Pirates first to draw Burnett in his new digs
Former teammates Alvarez, Mercer share laughs in Grapefruit clash
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It seemed to be almost too much of a coincidence that A.J. Burnett's first start with the Phillies would come against the Pirates, right? Could he have possibly planned it that way?
"I didn't," Burnett said. "But it sounds good."
And that was the way it worked out Sunday afternoon at Bright House Field, with Burnett tipping his cap toward the Pirates' dugout before throwing two innings against his former team in his Philadelphia debut.
Burnett struck out Jaff Decker to lead off the game, gave up a hit and a run in the first inning, and plunked two of his former teammates -- Pedro Alvarez and Jordy Mercer -- before laughing about an old inside joke with Alvarez and exchanging text messages with Mercer.
"Being such good teammates with him and having seen him on this side, of course it's weird the first time you see him," Alvarez said. "You get used to that when you play this game. You're used to playing with guys on a team then the next day they're somewhere else."
"It was good to see them," Burnett added. "I always respect everyone and everything in this game; it doesn't matter who you play against. Any team I've played on or guys I've played with, you're respectful of those guys. It was a good time."
Burnett bounced a pitch into Alvarez's back foot in the first inning, something the two former teammates had laughed about before. Alvarez "always got a kick out of guys swinging and getting hit," Burnett said, so as Alvarez was trotting to first, Burnett said the Pirates' third baseman should have given it his best hack.
"You could have been on a highlight reel. That was you," Burnett said. "I need you to swing at that. It costs me another six or seven pitches."
The 37-year-old right-hander went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 393 1/3 innings for the Pirates from 2012-13 before signing a one-year, $16 million deal with the Phillies shortly after Spring Training began. Manager Clint Hurdle laughed as he observed that his only chance to reconnect with Burnett was a wave toward the mound before the game, but Mercer made it clear that Pittsburgh's players and fans have missed Burnett.
"I think Pittsburgh welcomed him and he embraced it, and he was fun. He was fun to watch for two years," Mercer said. "He was a big part of our team, a really big part of our team. We're happy he's over there. We know he's in a good place, and we wish him the best of luck."
Pimentel worthy candidate for 'pen, rotation
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel said he's not going to worry about whether he'll spend this spring preparing to be a starter or reliever, but he's going to be given every opportunity to crack the Bucs' rotation.
Manager Clint Hurdle said on Sunday that Pimentel will be one of a "handful" of pitchers to work their way up to three innings, or 50 pitches, per outing. From there, the Pirates will decide which arms to stretch out even further -- to four innings and beyond -- or back down.
"He's definitely in that mix to continue to stretch out as long as we have innings available," Hurdle said.
Pimentel allowed just one hit and struck out Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis on Sunday, picking up the win in Pittsburgh's 4-1 victory at Bright House Field. Pimentel said he was primarily working on his fastball command and attacking the strike zone early in the count while trying to mix in all his pitches.
"I'm liking the growth. We like the young man and the ability to listen and learn and the way he competes," Hurdle said. "A positive outing for him today. Not his sharpest stuff, [but he] made pitches and stayed aggressive."
The 24-year-old righty, who's out of Minor League options, posted a 1.93 ERA in five appearances for the Pirates last season. Pimentel would seem to be a longshot to make the Opening Day rotation if everyone stays healthy, but he could find a way to contribute out of the bullpen.
"I just want to get ready, whether it's to start or [be] a reliever, I just want to help the team and do my job every time I get the ball," Pimentel said. "I can't control if I'm going to be a starter or reliever."
Grilli slated to pitch Thursday vs. Blue Jays
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Pirates have tentatively set the date for closer Jason Grilli's 2014 Grapefruit League debut.
Manager Clint Hurdle said on Sunday after the Pirates' 4-1 win over the Phillies that Grilli is slated to pitch on Thursday against the Blue Jays at McKechnie Field.
Grilli faced hitters in a two-inning simulated game on Sunday in Bradenton, Fla. The 37-year-old right-hander, who sat out about two months last season due to a forearm strain, has been ramping up for the season at a slower pace than the other pitchers in Pirates camp.
Over the last three seasons in Pittsburgh, Grilli has put together a 2.74 ERA and 36 saves, including 33 last season.
• According to a Boston Globe report, scouts from the Pirates and Brewers have been keeping an eye on Red Sox first baseman Mike Carp this spring. The lefty-swinging Carp would seem to be a natural platoon partner for Pittsburgh first baseman Gaby Sanchez
• Manager Clint Hurdle didn't have an update Sunday on Sanchez, who was scratched from Saturday's lineup with discomfort in his right knee. Hurdle said the Pirates are "going to go day to day" with Sanchez.
• Infielder Josh Harrison's sixth-inning solo homer off Phillies left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo on Sunday didn't just clear the fences. It soared all the way over the tiki pavilion deck in left field. Harrison has hit safely in all three of his games this spring.
• Hurdle spoke highly of lefty reliever Adam Wilk, who struck out two and allowed only one hit over two scoreless innings on Sunday. Wilk spent last year pitching for the Korean NC Dinos.
"He had to find a way to do some things differently. It could bode very well for him in his future," Hurdle said. "There's some deception in the delivery. There's a little late movement. The command was good today. We'll see. He's worked very hard. He wanted to get back to the States and pitched and seemed to be a good fit with us. We'll continue to give him the ball and see what he can do."