Pittsburgh Pirates fall to Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 in spring home opener


4. 4. 39. Final. 1

Although it wasn’t in Pittsburgh, the Pirates had their first home game of Spring Training at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida, where the story of the day may not have been the score. Blue Jays’ young righty Marcus Stroman, slated to be the team’s number two starter, held the Pirate batters in check, tossing 1 2/3 innings of one-run ball as the Toronto Blue Jays (1-1) defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates (1-1) 4-1. However, all eyes were on the health of 2014 NL MVP candidate Josh Harrison, who injured his ankle in the 1st inning.

The contest was tight in the early going, as Toronto second baseman Munenori Kawasaki was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a Dioner Navarro grounder, giving the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead off of hopeful future Pirate ace Gerrit Cole. Pittsburgh fans may remember Navarro’s days playing for the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Cole threw two innings of one run ball, adding three strikeouts and one walk.

Pittsburgh was able to answer in the bottom of the second as shortstop Jordy Mercer scored on a wild pitch from Blue Jay lefty Rob Rasmussen, knotting the game at one. However, that would be all the offensive production the Pirates would create coming off of an 8-run performance the day before. Toronto would seal the deal in the fourth inning as a Kevin Pillar double and a grounder from veteran Ramon Santiago would each plate 1 more run off of Pirate starter Vance Worley. Worley is currently battling for the fifth spot in the Pittsburgh rotation with lefty Jeff Locke. The Blue Jays would tack on another run in the seventh as the scoring ceased and Pittsburgh turned its collective head to the health of third baseman and super utility man Josh Harrison.

For his part, Worley’s comments to the media after the game are below:

What Stood Out:

Harrison, leading off the day with a single, exited the game in the 1st inning after being doubled up on a fly ball. Early indications seemed to be that he injured his left ankle during the inning, presumably after being doubled up at second base. Harrison seemed to be fine as he exited the field and the clubhouse under his own power. Of note, though, is Harrison’s issues with this same ankle in the past, as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes:

More from Rum Bunter

While Pittsburgh eyes were turned towards the team’s starting third baseman, Toronto fans should be pleased with the performance of Dalton Pompey, MLB.com’s number 43 prospect heading into the 2015 season. Pompey, who made his Major League debut last September, collected two hits on the day and figures to be a big part of Toronto’s team this upcoming season.

What’s Next:

2014 Opening Day starter Francisco Liriano takes the ball for the Pirates as the team stays at McKechnie and faces off against the New York Yankees tomorrow at 1:05. Liriano battled back from a poor and unhealthy first half in 2014 to finish with a 7-10 record to go along with a 3.38 ERA and 175 Ks.

Hopefully Pirate fans get their first glimpse at Andrew McCutchen in spring training action. McCutchen is expected to be an NL MVP candidate for the fourth year in a row, and the health and play of both McCutchen and Liriano figure to be vitally important to the Pirates’ success this season.

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