Spring Synopsis: Monroe slugs his seventh
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The games: Craig Monroe's two-run home run, his team-high seventh, helped the Pirates past the Cincinnati Reds, 6-5, yesterday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla.
The Pirates trailed, 4-3, entering the seventh when Eric Hinske led off with a single, and Monroe sent a ball well beyond left field. He also went 2 for 4 to raise his average to .294 and made a fine running catch near the wall in the first.
A bevy of relievers substituted for starter Ian Snell, scratched in the morning because of the flu. That began with Jesse Chavez, who threw an excruciating first inning of three runs, three hits, three walks, three pitches in the dirt and half of his 30 for strikes.
"I know the ability to throw strikes is there," Chavez said. "I'm just going through a funk."
The Pirates are 17-14-2 in Grapefruit League play, clinching their first winning spring record.
Earlier in the day, in an exhibition at Bradenton's McKechnie Field, a collection of Pirates minor leaguers lost to Manatee Community College, 6-4. Virgil Vasquez gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings despite nine strikeouts, and Steve Pearce homered.
Injury update: If Snell improves today, he will pitch two or three innings in a minor league game, manager John Russell said. That should keep him on track for Tuesday in St. Louis. If not, management will consider juggling the rotation, which surely would mean moving up Zach Duke.
"At some point, it could get a little dicey if he can't get out there," Russell said. "The good thing is that he got stretched out before anybody."
Snell pitched for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
Other news: Relievers Sean Burnett, Craig Hansen and Donnie Veal were informed yesterday morning that they had made the team, leaving two others -- Chavez and Evan Meek -- vying for the lone remaining roster spot.
Veal, the Rule 5 draft pick, had a 3.46 ERA, eight strikeouts and 13 walks in 13 innings.
"I'm very excited," Veal said. "The first part of my goal has been completed, but I still want to get out there and contribute and help the team win."
Meek, who has not pitched since March 20 because of shoulder soreness followed by a bout with stomach flu and bronchitis, was scratched again yesterday. Management would prefer to see him pitch one more time before making a decision, but general manager Neal Huntington said that might not be a necessity.
Today: Duke will start against the Minnesota Twins' Kevin Slowey, 1:05 p.m. in Bradenton.
Camp roster: 27, with 14 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders.
Fun in the sun: No one had more fun than the Manatee college kids in finally -- after 11 years of their annual charity exhibitions -- beating the Pirates.
To boot, the game ended with Manatee left fielder Nick Graham making a diving catch near the foul line to take away a potential tying hit from Pirates prospect Henry Henry.
"I was so happy I caught it," Graham said. "I was ecstatic. It was awesome."
Inside pitch: The Altoona Curve, the Pirates' Class AA affiliate, reached agreement with Fox Sports Radio of Pittsburgh to have 45 games broadcast in the coming season. Top prospects Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln will start out there.
Meet me in St. Louis: Three days until the opener.
First Published April 3, 2009 12:00 am