Pirates Notebook: Matos goes deep twice in loss

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Luis Matos is not waiting to show the Pirates he is worthy of their 25-man roster.

He homered in his first two at-bats of the 9-7 loss to the Cincinnati Reds yesterday at McKechnie Field, each team's Grapefruit League opener. And that came two days after superb defensive play in an intrasquad scrimmage at Pirate City.

Matos is in camp on a minor-league contract, but his bid to make the Pirates' bench looks solid in the early going.

"First impressions count," Matos said. "It feels good to be able to contribute right away, to make a case for myself. If I stay healthy, I know what I can do."

A steady wind of 10-15 mph blew out, contributing much to the teams hitting eight home runs, five by Cincinnati.

Matos had plenty of help with his first, coming off a flat Eric Milton fastball and catching a long-distance ride beyond left-center.

"That one might have been a double normally," Matos said.

Or a popup to shortstop.

But the second was highly impressive. Matos pulled in his wrists to ram Milton's inside sinker deep to center.

"That was a good one," Matos said, grinning.

Matos was plagued much of last season by injury and batted .203 for the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.

"What we know is that he's very good defensively," manager Jim Tracy said. "Last year was not the best for him offensively, but he's shown he's capable of being a good hitter."

Torres struggles

With the Pirates ahead, 4-2, through four innings, closer Salomon Torres allowed four runs -- Brandon Phillips and Mark Bellhorn each hit a two-run home run -- in the fifth. He gave up four hits and a walk, and even two of his three outs were belted.

"With his type of pitcher, you're not surprised to see it," Tracy said. "He thrives on his sinker going deep and down, and it didn't do that. And his fastball was up. No concern whatsoever."

Other game highlights

The Pirates' other home run came from leadoff man Andrew McCutchen in his first at-bat, a laser to left-center off Milton. He doubled in his next trip and wound up 2 for 4.

Starter Zach Duke opened with a five-pitch walk to Ryan Freel, but quickly settled and gave up only an Adam Dunn home run in his two innings. "I was a little too pumped up at first," Duke said.

Freel was caught stealing after that walk, largely because of a terrific tag by second baseman Freddy Sanchez, taking Ronny Paulino's one-bounce throw to the shortstop side of the bag, then whacking Freel's shin. "Tremendous," Tracy called it. Tracy said of Sanchez playing second: "That's where he's going to be for a while."

Buried treasure

General manager Dave Littlefield said the Pirates have not received results from outfielder Xavier Nady's colonoscopy, taken Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Nady was due back in Florida yesterday afternoon.

Ian Snell will start today against Atlanta in Kissimmee, Fla. The Braves will start John Smoltz.

Masumi Kuwata will make his debut Sunday against the Reds.

First baseman Adam LaRoche will be one of the few major-league position players on the trip, but that apparently was by design: It will be his first chance to face his former teammates. "I'm looking forward to this one," he said.

The game will be televised on ESPN.

The Pirates signed seven players to one-year contracts for or near Major League Baseball's minimum salary of $380,000: Josh Sharpless, Dave Davidson, Marty McLeary,Jonah Bayliss, Brian Rogers, Josh Shortslef and Romulo Sanchez.

Tim Schuldt resigned as the Pirates' chief marketing and sales officer to take a similar position with Motorsports Authentics in Charlotte, N.C. Schuldt spent two-plus years overseeing marketing, advertising and ticket sales.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
SWING AND A MISS: Freddy Sanchez was 0-2 against the Reds in the Pirates' Grapefruit League opener. Cincinnati won, 9-7, yesterday at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Click photo for larger image.


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