Spring Synopsis: Pirates split squad games end in losses


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The games:

The Pirates made history yesterday. For the first time in the 85-year history of McKechnie Field, baseball was played under the lights.

No, it wasn't a night game. However, the contest -- the start of which was delayed 25 minutes by light rain -- was played under overcast skies, and the lights were turned on for better vision for the players.

"It's a very nice surprise for the fans here that they are witnessing the first game under the lights," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "I'm not sure how many of them understand, though."

The first scheduled night game at McKechnie was rained out March 7. What will now be the first night game at McKechnie is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Pirates scored only one run yesterday in split-squad games played against Cincinnati at McKechnie (a 5-0 loss) and Minnesota in Fort Myers (a 4-1 defeat). Infielder Luis Rivas had the only Pirates RBI of the day. He doubled in Nate McLouth.

Matt Morris worked four innings against the Reds, allowing seven hits and two runs (one earned).

"I'm glad he got his work in," said Trent Jewett, the Indianapolis manager who managed the game in Bradenton. "I'm glad it didn't rain. Defensively, things could have gone better for him, but he got his work in."

"He said it didn't feel like the ball was coming out of his hand real clean," pitching coach Jim Andrews said. "On the bright side, he's had his curve ball every time out. It's been pretty good every time, so that's a plus.

"I'm encouraged by that, but obviously the need for fastball command is there. He needs something to take the pressure off his curve ball. He needs another dependable pitch."

In the game at Bradenton, Freddy Sanchez, once again serving as the designated hitter, had two hits.

Former Pirate Josh Fogg, competing for a spot in Cincinnati's rotation, yielded three hits and a walk in a five-inning stint.

Battle lines: Franquelis Osoria strengthened his campaign for a spot in the Pirates' bullpen by pitching a scoreless inning in Bradenton.

"He trusts his sinker," said Jewett, who managed Osoria at Class AAA Indianapolis last season. "He can execute that sinker. He's reliable and he's available for a lot of situations. Plus, he holds runners on real well."

Evan Meek, the Rule Five pick from Tampa Bay, also impressed. He worked two scoreless innings against the Reds, striking out one and walking one.

Fun in the sun: Manager John Russell, bench coach Gary Varsho, third base coach Tony Beasley and hitting coach Don Long went to Fort Myers yesterday. Former Pirates third base coach Rich Donnelly coached third in the game in Bradenton.

"Back to the future," said Donnelly, who hadn't coached third base for the Pirates since Sept. 29, 1996, when the Pirates finished that season with an 8-3 win in Chicago.

Injury update: Right-hander Elmer Dessens, sidelined because of back spasms, will make his spring debut today. He is scheduled to pitch an inning against Toronto.

Today: The Pirates play the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. in Dunedin for the second time in four days. Ian Snell is scheduled to start for the Pirates and be followed by Matt Capps and Jonah Bayliss. Roy Halladay is scheduled to start for Toronto.

Camp roster: The Pirates have 50 players in camp, including 26 pitchers, 4 catchers, 12 infielders and 8 outfielders. Roster cuts probably will be made Monday.

Countdown: 16 days until first pitch in Atlanta.



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