BRADENTON, Fla. This offseason, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan watched game film of every Pirates pitcher. One thing he noticed was none of the pitchers worked on the inner part of the plate often enough.
That’s why Kerrigan arranged for two dummies — life-sized cutouts of batters — to be shipped to Pirate City. Using the dummies in drills, Kerrigan hopes to make his pitchers more aggressive and more willing to come inside.
Pitchers work with the dummies a day after throwing a sideline session in the bullpen. Sunday morning, there were 18 pitchers, including Ian Snell, Ross Ohlendorf, Sean Burnett and Jimmy Barthmaier, at work.
“They’ll play catch with the dummy from about 55 feet, so they train their eyes to get that hitter out of the picture when they throw inside,” Kerrigan said. “It’s a visual training, making it comfortable to throw inside. We want to get them used to that as much as we can.”
A pitcher’s first three bullpen sessions of spring training are important because they condition the arm to the rigors of frequent throwing. After throwing three sides, a pitcher will toss three batting practices.
“After that, we’ll start doing the dummy work every time they throw a side from 60 feet,” Kerrigan said. “We have to introduce them to it slowly.”
• Nine pitchers — John Grabow, Jeff Karstens, Paul Maholm, Denny Bautista, Jason Davis, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Daniel McCutchen and Dave Davidson — threw side sessions in the bullpen. Also, Phil Dumatrait made 75 long tosses from 150 feet.
• The most dangerous place to be was anywhere around Field 2, where catchers were working on pop-up drills. A couple of balls landed behind the backstop, where a dozen or so fans looked on. With plenty of clouds and a high sky, it was difficult to track the balls in the air.
Manny Sanguillen chided Ryan Doumit for not tossing away his mask as he made a one-handed catch. But later, when Doumit chased down a towering pop at the backstop, Sangy let out a cheer.
Sangy also praised Steve Lerud, who sprinted out to snag a particularly tricky pop-up near the catcher’s mound. “You got it, Speedy!” Sanguillen said, with a laugh. Overall, it was a far different scene than a year ago, when Sanguillen was visibly frustrated and a bit agitated while working with Ronny Paulino.
• Outfielder Eric Hinske reported two days early, and immediately went to work. Hinske and Andrew McCutchen were among six position players who took optional batting practice on Field 3. Andy and Adam LaRoche took some swings in the indoor batting cages.
• On the new field next to the Pirate City dormitory, pitchers worked on bunting. Ross Ohlendorf, who arrived from the Yankees via a trade last year, looked a bit like an American League pitcher — he failed to make contact on his first two bunt tries. After fouling off his next attempt, Ohlendorf dropped down two pretty bunts toward third base.