Pirate News - Spring Training notebook: Buccos get in the win column, Paul Skenes, more

Tuesday was an exciting day for Pittsburgh Pirates fans as the Buccos picked up their first win of the spring over the Atlanta Braves and it was announced that top prospect Paul Skenes will make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday.
Pittsburgh Pirate position players who reported early get warmed up at the start of practice Friday
Pittsburgh Pirate position players who reported early get warmed up at the start of practice Friday / Mike Lang / USA TODAY NETWORK
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A power surge in the first Pirate victory of the Grapefruit League season, Paul Skenes set for his spring debut, and more in today's Spring Training notebook

For the first time this spring, the Pittsburgh Pirates raised the Jolly Roger. On Tuesday afternoon, the Pirates defeated the Atlanta Braves at LECOM Park 13-4.

The Buccos' bats after a quiet first three games totaled their baker's dozen runs across nine hits and six walks. Star third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes's grand slam in the bottom of the third inning highlighted the win for the Pirates but it was a 6th inning, 7-run outburst that put the game away for the Pirates.

Coming into the afternoon, the Pirates were 0-3 this spring, totaling just seven runs in losses to the Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays.  

The Pirates’ pitching continues to be a highlight for the club in the early spring. After a tough 1.2 innings for Marco Gonzales, the Pirates utilized seven different pitchers in relief, allowing just one run in seven and a third innings pitched which included striking out 11 Braves in the process. It was not a promising spring debut for Gonzales who already has plenty of red flags and concerns entering the season.

You can read more on Tuesday's win over the Braves, here.

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Tuesday, however, was the news that Pirates top prospect Paul Skenes will make his much anticipated Grapefruit League debut on Thursday against the Baltimore Orioles. Skenes will likely only see one or two innings of work in the game but for Buccos fans in attendance in Sarasota on Thursday, it should be exciting. Unfortunately, Pirates outside of Sarasota will only be able to listen to the game on the radio via the MLB At-Bat App and 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. You can find more on Skenes' Grapefruit League debut, here.

NOTES FROM BRADENTON

After picking up win No. 1 of the spring on Tuesday, the Pirates will look to make it two straight on Wednesday as they host the Detroit Tigers at LECOM Park. On the mound for the Pirates will be Quinn Priester, who hopes to improve upon a 2023 season in which he posted a 7.74 ERA and 6.74 FIP across 10 games and 50 innings pitched.

Preister will be opposed by Tigers' left-hander Tarik Skubal. The 27-year-old Skubal is coming off the best year of his career, going 7-3 for the Pirates in 2023 across 15 games while recording a 2.80 ERA and a 2.00 FIP. The former ninth-round draft pick has developed into one of the top pitchers in the game over the last two seasons. Pirates fans will be able to listen to Wednesday afternoon's clash in Bradenton on MLB.com.

As mentioned on Monday when discussing the start to the spring for Henry Davis, who by the way, continues to hit the ball hard, recording another batted ball of 95+ mph on Tuesday, it was not the most encouraging of starts for Marco Gonzales.

Notably, Gonzales is working his way back from surgery last August on his pitching arm, as he had some nerve-related issues cleaned up in his forearm. Against the Braves, Gonzales allowed six hits including one that was a 108.3 mph single off the bat of Sean Murphy while one walking a batter and hitting another. Of the five outs recorded, he did strike out a pair.

It's only start No. 1 of the spring for Gonzales, so worries should still be tempered, but his progress this spring in working back from his surgery will be worth watching closely. Before his season-ending surgery last season, Gonzales had a 5.22 ERA in 10 games and 50 innings for the Seattle Mariners.

Luis Ortiz also saw time on the mound on Tuesday, pitching 2 innings. He allowed one unearned run across one hit and one walk. While he at times didn't show the greatest command, he was flashing strong velocity. His sinker was sitting at 96.8 mph and touched as high as 98.8 mph. His fastball also had strong life, averaging out at 97.7 mph while hitting as high as 98.7.

Reliever prospect J.C. Flowers was also impressive, pitching a scoreless ninth inning in which he struck out the side.

Flowers is not the only, perhaps underrated Pirates prospect who has been impressive so far this spring. On Monday, non-roster invitee Justin Meis was impressive in the Pirate loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, writes Noah Wright.