Pittsburgh Pirates take the field in annual Black & Gold Game
By Jake Misener
It didn’t count in the Grapefruit League standings, but for five innings on Monday, baseball took center stage in Bradenton when the Pittsburgh Pirates split the squad into the Gold and Black teams before doing battle, with the Black Team coming out on top, 2-1.
The highly-anticipated debut of Korean slugger Jung-ho Kang was the highlight of the contest, with the Pittsburgh rookie going 0-for-1 in his lone at-bat and making a nice play up the middle at shortstop, as well. The 27-year-old infielder played in three of the five innings Monday, but the excitement was still there, according to MLB.com.
"“That’s when I realized, ‘Game on.’ It helped a lot to get to play [before spring competition begins against other teams], to get a feel for it.”"
The Black Team tallied its pair of runs thanks to an RBI single by outfielder and corner infielder Andrew Lambo and a sacrifice fly of the bat of Jose Tabata, who is looking to return to relevancy after struggling last season.
Gregory Polanco, one of the biggest reason’s Tabata has fallen out of favor in the Steel City, led Team Gold with a 2-for-3 afternoon at the dish, including a double. On the opposite side of things, Steve Lombardozzi also went 1-f0r-2 while manning second base for Team Black.
Lombardozzi was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles earlier this offseason and will likely see a role as a bench player should he break camp with the big league club with Kang, Jordy Mercer and Neil Walker vying for the two middle infield jobs this spring.
What Stood Out:
Most are talking about Kang’s debut in front of the 3,000-plus fans at McKechnie Field – but for me, the standout performer from Monday’s Black & Gold Game is Lambo, who needs to turn heads this spring.
Last season, in just 21 games with the big league club, the 26-year-old batted .256/.256/.359 – but spent the majority of the campaign with the Pirates’ Triple-A club in Indianapolis. With the organization’s top affiliate, Lambo tore up opposing pitchers, batting .328 and slugging .563 over the course of 61 games.
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With Pedro Alvarez shifted over to first base for the 2015 campaign and former Milwaukee Brewers slugger Corey Hart in the ranks, Lambo will have to show that he’s not just a AAAA player this spring. Looking comfortable both at the dish and in the field in the scrimmage Monday was a good first step.
The Pittsburgh Pirates (0-0) open their Grapefruit League schedule on Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays (0-0) – the club that lured backstop Russell Martin away from the Bucs this winter with a massive five-year, $82 million contract.
Casey Sadler, who made a handful of appearances with the Pirates last season, will take the ball for the club against the Jays, looking to build on a strong 2014 season in which he went 11-4 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.190 WHIP with Triple-A Indianapolis.
After Sadler tosses his pair of frames, Stolmy Pimentel, Rob Scahill, Brad Lincoln and Bobby LaFromboise are all slated to pitch for Pittsburgh in the club’s first official spring action.
Pedro Alvarez will bat fifth and play first base in the team’s matchup with Toronto after being scratched from the Black & Gold Game on Monday. Corey Hart, who is sidelined with a foot injury, will miss most of this week.