Grapefruit Game 20: Braves 7, Pirates (ss) 3

By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 years ago

LHP Francisco Liriano (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

BRADENTON, Fla. — Let’s start with the big news of the day: Francisco Liriano blasted a solo homer to right off Atlanta Braves right-hander Jhoulys Chahin. 

“Think I just got lucky on that one,” Liriano said later.

And there was little luck to be had the rest of the day. On a chilly afternoon at McKechnie Field, gave up seven hits and four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five.

“Didn’t have any fastball command today,” he said. “It kept sailing all over the place, up and down. That’s what we’re here for, to get better at things we need to work on. Hopefully next time will be a lot better.

“Think I was rushing with the fastball, trying to do too much, trying to overthrow. The weather didn’t bother me at all.

“One more start to get myself ready for opening day.”

Added manager Clint Hurdle: ”I just saw inconsistent stuff, whether it’s the fastball, slider or changeup. It was a battle out there for him today, to throw 80-plus pitches and not get through the fourth. ... Frankie’s not a guy you’re going to lose any sleep over. We’ll give him the ball again and see how he does.” Liriano will pitch next on March 26, another split-squad day.

Right-hander Daniel Bard, an intriguing minor leaguer we’ve seen in a few Grapefruit League games this spring, had it all come crashing down in the third inning. He relieved Liriano with two outs and nobody on, then this: single, balk, walk, single, wild pitch, single, walk. He gave up three runs, did not record an out, and was replaced by Jorge Rondon.

You might remember Bard as a guy who was really good for the Boston Red Sox a few years back. And you might have seen this ESPN article from a couple days ago.

Well, Monday was certainly a step backward in his comeback attempt.

“This was the first time we’ve seen some inconsistency from him,” Hurdle said. “It’s just like anybody else in spring training. Whether it was release point today, we’re going to look at some tape and try to get a feel for it. The velocity. This guy has taken major steps forward.

“Today is one of those days when I don’t think you overcook it for him. You just try to reassure him and tell him to keep pitching, because he’s made some nice adjustments and some nice improvements at this point in time.”

On a positive note, really nice outings for the other Pirates pitchers — Jorge RondonEric O’Flaherty and Trey Haley. Rondon cleaned up what was left of Bard’s mess and went 2 1/3 scoreless innings with one hit, two walks and a strikeout. O’Flaherty gave up two hits and struck out four in two innings. Haley allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth. 

”We’ve liked the man, and we know the history,” Hurdle said of Rondon. “He’s another guy with stuff that gets your attention. The command has been inconsistent at times, which has challenged him and has kind of kept him on the cusp.”