Pittsburgh Pirates: JT Brubaker Fans Six, Oneil Cruz & Travis Swaggerty Go Deep in Grapefruit League Action

Mar 5, 2023; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher JT Brubaker (34) throws a pitch in
Mar 5, 2023; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher JT Brubaker (34) throws a pitch in / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Despite JT Brubaker pitching well while Oneil Cruz and Travis Swaggerty hit home runs, the Pirates fell to the Phillies in Friday's Grapefruit League contest

Typically, spring training results are meaningless. That said, it does not make it any less encouraging to see a player who has struggled both with performance and health in the past perform well in the spring. Thus far in Pittsburgh Pirates Grapefruit League action, that has been the case for Travis Swaggerty.

Last season Swaggerty finally made his MLB debut, but went just 1-for-9 with an infield hit. He then was optioned back to the minors where he spent the rest of the season. Swaggerty also battled a concussion at Triple-A, continuing a career long trend of injury issues.

Entering the spring it appeared the former first-round pick's spot on the 40-man roster could be in jeopardy. If that was the case then he has come out this spring and, thus far, has done all he can do to keep that spot.

Looking fully healthy for the first time since early 2021, Swaggerty has been one of the biggest surprises of Pirate camp. His strong start continued on Friday when he hit his 2nd home run of the spring.

This was part of a 2-for-3 performance for Swaggerty. He is now hitting .333 with a 1.108 OPS this spring. Swaggerty just might be able to hit his way into have a bench job on the team's Opening Day roster.

Oneil Cruz also got in on the home run fun for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Batting lead off, he hit the first pitch of the game over the wall in left field to give the Bucs a quick 1-0 lead. Like Swaggerty, this was Cruz's 2nd home run of the spring. Cruz now has a .983 OPS this spring after picking up a single in addition to his home run.

Even though the outing ended on a sour note, it was another strong one for starting pitcher JT Brubaker.

Brubaker struck out three straight batters in the 1st inning after the game's first hitter reached base. Through 3 innings, he had struck out 6 and did not allow a run. After allowing a 2-run home run in the 4th inning he was pulled for Chase De Jong.

In the start Brubaker's stuff looked very good. He was generating whiffs, while also freezing and frustrating Philly batters. 5 of his 6 strikeouts were looking, and he has now struck out a Grapefruit League leading 15 batters in 8.0 innings pitched this spring.

Chase De Jong relieved Brubaker and struggled mightily. De Jong faced 8 batters, allowing 4 runs on 4 hits, a walk, and a home run. The Pirates went from leading 3-2 when De Jong took over, to trailing 6-3 by the end of the 4th inning. De Jong had previously pitched 4.1 scoreless innings of relief this spring.

Caleb Smith, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, pitched 2.2 innings. Smith struck out three batters, did not walk a batter, and allowed 3 hits. The problem is 2 of the 3 hits he allowed were solo home runs.

Fellow lefty Daniel Zamora relieved Smith and picked up the final out of the 7th inning. Tyler Chatwood, another veteran non-roster invitee, pitched the 8th inning, also allowing a pair of solo home runs.

Following the 10-4 loss, the Pirates are now 3-9-2 in Grapefruit League play. Ji-Man Choi serevd as the designated hitter going 2-for-3 with a double. Miguel Andújar, Nick Gonzales, Drew Maggi, and and Carter Bins each had a hit as well.

Next up for the Pittsburgh Pirates is a matchup back at LECOM Park in Bradenton against the New York Yankees on Saturday. Johan Oviedo is scheduled to make his third start of the spring. First pitch is slated for 1:05 PM ET and the game will be broadcast locally on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.

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