The fans at Citi Field in New York got a treat Friday night.
They saw Matt Harvey, 24, a right-hander for the New York Mets, face Stephen Strasburg, 24, of the Washington Nationals. Harvey had the better performance, striking out seven in seven innings of one-run baseball.
Harvey and Strasburg represent two of the premier young pitchers in the majors, and several have made starting rotations early this season.
"I think they come in waves more than anything," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes it is predicated by, there has been attrition of pitching. It's hard to get. Rather than go with an older guy you might cut the teeth on some of your own personnel to give them the innings, to give them the experience."
The Pirates saw two members of the younger generation of pitchers Wednesday and Thursday, when 22-year-olds Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran started for the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. Jose Fernandez, 20, who before this season never had pitched above the high Class A Florida State League, made the Miami Marlins' rotation out of spring training.
More young pitchers are on the way. Gerrit Cole, 22, likely will join the Pirates at some point this season, and the Mets have another in Zack Wheeler, 22, the prize return in the Carlos Beltran trade, who might make his debut this season.
Hurdle remembered another wave of young starters in 2010, when he was the Texas Rangers' hitting coach. That was the season when the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, who made his major league debut when he was 20 in 2008, along with Mat Latos, then 22 and with San Diego, stepped into prominence and Seattle's Felix Hernandez, then 24, won the Cy Young Award.
"I like the young arms in the game, but everybody's optimistic," Hurdle said. "When you get a 22-year-old kid making pitches, you hope it's something to hang your hat on for a long time."
Hurdle offered a word of caution while referring to Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., a 2011 first-round draft pick. Bradley hit .419 in spring training and made the opening-day roster without having played above Class AA, but the Red Sox optioned him to Class AAA Pawtucket when David Ortiz returned. Bradley had three hits in 31 at-bats this season.
"Everybody banged the drum hard for that kid and those 60 good at-bats he had in spring training," Hurdle said. "Then, you look at how he gets out of the chute, now it's a different story."
Martin starts at 3B
Catcher Russell Martin started at third base Saturday night for the ninth time in his major league career as Pedro Alvarez did not start against lefthander Paul Maholm.
Martin made his first start at third since 2008, when he started eight games there with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Alvarez hit a home run in each of the previous two games. He also has a career .273 on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers and is 1 for 16 against them this season. Left-handed batters Garrett Jones and Travis Snider did not start, either.
"I just wanted to go ahead and throw the right-handers out there, all of them," Hurdle said. "As we continue to attack this 20-day period, Pedro will get a little break today."
Hurdle said Monday he liked Martin behind the plate when James McDonald started, which he did again Saturday. Maholm, however, had not allowed a run before the Saturday night game, and that likely put offense at a premium.
First Published April 21, 2013 4:00 AM