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Pirates Minor League affiliates off and running in 2023

Indianapolis, Greensboro start season on strong note; Altoona, Bradenton off to sluggish start.

The first weekend featuring all four of the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league affiliates is in the books and fans have seen mixed results from all levels.

Currently, two teams are playing above .500 but it wasn’t an easy mark to come by. The remaining two teams, however, have had trouble getting out of the mud to start the 2023 season.

Let’s take a look at how the farm system is shaping up:

Indianapolis Indians (AAA)

The Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate is on a hot streak after picking up five consecutive wins. Two of them coming off a day/night doubleheader.

Indianapolis started the year dropping its first series to Omaha in three games and followed that with a series opening loss to the Louisville Bats last Tuesday. Then, after rain postponed Wednesday’s game, the Indians regrouped to win the remaining five games of the series, even capping it off with an 8-1 victory.

Tucupita Marcano has been the biggest spark for the Indians lineup so far, slashing .500/.517/.929 with an OPS of 1.446. Along with those numbers, the 23-year-old picked up a home run, nine RBIs and a stolen base over seven games played. Because of his recent performance, he was named International Player of the Week on Monday.

Mark Mathias, who was called up to Pittsburgh on Monday, and Travis Swaggerty each collected 10 hits in nine games.

Catcher and Pirates No. 2 prospect Endy Rodriguez kicked the season off on a strong note by hitting a home run on the first pitch he saw. After cooling off during the final two games of the Omaha series, he picked up his offense in Louisville and finished the road trip going 7-for-27 (.259) with six RBIs, five walks and a home run.

On the mound, No. 8 prospect Luis Ortiz has yet to pick up a win — or a loss — but has allowed just one earned run over 8.1 innings pitched. He’s also the only Indians pitcher to post double-digit strikeouts (11) while limiting hitters to a .138 average.

Meanwhile, No. 4 prospect Quinn Priester is 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched.

Indianapolis opens the home portion of its schedule tonight against St. Paul.

Altoona Curve (AA)

The 25th season of Altoona Curve baseball has been anything but joyful so far.

The Curve were swept by the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in their first homestand of the year. In each game, they failed to post more than two runs and pitching was the main drag in each. The Curve also struggled defensively, committing five errors in the homestand.

One arm that’s impressed fans so far is No. 11 prospect Jared Jones. Despite taking the loss in his first outing, he allowed two earned runs over 4.2 innings while collecting six strikeouts. He also just allowed one hit, which was a two-run home run. Bethel Park native Justin Meis allowed just one earned run in three innings during his first start of the year.

Leading the Curve offensively is Josh Palacios, who is 3-for-9 in two games played. Andres Alvarez is 2-for-7 with three walks in three games and No. 17 prospect Matt Gorski has the lone home run for Altoona so far.

The Curve open their first road series of the year tonight against the Erie Seawolves. Aaron Shortridge will make his first start of the season.

Greensboro Grasshoppers (A+)

The Pirates’ High-A affiliate Greensboro Grasshoppers came away with a series win over Hudson Valley this weekend.

After falling, 8-1, to the Renegades in the season opener, Greensboro came back to pick up 5-3 and 4-3 wins in the final two games.

Outfielder Jase Bowen is off to a hot start as he picked up five hits in 12 at-bats to start the season. One of those hits went for extra bases. Maikol Escotto only has two hits but drove in two RBIs and swiped two bases as well. Catcher Abrahan Gutierrez has the only home run so far for Greensboro.

No. 10 prospect Anthony Solometo collected five strikeouts over four innings in his season debut. His only blemish was giving up a home run in the start. Bubba Chandler, the Pirates No. 7 prospect, struggled in his first outing, surrendering three runs, two earned, in 3.1 innings.

Greensboro continues its road trip tonight against the Jersey Shore BlueClaws.

Bradenton Marauders (A-)

After starting the season with a 3-2 win over Clearwater, the Bradenton Marauders dropped the final two games of the weekend to start the year 1-2.

Infielder Jesus Castillo stood out among Marauder hitters as he finished the weekend 3-for-7 with three walks. Joining him is fellow infielder Javier Rivas, who went 4-for-13 over the weekend, but struck out six times.

Thomas Harrington, the Pirates No. 12 prospect, picked up his first win of the year after throwing five shutout innings over the Threshers in the season opener. In that game, he struck out seven hitters while allowing no walks and four hits.

Braxton Ashcraft made a rehab stint and allowed just one hit over three innings.

Ashcraft hasn’t pitched since 2021 after tearing his UCL.

Bradenton returns to action tonight as they take on the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Starters have not been announced yet.