo, staff writer at The Bradenton Herald and your host today as the Pirates begin their 40th spring in Bradenton. It's a little chilly, but the sun is out, the palm trees are swaying, Ryan Doumit is spraying line drives all over the outfield and hey - the wireless connection in the press box is working!

Life is good.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bottom 9th: Pirates at Phillies

Hundreds hang around to watch the Phillies score a run on Eric Bruntlett’s triple, but Romulo Sanchez closes out an 11-6 win for the Pirates.

How crazy is spring training (or baseball, for that matter?) Bryan Bullington, who allowed five runs in the third inning, is the winning pitcher, making his ERA just as high as his winning percentage.

Hey, the Pirates are 1-0. Break out the bubbly. That's a wrap from here, folks. See you tomorrow at McKechnie Field for the spring home opener, against these same Phillies, at 1:05 p.m.

Top 9th: Pirates at Phillies

How empty is this place? Luis Cruz grounds a double down the first base line, and I can hear someone in the crowd say, “That’s a fair ball.” Hey, come to the ballpark, be an announcer for the day.

Cruz makes the turn around first, and the same person screams: "Run! Run!" Forget announcing, buddy, you've just been promoted to coach.

Cruz slides safely into second, but the Pirates can't bring him home, leaving the bases loaded. What are the chances this 11-5 lead will hold?

Bottom 8th: Pirates at Phillies

The announced attendance is 4,052.

That's not a typo.

There aren’t 4,052 legs here, let alone 4,052 people. This place is as busy as a blast furnace company working in the bowels of hell. There was nobody here at 1:05 p.m. and there’s nobody here now.

Oh yeah, I should mention that the score is now 11-5 Pirates. I'd love to tell you how it happened, but I was too busy searching for the 3,500 or so fans they've hidden somewhere in the stadium.

Top 8th: Pirates at Phillies

The Phillies won a division title last year, right? Where is the hoopla? Nowhere is there a mention of the team winning its first division title in nearly 15 years. Nothing on the scoreboard, on the outfield wall, or anywhere.

There is, however, a framed spring training schedule from 1990 hanging in the press box. It’s autographed by Von Hayes. What's really weird is this stadium is five years old, so someone consciously brought over this old, framed schedule to hang in the new press box. But, hey, it is autographed by Von Hayes. They should probably post a security guard next to it or something.

Bottom 7th: Pirates at Phillies

Here's a great story: Jaret Wright, who nearly pitched the Cleveland Indians to a World Series title 11 years ago, enters the game for the Pirates.

He’s a non-roster invitee whose promising career has been derailed by injuries. Nonetheless, he throws a shutout inning, keeping the Pirates’ lead intact.

Top 7th: Pirates at Phillies

The Phillies’ new outfielder is Valentino Tascucci. Following the game, he’ll join the rest of the Three Tenors on a European tour.

On-deck hitter Neil Walker makes a friend when he grabs a foul ball off the bat of Doug Mientkiewicz and flips it to a fan three rows up.

Steve Pearce triples to center field and scores on an infield hit by Michel Hernandez, and now the Bucs are up 8-5.

Bottom 6th: Pirates at Phillies

Pitcher John Grabow is the new Bucs’ hurler.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of action in the outfield, none of it involving the game. Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and Josh Wilson have been pulled from the game by the Pirates, so now they're running sprints in the outfield.

It's like a high school game when the coach puts the team through the paces after a lousy performance, and I know, it's tradition, but seriously, why do they do this? I know it's the spring, things are more laid-back, but isn't this asking for trouble, sending guys out on the field of play?

I guess the baseball gods approve. In three years, I've never seen an outfield jogger get hit. Still it's a matter of time.

Grabow cruises through the sixth, and it’s still 7-5 Pirates.

Top 6th: Pirates at Phillies

The Phillies’ star-studded infield is done for the day, with Rollins, Utley, Howard and Pedro Feliz replaced by the likes of Andy Tracy and Michael Cervenak. (I can hear you asking 'Who?' out there, and I've got nothing for you.) Consequently, some fans are done for the day, too, though some have migrated again, following the sun to warmer seats along the first base line.

The Pirates keep hitting. Josh Wilson doubles in Chris Gomez for a 7-5 Bucs’ lead.

Bottom 5th: Pirates at Phillies

Get used to this matchup: Capps vs. Ryan Howard. Ahead in the count 2-1, Howard turns on a fastball and lines out to new first baseman Steve Pearce. Pearce spins and fires to second, doubling off Chase Utley.

Amazingly, it’s still 6-5 Pirates.

Top 5th: Pirates at Phillies

Matt Capps is warming in the Pirates’ bullpen. Though he had 18 saves last year, Capps is nowhere to be found on the rosters in the press box. New manager John Russell must be a tough guy to please.

Meanwhile, Ronny Paulino grounds into a double play with runners on first and second.

Bottom 4th: Pirates at Phillies

Ronald Belisario is Pittsburgh’s third pitcher of the day, replacing Bryan Bullington. Former major league player, manager and current broadcaster Buck Martinez makes his way into the press box. He’s wearing a Titleist visor and a windbreaker, looking as if he’s pitching for his next round of 18.

Belisario allows a single to Rollins, but gets So Taguchi (favorite player to Valley girls everywhere, because he's soooooo Taguchi) to ground into a double play, preserving the Pirates’ 6-5 lead.

Top 4th: Pirates at Phillies

Phillies fans sitting the shade move to the empty, sunnier seats near the Pirates’ dugout.

The Pirates heat up as well. Josh Wilson singles home a pair of runs, and Nate McLouth laces a three-run homer just over a Budweiser sign in right field. The Pirates are up 6-5.

11 runs in three-plus innings. Aren’t the pitchers supposed to be ahead of the hitters at this point in the season?

Bottom 3rd: Pirates at Phillies

The sun stinks. First Pirate third baseman Chris Gomez loses a pop-up, is charged with an error when he bungles an attempt at a basket catch.

Moments later, Pirates left fielder Nyjer Morgan gives chase to a Carlos Ruiz fly ball. Unable to see it, Morgan throws up his hands. The ball bounces next to him, into the stands for a groundrule double.

The Phillies pounce. Utley and Rollins drive in runs, before Howard hits a blast that clears not only the right field berm, but the chain-link fence behind it. It’s 5-1 Phillies.

Top 3rd: Pirates at Phillies

You’d figure this would be the wrong day to sell something cold. But I spot a lemonade guy with just four cups left in his crate. I also find the greatest concentration of people — they’re located in left field near the Frenchy’s Tiki Bar.

Guess it's never too cold for a Tiki Bar. Oh yeah, it's still 1-0 Pirates.

Bottom 2nd: Pirates at Phillies

Near-empty ballparks don’t do much for the bottom line. But they make it easier to get around. I encounter no concourse traffic en route to getting my first hot dog of the spring.

And while I am no architect, I applaud the design of the stadium. The concessions sit on higher ground than the stands, so I’m able to buy my food, load up on kraut, ketchup and mustard, and not miss a pitch. Still 1-0 Pirates.

Pirates at Phillies: Top 2nd

Hey, we've finally got a score here, and the 31 people in the right field berm have a bauble to battle for. Adam LaRoche just hit a towering leadoff home run for the Pirates.

I was hoping he'd go the opposite way. There's an outfield wall sponsor in left center field for La Spada's, a steak sandwich shop. I would have liked LaRoche to place a double off La Spada's. It just sounds good.

The score here: Pirates 1, Phillies 0

Bottom 1st: Pirates at Phillies

Reigning National League MVP Jimmy Rollins gets a nice ovation as he leads off. But the biggest cheers are reserved for Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who was coaching first base.

Pirate lefty Phil Dumatrait is on the mound in place of scheduled starter Tom Gorzelanny, scratched with shoulder irritation. This is definitely not the way the Pirates wanted to start the 2008 campaign.

Rollins steals his first base of the spring, but Dumatrait strikes out Ryan Howard. Schmidt, Rollins and Howard — not often do you see three MVPs on the same field.

Top 1st: Pirates at Phillies, 2/28/08

Hello, this is John Lembo, staff writer for the Bradenton Herald, and I'll be your host today for the Pirates' spring training opener at the Phillies in Clearwater.

Ordinarily, I would be blogging in real time, posting entries at the end of every half-inning. However, today we're at the aptly (maybe not) named Brighthouse Networks Field, which can mean only one thing: the wireless service here isn't working. Seriously. It's only the newest spring training facility in Florida, people. We're told this happens quite frequently (hello, Brighthouse, anyone?) and that they're trying to find a guy to work on the problem. So it could take a little while to catch you up on today's action.

Chances are whoever is responsible for the fritzed-out wireless router isn't in the stands. Maybe it's the weather, a nippy 53 degrees at first pitch, or maybe the Pirates can't draw much of a crowd on the road. Whatever the reason, this stadium is sparsely attended as the Phillies prepare to defend their first division title since 1993. While there are some fans clustered up and aruond home plate, the sun-splashed bleachers are a sea of empty blue seats. I count only 31 people in the right field berm. Too bad, because the stars are out. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are all starting for the Phillies.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Top 9th: Pirates vs. MCC, and that's a wrap

They just announced the attendance: 2,102. That means $5,255 goes to Wakeland Elementary School and $5,255 goes to Manatee education foundation. That's all for today. Pirates 5, MCC 0.

Bottom 8th: Pirates vs. MCC

Gus Schlosser takes the mound for the Lancers. He played a couple games on this field as a high school player at Lakewood Ranch. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Schlosser is an imposing presence on the mound. Schlosser pitched well, allowing only a single to Josh Wilson.

Top 8th: Pirates vs. MCC

An all-Manatee lineup comes to the plate to face Pirates top draft pick Daniel Moskos in this half. Harold Smith (Palmetto) grounded out sharply to second and Max Loveland (Bayshore) and Nate Davis (Manatee HEAT) both grounded out to short.

Bottom 7th: Pirates vs. MCC

Evidently Strawn is en route to Pittsburgh to work on a contract, because he's out and Jose Hernandez is in. Fear not Manatee Canes fans, Ray Morris has entered the game at first base to represent the Red and Blue. After allowing the first two batters to reach, Hernandez got out of it by inducing a grounder to third base, then a beautifully turned 6-4-3 double play.

Top 7th: Pirates vs. MCC

Now we are cruising, as Jonah Bayliss steps in for Josh Sharpless on the mound. We always get those two confused. Anyway, Bayliss tosses a perfect half inning. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" plays for the first time this spring.

Bottom 6th: Pirates vs. MCC

Josh Strawn retires the side in order, and has now recorded four in a row. Strawn is clearly major league ready right now.

Top 6th: Pirates vs. MCC

Pirates make some wholesale changes, and a couple familiar names trot out, including former Rays Josh Wilson and Jorge Velandia. Baseball fans might also know the names of journeymen utility players Chris Gomez and Jose Macias. Gomez played for the Rays, too, earlier in the decade. He's been with Minnesota, Baltimore, Toronto and Cleveland since then.

Bottom 5th: Pirates vs. MCC

Just noticed Bayshore High baseball coach Ron Hirst in sitting in the third base side of the grandstand. Looks like he might have brought his players to the game. Maybe former Bruins Zach Avery and Max Loveland scored them some tickets. They play for MCC. Just lost our scoreboard. Still working out the kinks, people. It's spring training. Spoke too soon on the MCC errors. A couple more misplays put two runners on base and runner across the plate, chasing Justin Zinkovich. Former Manatee standout Josh Strawn takes the mound to record the final out.

Top 5th: Pirates vs. MCC

I think I just spotted a beer man, but he doesn't look to busy on a day like this. Harold Smith just led off with a walk, and you knew he was going. He got caught leaning, but managed to get back on a pickoff attempt. Then he was off on the next pitch. No throw necessary. He had a great jump. Not so much, on his attempt to steal third. Out by several feet.

Bottom 4th: Pirates vs. MCC

Excuse any typos. My dexterity is the latest victim of the low temps. Just noticed the enormous sign in right-center commemorating the Pirates 40 years in Bradenton. You can't miss it, yet somehow I almost did. I believe that's where the "Friendly City" sign can usually be found. Our Lancers have finally settled in out there in the field. Haven't flubbed since the first inning, which we'll write off to nerves from playing with pros.

Top 4th: Pirates vs. MCC

New Pirates pitcher Marino Salas must be filthy. He fooled Taylor Hashman so bad, he lunged for a ball and lost control of his bat, nearly taking out Lakewod Ranch graduate Jon Griffin, who was standing in the on-deck circle. Hashman struck out. Griffin went down next. Not even close. Jonathan Rodriguez finally makes contact with a slow roller to short.

Bottom 3rd: Pirates vs. MCC

It's cold. Who says Doug Mientkiewicz is all-field no hit? He has two line drives for hits. Doug's everywhere rejoice.

Top 3rd: Pirates vs. MCC

Jesse Chavez enters the game to pitch for the Pirates, creating one of those rare Chavez/Chavez battery combinations. Raul Chavez, a well-traveled catcher is trying to latch on the Pirates this spring. Jesse Chavez pitched at Triple A Indianapolis last year. Saint Stephen's product Garrett Gregory doubled to the right-center gap off Chavez. We don't think that hurts J. Chavez's chances. He rebounded with two quick Ks to close out the inning.

Bottom 2nd: Pirates vs. MCC

Another thing you don't see too often. When a foul ball strayed down the line in left, no one was there to snag it. No ump, no ball boy. So Pirates third base coach Tony Beasley ran back about 100 feet, without calling time out, grabbed the ball and handed to a man with his family at the game.

Top 2nd: Pirates vs. MCC

Someone in the press box pointed out a MCC player, who caught a foul ball in the Lancers dugout and threw it back onto the field. To paraphrase the guy, he said this is the big leagues and that ball would never see another pitch in game. In Juco ball, they might still be using it on Friday.

Bottom 1st: Pirates vs. MCC

The bottom of the first got a little out of hand with some MCC misplays in the field. They were given only two errors, but that number could have easily been four. The Pirates finished with four runs, and it could have been more if former Palmetto Tiger Harold Smith had gotten one out with a nice throw from center field cutting down a runner trying to stretch a double.

Top 1st: Pirates vs. MCC (2/27/08)

Ah, spring training begins. Now's when we're supposed to compare the temps in Bradenton and Pittsburgh. We like that game, but it's too cold to play today. They say it's 59 degrees, but with the 20-mph wind it feels much colder.

The Pirates are debuting their Baseball America dream lineup today with a bunch of their top prospects making an appearance. Neil Walker made the first play of the spring at third base. He's the former first round draft pick who is a catching convert. Walker was the No. 61 overall prospect in baseball, according the top 100 list released by Baseball America on Wednesday. Steve Pearce made the second out with catch in right field. He's Baseball America's No. 89 prospect. Andrew McCutchen is in center field and the No. 14 overall prospect in baseball.

Bobby Haney doubled solidly to right field for MCC's first hit.