BRADENTON, Fla. — This morning, A.J. Burnett threw live batting practice at McKechnie Field. It was his third time throwing off a mound and the first time he’d faced batters. Working out of the stretch half the time, the right-hander threw to Michael McKenry and Garrett Jones.
The team watched from the dugout, while manager Clint Hurdle, the coaching staff, GM Neal Huntington and assistant GM Kyle Stark observed on the field. Prez Frank Coonelly looked on from the seats down the first-base line.
When Burnett finished, he walked off the mound, raised his arms and looked around expectantly for cheers. He exchanged high-fives as he went back to the dugout.
»»» Four players were cut this morning. Jordy Mercer was optioned to Triple-A Indy. Shairon Martis, Jo-Jo Reyes and Doug Slaten were reassigned to minor league camp. Huntington said Mercer will play second base at Indy, with Chase d’Arnaud as the primary shortstop. “(Mercer) can do some things defensively and he’s maturing as a hitter,” Huntington said. “A lot of it is going to be his versatility — his ability to play second and third as well as his ability to play short — along with his consistency at the plate.”
Reyes will begin the season at Indy, but Huntington isn’t ready to define whether Reyes will be a reliever or starter.
Thirty-five players remain in camp.
»»» The Pirates are casting about for lefty help in the bullpen, but are not interested in any of the free agents still available, such as ex-Bucco Mike Gonzalez.
Spring game No. 20: Astros v. Pirates, 1:05 p.m., Bradenton, Fla.
Astros (10-9): 1. J.B. Shuck cf, 2. Angel Sanchez ss, 3. Brian Bogusevic rf, 4. J.D. Martinez lf, 5. Brett Wallace 1b, 6. Matt Downs 3b, 7. Juan Castro c, 8. Joe Thurston 2b, 9. Kyle Weiland rhp
Pirates (7-12): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Josh Harrison ss, 3. Jose Tabata rf, 4. Andrew McCutchen cf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Garrett Jones 1b, 7. Yamaico Navarro 3b, 8. Michael McKenry c, 9. James McDonald rhp
Also scheduled to pitch: Chris Resop, Ryota Igarashi and Daniel Moskos