Bucs’ upgrades impress Leyland


BRADENTON, Fla. — Jim Leyland is impressed by the upgrades the Pirates have made to their spring training complexes.

“Their facilities are as good as it gets,” Leyland said this afternoon, shortly before his Detroit Tigers lost to the Pirates, 6-4. “They fixed up Pirate City. It was starting to get pretty run down when I was there.

“They’ve got the best ballpark, with PNC (Park). This one (McKechnie Field) reminds me of the old, traditional spring training parks. It’s beautiful.”

• Today was the Pirates’ lone game against Detroit this spring. Leyland is unhappy about the Tigers’ spring schedule — they are only about a half-hour from the Astros camp in Kissimmee, but do not make a single trip there. “”We play the Nationals (who train two hours away in Viera) six times,” Leyland said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s hard for me to believe we couldn’t do a little better than that.”

• The Pirates’ schedule is much more team-friendly. They play five of seven games this week at McKechnie Field. One of the road games is at Sarasota, about a 20-minute drive.

• It was the first lousy day for baseball since spring training began. Rain, falling temps, winds gusts of up to 25 mph and dark skies.

• Nyjer Morgan made his fourth start in five games. Craig Monroe got his first start in right field. Ramon Vazquez, who’s off to Puerto Rico’s training camp tonight, was the DH. Adam LaRoche played yesterday in Kissimmee, so Garrett Jones started at first base. The usual suspects — Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit — were Nos. 2-3-4 in the batting order.

• Pirates shortstop Anderson Machado made a sizzling play in the seventh inning. With runners at the corners and two outs, Machado dove to snare a hot grounder by Brent Clevlen, then popped up and fired to first base.

• Nate McLouth took some good-natured ribbing from his teammates about his three-run homer, which rode a stiff breeze out to right field. But everyone knew the blast was legit. There was a sharp, dramatic crack when McLouth made contact and the ball cleared the wall by several feet.

• Chris Bootcheck has thrust himself into contention for a bullpen job. The righty has tossed three straight scoreless innings, and has struck out three of the 11 batters he’s faced.

Bootcheck began the third inning by giving up a double to Placido Polanco and walking Gary Sheffield. But Bootcheck got out of the jam unscathed.

“He’s got some weapons,” Russell said. “He started to spray early, but he found his groove, started keeping the ball down and hitting his spots. The biggest thing is, he’s got an idea of commanding the ball. It didn’t take him long to get back into hitting his spots, and that’s a good sign.”

• Manager John Russell praised all the relievers, who combined to allow one run on three hits in seven innings. “They did a nice job on a tough day to pitch,” Russell said.

• Luis Cruz has recovered from his strained hip and will play Monday against the Reds. “He won’t start, but we’ll get him in there,” Russell said.

• Zach Duke will start Monday against Cincinnati. Daniel McCutchen, Jason Davis, John Grabow and Dave Hansen also will pitch. Homer Bailey, Mike Lincoln and Aaron Fultz will throw for the Reds.