Series Preview: The Astros

Current record: 55-44, 2nd place in NL Central, 2.5 games back

Up Next: Houston Astros, 34-65, 6th place in NL Central, 24.5 games back

Season Series: 6-1 (2-1, 4-0)

Notes: This isn’t the same Astros team the Bucs faced three weeks ago. Gone are Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers. SS Jed Lowrie is on the DL. Their best pitcher left is Bud Norris, who won’t face the Pirates this series because he started last night. This is baseball so anything can happen, but the Astros are really bad right now and Bucs should take three or four games here.

Familiar Faces: Chris Snyder, Brian Bixler

Probable Pitchers
Thursday: RH A.J. Burnett (11-3, 107.2 IP, 89 K, 3.59 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)
vs. LH Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 29.0 IP, 11 K, 4.03 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)

Friday: RH Jeff Karstens (3-2, 46.0 IP, 31 K, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
vs. RH Jordan Lyles (2-7, 73.2 IP, 44 K, 5.50 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)

Karstens hasn’t been officially announced, but this is his turn and he’s pitching well so I wouldn’t mess things up.

Saturday: LH Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 130.2 IP, 89 K, 3.79 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
vs. TBA

This was supposed to be Wandy’s start for Houston. Instead he’ll make his Pirates’ debut. So far, the Astros haven’t announced a replacement.

Sunday: RH James McDonald (10-4, 125.2 IP, 110 K, 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
vs. RH Lucas Harrell (7-7, 121.2 IP, 81 K, 4.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)

Just announced – Erik Bedard‘s start will be pushed back to Monday’s game. I have no problem giving the typically injury prone Bedard some extra rest, even when he’s pitching well. Kevin Correia has been moved to the bullpen.

Tonight’s Lineup:
Starling Marte LF (Major League debut)
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones RF
Casey McGehee 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
A.J. Burnett P

Starling Marte Called Up

Its the move some fans have been calling for since spring training: OF Starling Marte has been called up to the big leagues. He makes his debut tonight, leading off and playing LF.

In 431 PA at AAA Indianapolis, Marte was putting up a very good .286/.347/500 line. He lead the team with 62 RBI’s, 13 triples and 194 total bases, and was second with 21 doubles, 12 HR, 21 SB and .847 OPS.

To make room for Marte and newly acquired pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, RHP Evan Meek and OF Gorkys Hernandez were both optioned back to AAA.

Spring Training 2012: Friday 3/23 Pirate City Recap

Day Two started at Pirate City. Minor league players were everywhere to be seen on the five and a half fields. Happily, I was able to meet Tim Williams, who runs the excellent Pirates Prospects. Tim informed me that Gerrit Cole would not be pitching, but luckily there was still (as always) plenty to see. A quick photo essay:

Coaches watch batting practice.

Club President Frank Coonelly gives a tour. Steve Blass gave a similar tour earlier.

Tony Sanchez walks through the bullpen.

Sanchez about to step in the cage.

Starling Marte (#6) waits for his turn while Kris Watts hits.

Kyle McPherson throws to Sanchez.

“The Legend” Garrett Jones had a fan on site. The crowd was sparse when we arrived but filled in a lot by the time we broke for lunch.

Autograph hounds float around too. Here, they descend on Tony Sanchez.

The pictures turned out more Tony Sanchez-centric than I intended. Not pictured but seen running various drills: Stetson Allie, Gorkys Hernandez, Mel Rojas, Jr., and Brian Friday.

Lunch was at the nearby Mixon Fruit Farm where my Dad and I ate with fellow Pirate fan Matt Brown. I had a tasty Cuban sandwich followed by this number for dessert.

That is a swirl of orange ice cream made with fresh squeezed orange juice. It tasted just like a cream-sickle only better.

Mixon’s came highly recommended and now I know why. This will definitely become a regular part of our trips to Spring Training.

Coming up: Part II: McKechnie Field and the Tigers.

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