Defense sloppy in loss


BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates made three errors in today’s 8-5 loss against the Blue Jays. In the sixth inning, right fielder Starling Marte bobbled the ball and allowed Anthony Gose to advance to second base. Travis Snider followed with a grounder to reliever Meek. First baseman Jeff Clement failed to cover the bag, so Meek had to outrun Snider for the out. Jonathan Diaz scored from third base and Gose, seeing that Meek’s momentum took him away from the plate, made an aggressive turn and scored from second.

“We were sloppy,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Our awareness wasn’t where it needs to be to play a game — a major league game, a minor league game or an exhibition. It’s a lack of focus.” Still, Hurdle was careful not to over-react to the defensive lapses. “You’re dealing with humans, not hardware,” Hurdle said. “Sometimes, they have bad games. You don’t like ‘em, so you address them and heighten their awareness. Nobody likes to go out and play bad.”

»»» Charlie Morton will pitch two innings Wedneday morning in an intrasquad scrimmage at Pirate City. Kyle McPherson and Rudy Owens also will be stretched out to two or three innings apiece in the game.

»»» Josh Harrison (elbow) is in the starting lineup for tomorrow’s game against the Orioles.

»»» According to the LA Times, Clayton Kershaw will start the Dodgers’ home opener April 10 against the Pirates.

»»» Jo-Jo Reyes will pitch the first two innings Monday night against the Orioles. Justin Wilson, Jared Hughes, Duke Welker, Bryan Morris, Mike Crotta and Tim Wood also are scheduled to pitch. Lefty Brian Matusz will start for the O’s. Among those not making the trip to Sarasota are Casey McGehee, Neil Walker, Clint Barmes, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Nate McLouth.

Lineups for Monday’s game:

Pirates (0-2): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Josh Harrison ss, 3. Yamaico Navarro 2b, 4. Matt Hague dh, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Gorkys Hernandez cf, 7. Garrett Jones 1b, 8. Starling Marte rf, 9. Michael McKenry c. Pitcher: Jo-Jo Reyes lhp

Orioles lineup TBA. Pitcher: Brian Matusz lhp


Morton continues progress


BRADENTON, Fla. — Charlie Morton is eager to ramp up his pitch progression after throwing 40 pitches in batting practice Saturday. Morton said he hopes to pitch in some sort of game on Wednesday, perhaps a minor league scrimmage at Pirate City. After today’s game, I’ll check with manager Clint Hurdle about Morton’s status.

»»» Josh Harrison had been slated to be a backup in today’s game against the Blue Jays at McKechnie Field. But Harrison was nicked on the elbow by a pitch Saturday, and is being held out as a precaution. There has been no indication from the team that Harrison is seriously injured.

Lineups for today’s game:

Blue Jays (1-0): 1. Rajai Davis cf, 2. Travis Snider lf, 3. Ben Francisco rf, 4. Brett Lawrie 3b, 5. David Cooper 1b, 6. J.P. Arencibia dh, 7. Luis Valbuena 2b, 8. Jeff Mathis c, 9. Adieny Hechavarria ss. Pitcher: Aaron Laffey hp

Pirates (0-1): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Nate McLouth rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Rod Barajas c, 5. Garrett Jones 1b, 6. Matt Hague dh, 7. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 8. Chase d’Arnaud 4, Pitcher: Erik Bedard lhp


Good start for McDonald


DUNEDIN, Fla. — Manager Clint Hurdle was pleased with what he saw this afternoon from pitcher James McDonald in the 7-1 loss against the Blue Jays. McDonald worked two innings and allowed two runs on two hits, walked one and stuck out one. The righty threw 33 pitches, including 19 strikes.

“The first inning was very clean and efficient,” Hurdle said. “He still threw some good offspeed pitches in the second. The one thing with Mac is, he’s got to trust his front side. When it gets in a hurry and pulls, he misses high and wide. His arm looked healthy and he spun some good pitches.”

McDonald stressed the importance of being confident and not overthinking himself on the mound. “You’ve got to trust the preparation you had in the bullpen, all the work you’ve been doing,” he said. “Go out there and not think. Don’t think, ‘I have to do this with my arm,’ or whatever. Just go out throw.”

McDonald said he wasn’t satisfied with his tempo today — sometimes he rushed, sometimes he got sluggish. Last year, McDonald had a tendency to slow down too much with runners on base.

“His tempo today seemed to be fine,” Hurdle said. “That’s one thing that’s critical for him; he’s got to improve his tempo from (what he did) last year.”

»»» Josh Harrison was nicked on the left elbow by a pitch in the sixth inning, but stayed on the field and finished out the game. “He seems to be fine, as far as I know right now,” Hurdle said.

»»» Jeremy Farrell pinch-hit in the fifth inning with a runner on third base, which was nice because it gave Blue Jays manager John Farrell a chance to see his son at the plate in a key moment. The result was anti-climactic: Jays righty Ryan Tepera pitched around Jeremy and walked him.

»»» Throughout the game, the wind blew out hard to left field, making for some adventures in the outfield. Nate McLouth made some nice grabs in center, including a tumbling snag in the fourth to rob Edwin Encarnacion of a hit. McDonald said he wasn’t bothered by the breeze. “Wind’s going to be there,” McDonald said. “If you can’t deal with that kind of stuff, the major leagues are not the place for you. In Chicago, it’s windy. There are windy days in Pittsburgh. There’s wind everywhere. You’ve still got to bear down and make your pitches.”

»»» Erik Bedard will pitch first two innings Sunday against the Blue Jays. Also scheduled to pitch one inning apiece are Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Jason Grilli, Doug Slaten, Daniel Moskos and Shairon Martis.

»»» Charlie Morton threw live batting practice today at McKechnie Field. Morton hopes to be able to pitch in a game this week, but when I asked Hurdle about that possibility, he would not commit to anything.


Twenty-five players signed


DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Pirates signed 25 players to one-year contracts. These guys are all pre-arbitration-eligible, so the team essentially can set their salaries. The team doesn’t release the dollar figures (which usually are not much higher than the $480,000 major league minimum) but those will trickle out over the course of the next few weeks. And just because a player is signed today — I’m thinking here of Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker — doesn’t mean they can’t rip up the contract and agree to a multi-year deal.

The players signed today are: Chase d’Arnaud, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison, Gorkys Hernandez, Jared Hughes, Chris Leroux, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Daniel McCutchen, James McDonald, Michael McKenry, Kyle McPherson, Jordy Mercer, Bryan Morris, Daniel Moskos, Yamaico Navarro, Gustavo Nunez, Rudy Owens, Alex Presley, Neil Walker, Tony Watson, Duke Welker and Justin Wilson.

BlueJays»»» Infielder Jeremy Farrell is on the travel list for today’s game. His father, John Farrell, is in his second year as Blue Jays manager. The Pirates are bringing three other minor leaguers: pitchers Ryan Beckman, Michael Dubee and Jose Diaz.

There will be no family reunion today for the d’Arnaud brothers, though. Chase, the Pirates infielder, did not make the trip to Dunedin. Travis d’Arnaud is a catcher in his first spring training camp with the Jays. Chase is older by two years than Travis.

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (0-0): 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Clint Barmes ss, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Casey McGehee 1b, 5. Yamaico Navarro 3b, 6. Nate McLouth cf, 7. Jake Fox dh, 8. Gorkys Hernandez lf, 9. Michael McKenry c. Pitcher: James McDonald rhp

Blue Jays (0-0): 1. Yunel Escobar ss, 2. Kelly Johnson 2b, 3. Jose Bautista rf, 4. Adam Lind 1b, 5. Edwin Encarnacion dh, 6. Colby Rasmus cf, 7. Brett Lawrie 3b, 8. Eric Thames lf, 9. J.P. Arencibia c. Pitcher: Brett Cecil lhp


Us versus … um, Us.

Once the fog burned off this morning, it was time to play ball at McKechnie Field.
Once the fog burned off this morning, it was time to play ball at McKechnie Field.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Nice to finally see some “real” baseball again today, even if it was only an eight-inning intrasquad scrimmage that ended in a 4-4 tie. An overview from manager Clint Hurdle: “You keep a game like this in perspective. Overall, our defense was good. I was happy with the aggressiveness by the basestealers, the jumps. Our two-strike approach was pretty good. Our pitches targeted the ball and hit the middle a lot. It was a good day.”

»»» Tony Sanchez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning. Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 2, including a double, and stole two bases. Matt Hague went 2 for 3, including a double. Jeff Clement went 2 for 2 with a walk and one RBI. Yamaico Navarro played the first five innings at shortstop and went 2 for 2.

»»» Hurdle’s thoughts on the news that pitcher A.J. Burnett will be out for eight to 12 weeks as he recovers from surgery on his fractured orbital bone: “Our thoughts are with him. It’s a very unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in. Depth is critical. One of the things we were very aggressive with was creating more depth. You’re always going to get adversity, there’s always shifts that come and go. When shift happens, you’ve got to put a foot down and go from there.”

Shift happens. Love it.

»»» Hurdle rightly made no apology for having his pitchers take part in the bunt drills that led to Burnett’s injury. “Fluke things happen. It’s unfortunate, but you move on. He’d been bunting for a week. It’s not like we just threw a bat in his hand that day. It’s a fluke. You don’t need to take it any deeper than that.”

»»» Root Sports will televise four spring training games: Saturday vs. the Twins, March 21 vs. the Red Sox, March 24 vs. the Astros and March 26 vs. the Orioles. The game against the O’s begins at 7 p.m.; the other three start at 1 p.m. Sixteen games will be broadcast on 93.7 FM, starting with the game at 1:05 p.m. Sunday against the Blue Jays. All other games (except the March 31 split-squad game against the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla.) can be heard on

»»» The Pirates’ lineup for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Toronto Blue Jays: 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Clint Barmes ss, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Casey McGehee 1b, 5. Yamaico Navarro 3b, 6. Nate McLouth cf, 7. Jake Fox dh, 8. Gorkys Hernandez lf, 9. Michael McKenry c. Pitcher: James McDonald, rhp

McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Rod Barajas, Pedro Alvarez, Josh Harrison and Alex Presley will not make the trip to Dunedin, Fla.