Notes: McCutchen flashing the leather
Top prospect has impressed club with his defense
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After three highlight reel-worthy catches Thursday night, it was understandable why Andrew McCutchen was disappointed in the dugout Friday morning. Rain, and lots of it, came down in sheets, completely soaking his territory in left field.
"Man, I hate it when it rains," he said, after jogging to the batting cages and back during the downpour. "You kind of have to get something to boost you up a little bit. Hopefully it stops right now.
"But I'll see what I can do."
McCutchen said a soggy outfield makes it a bit tougher to get a jump on the ball, but he didn't seem to be hurting any Friday during the Pirates' 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay. The skies cleared up just prior to game time, and he made another over-the-shoulder snag on the warning track, running full-tilt to rob Tampa Bay's Greg Norton of a hit in the third inning. It was a catch that drew enthusiastic applause from the stands.
Later, the 20-year-old shifted to center field, although the outs he made there were more of the routine variety.
It was the second time in as many days that McCutchen had received attention for his defensive skills. On Thursday evening, he made a running snag toward right-center field that resulted in a double play, as well as an over-the-head catch.
Manager Jim Tracy is pleased, but not the least bit surprised with McCutchen's performance.
"He walked in here this spring with a very different look on his face," Tracy said. "More or less, by the way he goes about his business, the suggestion is that,'I feel like I belong here.'
"And in my opinion, he's right. He does belong."
A scare: Jonah Bayliss was struck hard by a line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay's Delmon Young in the bottom of the sixth inning on Friday, but remained in the game. Bayliss put up his hands to defend himself, and the ball smacked him square in his throwing hand before caroming toward second baseman Dan Schwartzbauer, who threw on to first for the out.
Tracy said Bayliss was OK, stressing Bayliss would've been taken out immediately had there been any sign of swelling or injury.
"He had no numbness; he had very good hand strength. The ball basically hit him right in the palm of his hand," Tracy said. "If you're going to get it, that's the best place to get it."
Bayliss was saddled with the loss after surrendering the game-winning RBI on a double in the sixth, his only inning pitched. Still, it was the righty's first outing of the preseason, for he suffered a strained left quadriceps muscle while conditioning post-workouts early on in Spring Training.
"Let's give him some time to get his feet back under him," Tracy said."
A starting struggle: Tom Gorzelanny had another rocky start Friday, giving up two runs on three hits in the first inning. In his last start, at Cincinnati, he surrendered four runs on six hits in three innings.
Gorzelanny said then that it was just a matter of adrenaline. Tracy wasn't overly concerned with the outing, reiterating as he had during Gorzelanny's last start that the young lefty settled in after the first inning and took control.
"The ball was up in the first inning and some of the two-strike pitches he made in the first inning weren't good," Tracy said. "And then from that point forward, he started to locate his fastball ... and started to pitch like we know he's capable of pitching."
The 24-year-old, the assumed fourth starter in the Pirates' rotation, is toting a 10.45 ERA through four spring outings (two starts) totaling 10 1/3 innings. He'd battled some control problems as of late, but Tracy said Friday those were no longer an issue.
Kuwata watch: Japanese starter Masumi Kuwata has been sidelined since turning his ankle March 9, but is slated to see some relief action in Saturday's game against Minnesota. Kuwata, 38, currently is 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA after two relief appearances totaling three innings.
Ronnie's on a roll: Catcher Ronnie Paulino went 1-for-3 Friday to bring his average to .440 (11-for-25) with a double, a triple, two home runs and a team high-tying eight RBIs this spring.
He said it: "I'm in a great mood. This reminds me of Pittsburgh." -- Neil Walker, watching the steady rain from the dugout
Up next: Pittsburgh returns to McKechnie Field on Saturday where it will host the Twins in a 1:05 p.m. ET game. Tony Armas Jr. will get the ball for the Pirates, and face off against right-hander Boof Bonser. Also slated to pitch for Pittsburgh are Josh Sharpless and Kuwata. Saturday's game will be televised locally in Pittsburgh on FSN Pittsburgh.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.