BRADENTON, Fla. — It was a miserable afternoon for James McDonald, who allowed 10 runs on seven hits and seven walks in 3 2/3 innings. The Twins whacked the Pirates, 11-6. But there was at least a little bit of upside, McDonald said: “The breaking ball was my one bright spot. It was decent at times, but I was still too inconsistent with it. I’d throw a good one, throw a bad one.”
Manager Clint Hurdle said McDonald can learn from the blowout. “There’s times when you don’t have your A game and things aren’t right,” Hurdle said. “You’ve got to adapt, improvise and overcome to the best of your ability. That was the exercise for him today. He had to find a way to do the best he could with what he had. He threw 83 pitches — it wasn’t about punishing (him), it was about needed to get work done. He went out and pitched, it wasn’t effective, the command was off, but the mindset has got to be blue-collar. He went out and finished. He knows the importance of going out and keep throwing pitches. Now, he’s got to (meet) with Ray (Searage, pitching coach) and get ready for his next start.”
»»» Pedro Alvarez went 2 for 5 today — two singles, two strikeouts — and nudged his batting average to .167. He has eliminated the toe tap from his swing. Instead, Alvarez will lift his front foot an inch or two, then quickly plant it as the pitcher delivers. “We talked about it after his last game.” Hurdle said. “I’m of the mindset, and I think he is too, that we’ve got to find a way to simplify some things. We’ve got him wide, just pick it up and put it down.”
Alvarez got 11 at-bats Wednesday in minor league games at Pirate City. He’ll head back to minor league camp Friday for another intense batting session. “He’ll get a bunch of at-bats, then play (Saturday) here,” Hurdle said. “We’ll just keep looking for some progress.”
»»» Hurdle did not offer any hints as to whether the Pirates will break camp with five or six bench players. Either scenario would be viable, as the Pirates won’t need a fifth starting pitcher until April 14, when Charlie Morton is slated to come off the DL. “We’ve talked about both scenarios,” Hurdle said. “You need to factor in the off days and how much extra pitching you think you’ll need or would the bat play better. That’s where we are in the discussions right now.”
»»» Hurdle also declined to name his primary set-up man for closer Joel Hanrahan — either Evan Meek or Jason Grilli would seem a good fit for the job. “There could be a situation where we don’t need a primary eighth-inning guy,” Hurdle said. “There’ll be a guy I go to the first time in the eighth inning and maybe he’ll get called the primary guy. But there are a couple of guys we’ve identified.”
»»» Yamaico Navarro (forearm contusion) is expected to be back in action tomorrow. He’s sat out the past two games after being hit by a pitch Tuesday.
»»» The Pirates will use a mix of all relief pitchers tomorrow against the Rays. The team has not announced which reliever will start the game, but it’s confirmed that Brad Lincoln will be somewhere in the mix.