Split Squad Action: Pirates 2, Twins 0 & Braves 7, Pirates 3

The Pirates split up their roster today as part of the team went south to face the Twins in Fort Myers and the other half stayed to host the Braves at McKechnie Field. The Pirates shut out the Twins 2-0, but lost at home to the Braves 7-3 to split the split squad day. Did you stay with me on that one?

I attended the game in sunny Fort Myers at beautifully renovated Hammond Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins. It was a great day, but I’ll be honest it was a fairly boring game to be at. It was 1-0 for most of the way and that one run scored on an error when David Freese reached on a throwing error by Twins third baseman Eduardo Nunez and the result pushed the game-winning run across with two outs. The Bucs minor leaguers managed to push a run across in the ninth inning to make it 2-0.

The story of this game was once again, Pirates offseason pickup Juan Nicasio. Nicasio had not allowed a run all spring heading into today’s game and despite not being efficient, he pitched himself out of a couple jams and racked up the strikeouts (and pitch count) again. He struck out eight Twins this afternoon in 5.0 innings of work and once again tossed five shutout innings. He did scatter five hits and two walks in the outing, but it was impressive to see him battle out of a couple of jams. To date this spring, Nicasio has now thrown 15 scoreless innings with 24 strikeouts. We hear and say it a lot—spring training stats do not matter, but it’s hard to ignore his performance this spring. If Nicasio still ended up not making the rotation, I’m not sure what else management could have asked him to do. I think it’s Nicasio in and Vogelsong out to the bullpen.

Neftali Feliz came in to pitch after Nicasio and continued his nice spring with two scoreless innings with one strikeout. Jim Fuller closed out the game with a scoreless 8th and 9th inning for the Buccos.

In the game back in Bradenton, Francisco Liriano had his worst outing of the spring allowing four runs in 3.0 innings, but his big news was his solo home run off Jhoulys Chacin. Besides that, not much offense other than Jordy Mercer who recorded two hits, including a double.

Daniel Bard also struggled in relief as he allowed three runs without recording an out. His chances of making the team looks to be all but dead after this performance. Eric O’Flaherty continued a great spring with two scoreless innings of work and four strikeouts. I said this before spring training, and his performance has proved it so far that O’Flaherty will make this bullpen on Opening Day.

That’s all from today. The Bucs have their last day off tomorrow before heading to Sarasota to play the Orioles at 1:05PM on Wednesday. Jeff Locke will start for the Pirates.

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