Pittsburgh Pirates’ priorities in spring training
By Eric Scot
People look at Spring Training numbers and often get upset if a player they hope does really well has below average numbers at the plate or in the pitching statistics. Other times, people will see someone tear up Spring Training and believe they are the next candidate to make the hall of fame. For the Pirates, last season’s hope player was Andrew Lambo but he blew it and was sent to AAA. Now, there are some cases as to when the games in March mean something. As an example, this season, there is Vance Worley and Jeff Locke both competing for the 5th starters spot. While I believe that Worley has the inside track, if he were to pitch poorly compared to Locke, I would imagine seeing Locke as the Number 5 starter and Worley moved to the bullpen.
For those two guys, spring training will be very important, and the same goes for Lambo, Gregory Polanco (to an extent), Jaff Decker and some other fringe type players. Polanco is the only one being counted on as a regular but Lambo seems to be locked in as the fourth outfielder . What if he has another horrific spring and Decker does outstanding? I could see the Pirates once again passing on Lambo, and we see Decker or someone of the like moving up to that position.
On the other side of the coin, Andrew McCutchen could bat .050 and still be locked in as the starting centerfielder. A lot of times, guys like McCutchen are working on something specific, such as trying to lock in on fastballs or curveballs or working on techniques with their base running. Likewise, Gerrit Cole is a lock to make the starting rotation so while he has no direct competition, it allows him to go out there and work on specific pitches. If a hitter knows what’s coming, it’s much easier to adjust and hit the ball harder. Cole could be out there working on fastball control and throwing 95% fastballs so if he were to get hit hard and have some runs scored on him, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong.
What if he has another horrific spring and Decker does outstanding? I could see the Pirates once again passing on Lambo, and we see Decker or someone of the like moving up to that position.
As the Spring goes on, players start moving back down to the minor league spring training camps and playing games in their respective divisions and the regulars start seeing more playing time. This still doesn’t mean a whole lot, even the last few games of the Spring but for others, they have a very limited chance to show what they can do and they will work on everything just like in the regular season.
The biggest importance of Spring Training besides the above is getting everyone in game shape. The pitchers building up their arms, and the hitters getting their timing down. To fellow Pittsburgh Pirates fans, I say this: Don’t focus so much on the end results for the regulars but, rather, watch for progression as the Spring goes.. That’s what is important in Spring Training.
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