Stefan Welch stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with the Pittsburgh Pirates down a run 4-3 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeff Larish was on third base via an earlier double and Lucas May was at first base. The Rays were bringing Kirby Yates in to face Welch. If only somebody had informed Joe Madd0n and his trendy glasses about that tendency Welch has…..but thankfully nobody did.
Welch did what he’s been doing since 2011 against right handed pitching. Murdering baseballs.
The 23-year old hit a three-run bomb that gave the Bucs the lead. After Tim Alderson finished off the Rays in the ninth, the Pirates got their 11th Grapefruit League victory.
Welch’s homer got Mike Zagurski off the hook. The left-hander gave up four hits in his inning of work. He was touched for three runs, including a solo blast by Ben Zobrist. Mike Zagurski hasn’t had this much trouble since he was a bit younger.
But thanks to Welch the Pirates were still victorious. Welch is interesting. While he isn’t exactly young, the Pirates, at the least have a player that could develop in a year or two.
He hit 13 homers last year between High-A and Double-A while hitting 23 doubles. While with Bradenton and Altoona he played third base and could get a look if he can show his power again this season. In his first 22 games with the Curve, we remembered he crushed balls.
The biggest weakness for Welch comes against left-handed pitching–he had a .456 OPS last season against the southpaws. In a small sample this offseason, he did show improvement in the Australian league where he hit .311 off left-handers.
We don’t know what Welch will do this year after he cooled off so tremendously in the later half of the season. But should the power remain, be careful on that roller coaster in Altoona this summer.
Jeanmar Gomez got the start and went four innings giving up a run on three hits, a walk and striking out two. Closer Jason Grilli worked the fifth giving up a hit and striking out one. Zagurski worked a forgettable sixth.
Mark Melancon lowered his ERA this spring to 1.13 with only a walk allowed in the seventh inning. Jared Hughes continued to dominate with two more strikeouts in the eighth and Tim Alderson struck out two and gave up a hit to get the save.
Here is the box score with John McDonald’s first hit as a Bucco. Alex Presley, Felix Pie, and Jeff Larish doubled. Pie, Jones, McDonald, and of course, Welch drove in the runs for the Bucs offense.