SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Pirates beat Baltimore in shifts on Wednesday. The starting lineup overcame an early Orioles edge and rallied the Bucs into a 7-5 lead.Then the reserves swung away for the 11-5 final. Starling Marte, Matt Hague and Eric Fryer all got into the act, and Josh Harrison was the show-stopper, going 2-for-2 with a two-run triple. It was a performance to reinforce manager Clint Hurdle's feeling that his bench will play a major role in the team's success. "I'm very optimistic that our bench will have more experience, will be versatile and will be better than at any time last year," Hurdle said. Competition for seats on that bench has been hot, and there is no cooling in sight: Harrison, an incumbent, is hitting .600 (6-for-10), Fryer is 4-for-11, Hague is 6-for-17, Yamaico Navarro is 6-for-18. The hottest remains the guy ruled out of the competition, Marte, whose 1-for-2 game jacked his average up to .556. The club is committed to having him at least start the season at Triple-A.
Bucs' bullpen in fine form against O's
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Pirates reliever Jared Hughes allowed a one-out single in the ninth to Scott Beerer before inducing Trent Mummey to ground into a game-ending double play.That made Hughes the "weak" link in the chain of the five relievers who picked up a struggling James McDonald over the final six innings of the Bucs' 11-5 victory against the O's on Wednesday. It was that kind of an afternoon for the Pittsburgh bullpen. A trio of central relievers -- closer Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and Jason Grilli -- each pitched a hitless inning. So did Tim Wood before them, and Hughes added a hitless eighth before Beerer's one-out single in the ninth. "Everyone threw strikes, worked ahead, kept the ball down. That's always a recipe for success," said manager Clint Hurdle. "Guys spun the ball extremely well -- sliders, breaking balls -- and their fastball command set that up." The same thing had let McDonald down. He couldn't make it to the fourth inning, using up 60 pitches in three, in which he allowed six hits and five runs. "You could tell by watching -- I didn't feel good. Couldn't keep the ball down," McDonald said. "When you throw big league hitters bad pitches, bad things will happen, Spring Training or regular season." "Today was mediocre [for McDonald]. He got behind, the ball got up and flattened out, and he didn't have much command of his secondary pitches to help out," Hurdle said.
Kyle McPherson (dead-arm symptoms) and Brad Lincoln (tight right calf) both reported improvement and were set to resume normal workouts on Wednesday after a couple days' rest. Both were due to pitch Monday against Philadelphia and were scratched, but have already been scheduled for their next game appearances. Left-hander Erik Bedard will stretch out to four innings in a Thursday start -- but he'll do it in a Triple-A game at Pirate City. Jo-Jo Reyes draws the varsity start, against the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. Manager Clint Hurdle wants to see Reyes and other staff candidates due to pitch (Juan Cruz, Chris Leroux, Shairon Martis and Doug Slaten). He doesn't need to see Bedard, who "is gonna make the club." Stacie Barajas, wife of Rod, delivered the couple's seventh child Tuesday night. Starlette Barajas checked in at 7:11 p.m. ET. Rod was scheduled to return from San Diego to camp on Wednesday night, and, after a day to work out the kinks, rejoin the lineup for Friday's game against the Phillies at McKechnie Field. The Pirates have scored 21 runs and collected 33 hits in two games against the Orioles. In their other nine games, the Bucs averaged four runs and 8 1/2 hits. 1,400 general-admission bleacher tickets remaining for the April 5 season opener at PNC Park will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27 at pirates.com -- the first example of a new Dynamic Ticketing Program in which tickets for each home game priced according to demand become available 10 days prior to the game. The model, gaining popularity with other Major League teams, is being used for the first time by the Pirates. Ticket prices can fall or rise depending on demand.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.