Hurricane Irma having left Bradenton largely unscathed outside of power outages, the Pirates opened their fall instructionals last week. This week they started playing games of a sort. Instructionals seem to change a little in format each year. This year the focus is heavily on players who were drafted this year or who’ve been invited to camp in the US for the first time. That’s a lot of players, as the PIrates signed 37 players out of the draft and brought in over 20 players from the Dominican Summer League. Both totals are easily the highest for many years, possibly even ever. There’s also a smattering of players who are working their way back from injuries or missed time this year, players who are headed to the Arizona Fall League, and players who have some other reason for being at Pirate City. (Wyatt Mathisen, for instance, is getting time at second, where I don’t believe he’s played before.)
The “games” are of two types. This year some of the more experienced players are playing exhibitions against other teams. The first game was against the Blue Jays at Pirate City on Monday, while the Pirates went to Tampa to play the Yankees on Tuesday. The other games are daily at Pirate City, intrasquad games that are more like scrimmages. Each inning may start with a runner on base and one out, for example, as the players work on various situations. There’s a lot of running, bunting, and practice at holding runners. The need for that sort of stuff was obvious today when one of the young pitchers from the DSL committed at least three balks in one inning. It made me feel kinda bad for him, but at least the coaches know he needs to work on not getting distracted.
Among the positional experiments are Kevin Kramer and Oneil Cruz both playing short. (They’ve actually both played there before, to be fair.) Kramer will play short in the AFL, as Cole Tucker’s broken hand has ruled him out, unfortunately. Cruz . . . well, a 6’6” guy at short is pretty odd, but he did play there before the Pirates acquired him. I don’t really think that’s going to last long.
The pitching is in very short stints, often just 3-4 batters. Mitch Keller, Taylor Hearn and Brandon Waddell threw against the Blue Jays, as they’re all getting ready for the AFL. Jake Brentz also threw in that game, with a lot of scouts watching. Brentz is eligible for the Rule 5 draft and may not be a lock to get added to the roster. All of those pitchers had quick outings except Hearn, who got hit around some. He missed the last six weeks of the season with an oblique, except for one, year-end rehab outing in the GCL. Shane Baz (pictured) threw a quick inning in the intrasquad game today.
Anyway, here are some pics, including some of the newer guys.