Pre-game News and Notes: Pirates @ Cardinals 4/5
The Pirates (3-1) will face the St. Louis Cardinals (1-3) at 8:15 PM/ET tonight.
Right-hander James McDonald will be making his season debut against righty Kyle McClellan.
McDonald was limited to just 6.2 innings this spring. He was sidelined with left side soreness.
McDonald pitched well after being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in July last season. He posted a 3.52 ERA in 11 starts while striking out 61 batters in 64 innings.
- Some positive notes:
The Pirates are leading the league in several categories this season. Jose Tabata leads the National League with six runs scored, Neil Walker leads with six RBI and Joel Hanrahan is tied in the league with three saves.
Neil Walker has seven hits & seven RBI after his first four games this season. The last Pirates infielder to produce such totals in his first four games was Johnny Ray, 25 years ago.
The Bucs pitching staff also ranks fourth the NL with a 2.83 ERA (11 earned runs in 30 innings).
If the Pirates beat the Cardinals tonight (or tomorrow) and take the series, it would be the first time since 2007 that the Bucs have won back-to-back series on the road.
- Charlie Morton made a solid season debut on Monday allowing just one run on three hits over six innings against the Cardinals. He’s also coming off of a great spring where he had a 2.63 ERA over 24 innings.
Morton really looks like a different guy on the mound. Manager Clint Hurdle told Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune, “I think he honestly self-evaluated (over the winter), he didn’t stick his head in the sand, he didn’t point fingers, he took responsibility and accountability for the breakdowns and the things that didn’t go well. He found focus points to work on all winter long and came out in spring training, put them into play and stayed with it. The first outing where he had some turbulence, might have been Port Charlotte where he had five runs, most he gave up in spring training, he still pitched through traffic and never let an inning get away. I think that had been some of the issues he had in the past. Just a kid who feels like it’s his time to start pitching the way he’s capable of pitching.”
Morton clearly has a new found confidence in himself this year. His teammates enjoy watching him pitch so well.
Closer Joel Hanrahan told Nate Latsch of MLB.com, “What Charlie did out there today was awesome. I told him it was fun to watch. When Charlie believes in himself and believes in his stuff, that’s what he can do, because his stuff is so good out there. He’s riding off that confidence he had in Spring Training and feeling good.
McCutchen added, “This is his first start and a good win for him. It’s good that he can have a good start like this and start off quick and get some wins and just get the confidence. … He went out and he did a great job. It’s good to be able to see that.”
- Andrew McCutchen sat out on Sunday’s game due to ‘upper body stiffness’. He told Root Sports that it was nothing serious, and just precautionary. “If it was a need for me to play [on Sunday] at that time, I would have played. Since it is pretty early you don’t want to turn something into something that could just take a day or two off. I just wanted to give it a days rest and see how I feel the next day. I feel good enough to play and I’m just going to go out there and go out and play.”
McCutchen went 1-for-4 with a two-run homerun against the Cardinals on Monday. I’d say he’s just fine.
- I’ve said it time and time again how much I love Manager Clint Hurdle and his impact on the players. I believe it was the best decision the Pirates made during the offseason in hiring him as skipper.
Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror wrote about how the great start of the season (3-1) is in large part because of Hurdle (read more here).
- The Pirates announced on Tuesday the festivities for the home opener against the Colorado Rockies on April 7th.
The gates will open at 11:30 am (first pitch is at 1:35 PM).
The Pirates will have a pre-game ceremony in honor of hall of fame manager Chuck Tanner who passed in February. Members of his family are scheduled to attend along with former players John Candelaria, Phil Garner, Grant Jackson, Bruce Kison, Jim Rooker, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Parker and Kent Tekulve. They will also unveil a tribute to Tanner that will be at PNC Park all season long and they will also have a video tribute prior to the first pitch.
There will also be a military tribute, a moment of silence for the victims of the earthquake in Japan. Pirates Charities will be collecting donations for UNICEF.
You can read more information regarding the pre-game festivities here.
- Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror reports that Bryan Morris will start opening day for Altoona Curve, Jeff Locke pitching game two. Double-A opens in Erie on Thursday.
Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Lyle Overbay 1B, Pedro Alvarez 2B, Matt Diaz RF, Jason Jaramillo C, Ronny Cedeno SS, James McDonald RHPCardinals:
Ryan Theriot SS, Colby Rasmus CF, Albert Pujols 1B, Lance Berkman RF, Allen Craig LF, David Freese 3B, Skip Schumaker 2B, Gerald Laird C, Kyle McClellan RHP