Young starters need to crank it up (updated)

SARASOTA, Fla. - We learned today that Jeremy Guthrie will start the April 1 opener and Brian Matusz will take the ball the following night. We also received a strong hint that Jake Arrieta will get the call for the first home game, making him the No. 4 starter.

The rotation is coming into focus, but the young starters need to give a clearer indication that they’re ready for the season and the responsibilities that go with it.

Arrieta gave up back-to-back homers to Lyle Overbay and Neil Walker in the first inning to fall behind, 3-0, to the Pirates. He threw 25 pitches, including 14 for strikes.

Arrieta also walked a batter, and his ERA is up to 6.91.

Brad Bergesen, who could be the No. 3 starter, an extra reliever who makes the April 10 start or part of Norfolk’s rotation, is sporting a 5.94 ERA. Brian Matusz’s ERA jumped to 5.93 after last night’s 1 1/3-inning struggle.

Chris Tillman, also competing for a spot in the four-man rotation, will carry a 3.55 ERA into his next start, but he’s allowed 14 hits and walked five batters in 12 2/3 innings.

Guthrie is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three official starts. I’m not counting minor league games.

You can’t get too carried away with spring stats, good or bad, but you’d like to see better results from some of these arms before we make the drive to St. Petersburg. One less thing to worry about.

On the flip side, Zach Britton, who figures to be optioned to Norfolk before the opener, has allowed one run in 14 innings - and I’m not counting his five scoreless innings in a minor league game.

Instant update: Arrieta got two outs on two pitches in the top of the second inning, and retired the side on six pitches (five strikes). Nice recovery.

Update II: Luke Scott and Mark Reynolds homered in the second inning off Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf. That’s the first spring homer for Reynolds, and it was quite a shot. It might be rolling to the fence on one of the back fields.

Reynolds had 54 plate appearances before getting the homerless monkey off his back.

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