SARASOTA, Fla. — There are some Buccos bloggers and casual fans out there who get all worked up over spring training losses. I can’t understand why.
The Pirates had lost six games in a row before rallying in the ninth inning yesterday to beat Toronto. Yippee. By the sixth inning, both teams were sending out their minor leaguers.
Sure, nobody likes to lose. But these games aren’t played to produce a final score. (As I type this sentence in the Ed Smith Stadium press box, Neil Walker smacked a two-run double to left field. That boosted the Pirates, who had trailed 4-0, into a 5-4 lead.) It’s about individual results — batter vs. pitcher — and getting into a rhythm to improve as the season-opener nears.
The other day, Doug Mientkiewicz spent about 20 minutes talking to me and a couple other reporters in the clubhouse in Fort Myers, Fla., as the game against the Red Sox wound down. Actually, it was more like a lecture in Batting 101 than an interview, and I found it fascinating.
Mienky explained his whole hitting approach in spring training — how he’ll spent days working on nothing but recognizing pitches, allowing even hittable pitches to go by without a swing so he can see a pitcher’s entire arsenal. He works on timing, allowing the ball to run in on him early in camp. It’s the same kind of baby-steps approach that hitting coach Don Long is taking with the rest of the team.
“It’s not important to be ready today or tomorrow,” Mientkiewicz said. “It’s important to be ready in April.”
A year ago, I sat in this same press box in late March and grumbled in this blog about another poor spring outing by Tom Gorzelanny. Folks were wondering whether Gorzo was hurt or if he should be shipped down to Indy to start the season.
Then the regular season rolled around, and it turned out Gorzelanny was just fine.
Will the Pirates lose six out of every seven games this season? Maybe. But if they do, it won’t have anything at all to do with their spring training record. During these few spring weeks, it really is not about whether you win or lose but how you play the game.