SARASOTA, Fla. - Matt Lindstrom, pitching for the first time in a week after suffering from lower-back stiffness, struck out two of the three batters he faced in the sixth inning.
Willie Eyre, making his spring debut after being sidelined with a groin injury, was charged with four runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning. Casey Fossum replaced him and recorded the final out on a fly ball.
Robert Andino committed an error behind Eyre when he fell backward after fielding a sharp bouncer. Mark Reynolds also was charged with an error in the inning after missing Ronny Paulino’s throw on a stolen base. Paulino was behind the plate for the first time this spring.
The Pirates lead, 11-5, in the eighth.
Nick Markakis went 0-for-2 with a walk and strikeout in his first game.
“I was just happy to get out there, get some at-bats and start this thing off right and get it going in the right direction,” he said.
“I just wanted to see one pitch. And, you know, timing’s a little off, but that can be fixed pretty easy. Overall, I felt fine. No pain. The biggest thing was I wasn’t too worried about baseball activity. I just wanted to see how my body would react to my natural reactions. It was fine. I didn’t get to run, but we’ve still got time for that.
“I would have liked to have run, just to see where I’m at. I ran the bases a lot prior to this and, you know, I think I’m where I want to be right now.”
Asked what he was thinking after drawing a walk and possibly having a chance to run the bases, Markakis replied, “Just my crossover, my left leg over in front. It’s just one of those things that’s going to have to have to happen and we’ll see what happens when it happens.”
The biggest challenge comes March 20 when Markakis, who underwent abdominal surgery in January, starts in right field.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” he said. “Get my natural reaction of going side-to-side and see how I feel. Everything’s fine right now. It’s just a matter of getting in that situation and testing it.
“I wasn’t up there thinking too much. I thought more about it on base. It’s one of those things you are just going to have to get used to and it is what it is when that point comes.
“I’m happy where I am right now. I’m not too far ahead and I’m not far back. I’m right where I want to be and I’ve just got to continue to get better and go out there and play.”
Markakis said he needs 20-25 at-bats to get ready for the April 6 opener.
“And the way the schedule plays out right now, I’d be getting right at that, so I’m pretty happy with it,” he said.
Markakis expects to take off the next two days and play again on Saturday.
Jake Arrieta cruised through the first inning, striking out two, and retired the first two batters he faced in the third. It didn’t go as smoothly in the second, when the Pirates scored four runs.
“I made quite a few good pitches, primarily when there were guys on second and third and no outs,” he said. “Got those two big strikeouts. But the big thing in the second inning was just my timing in the stretch. Lower body and upper body were really out of sync and the main reason that was was because, now that I’m a lot quicker to the plate this year, I have to generate more tempo and more rhythm with my upper body because my lower body, now that I’m a 1.2 to the plate as opposed to last year being a 1.6, there’s just a timing there and you’ve got to find that happy medium. When your upper body start clicking with your lower body, then things will kind of start falling into place. That’s the big adjustment I have to make this spring is trying to get those two in sync.
“I think it’s just a matter of repetition, just continue to work on it. In the offseason that was one of my main focuses and I knew that if I wasn’t under a 1.4 to the plate at the big league level, guys are just going to take advantage of that. Now being a 1.1 to a 1.2 really takes a lot of the running game out of the equation for a lot of the teams. Because of that, it’s going to help me be a lot more successful, keep those guys from getting big leads and avoid the stolen base attempt and constant throw-overs because I am quicker. And really what it all boils down to is presetting my push-off leg and being able to just pretty much lift and go to the plate.
“I was real happy with a lot today, especially the way I was able to throw out of the windup. Everything in the windup was incredible. Like I said, it’s just a matter of finding that rhythm and that tempo from the stretch. And once I find that, things will really get rolling.”
Arrieta is a candidate to start on opening day, and it’s in the back of his mind.
Sometimes, it creeps to the front.
“Yeah, I think about it a little bit. I think a lot of guys do,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. We all knew that once Jeremy was traded, that spot was pretty much up for grabs. That’s really what we’re competing for. But the comradery in our clubhouse, especially with the starting pitchers, we compete day in and day out with each other and whoever gets the nod, we’ll all be happy for him.”