Pittsburgh Pirates Grapefruit League: Vince Velasquez Pitches Well in Loss

Mar 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Carlos Santana (41) falls as he
Mar 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Carlos Santana (41) falls as he / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vince Velasquez turned in a strong start, Oneil Cruz got on base three times, but an up-and-down night from the bullpen sunk the Pirates in a 6-4 Grapefruit League loss against the Orioles

Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Pirates have just three Grapefruit League games remaining. As their schedule in Florida winds down, the Pirates played host to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night at LECOM Park.

The Pirates were defeated by the Orioles 6-4 on Saturday night. With the loss, the Pirates are now 9-15-4 in Grapefruit League play. They will play again on Sunday when veteran lefty Rich Hill takes the mound for a 1:05 PM ET matchup against the Atlanta Braves.

Strong start for Vince Velasquez

Entering his final start of the Grapefruit League season Vince Velasquez was in need of a strong start. The veteran righty turned in his needed strong start, likely locking up the final spot in the team's starting rotation. A spot he may have already had under lock and key.

Facing the Orioles for seemingly the 14th time this spring, Velasquez turned in what was by far his best start of the spring. In 5 innings pitched, Velasquez allowed just 1 run. He limited the Orioles to three hits, he walked three, and struck out seven.

It was in Velasquez's 5th and final inning of work that the Orioles scored against him. Velasquez allowed a double to start the inning and issued a walk. Things easily could have unraveled on Velasquez, but he put a foot down limiting Baltimore to the single run which scored via sacrifice fly.

Ups and downs for the bullpen

Lefty Angel Perdomo followed Velasquez. Although Perdomo has struggled this spring, he appears to be in a good spot to potentially make the team's Opening Day bullpen due to the team's need for a second in the 'pen. Perdomo struck a batter out in a 1-2-3 6th inning.

Wil Crowe was up next and got shelled. Crowe recorded just one out, while allowing 4 runs on three hits, two walks, and a home run. Cam Alldred finished up the 7th inning, retiring the two batters he faced while recording a strikeout.

Crowe has struggled mightily this spring. In 7.0 innings piched, he's posted a 9.00 ERA while allowing 10 hits, walking four batters, and allowing three home runs. Combine this with the way Crowe struggled in the second half last season and there is plenty of reason to feel uneasy about him entering the regular season.

In the 8th inning Rule 5 Draft addition Jose Hernandez took the mound for the Pirates. Hernandez allowed a solo home run in his inning of work. Hernandez has phenomenal stuff and the ability to be a very good MLB reliever, but he needs to get much better with his command and location.

Recapping the Pirate offense

As he has done so often this spring Oneil Cruz found himself batting at the top of the lineup. He was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. He also did not strikeout at all, giving him just 11 strikeouts in 50 plate appearances this spring. This is most likely the most encouraging part of Cruz's spring.

Bryan Reynolds and Carlos Santana both went 0-for-3, while Ji Hwan Bae was 0-for-4. Jack Suwinski was 1-for-4 with two more strikeouts, giving him 21 strikeouts in 46 PAs this spring. Ke'Bryan Hayes was 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and a RBI, Canaan Smith-Njigba was 1-for-4 with a RBI, and minor leaguer Mike Jarvis drove in a pair of runs in his lone at-bat.

Next. Projecting the Opening Day Bullpen. dark