Pittsburgh Pirates set for Grapefruit League opener

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Manager Clint Hurdle
BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Manager Clint Hurdle /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are prepared to open up their 2018 Grapefruit League schedule on Friday afternoon

Baseball is here, yay!

At 1:05 on Friday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates will host the Tampa Bay Rays at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. This will be the 2018 Grapefruit Leauge opener for both the Pirates and the Rays.

Friday afternoon’s contest will be the first of 33 Grapefruit League games for the Pittsburgh Pirates between now and their regular season opener against the Detroit Tigers on March 29. This games against the Rays also comes one day after the two teams completed a trade. For those who may have missed it, on Thursday afternoon the Pirates acquired power hitting outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray, and roughly $1 million in cash considerations.

For the Pirates, right-handed pitcher Tyler Eppler will start on Friday. Eppler is in camp as a non-roster invitee after spending the 2017 season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. In 27 games (21 starts) for the Indians last season Eppler posted a 4.89 ERA, 4.94 FIP, and a 96:35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 136 1/3 innings.

The Pirates will look to Eppler to provide rotation, and possibly long relief, depth in 2018.

As for the Rays, left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuno will make the start this afternoon. This is Nuno’s first season in Tampa Bay after having pitched for the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Baltimore Orioles during his five year Major League career. Nuno owns a 4.29 ERA, 4.70 FIP, and has allowed home runs at a 1.57 HR/9 rate in 344 career innings pitched.

Next: Bucs bolster OF by adding Corey Dickerson

While this game will not be televised, fans can listen on the Pirates’ flagship stations 93.7 The Fan. If you are not in the Pittsburgh market, the game’s radio broadcast can be heard on MLB.com.

Welcome to Grapefruit League Baseball 2018, everyone! The regular season is now just 34 days away.