The Pittsburgh Pirates are doing their best to distract everyone from this, their 17th consecutive losing season. And while I’m not one to say their streak makes them the worst sports franchise in history, I’m also not above picking on them, or old people, for that matter.
Which brings us to Tuesday’s pregame ceremony, in which the Pirates honored Arnold Palmer in celebration of his 80th birthday, which is Thursday. Palmer, who hails from Latrobe, about an hour east of Pittsburgh, was interviewed by Jim Nantz on the field and shown a video tribute. Then the circus continued …
Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm, team broadcaster and former pitcher Steve Blass and professional golfer Peter Jacobsen took part in a “closest to the pin” contest on the field while players from both teams watched from the dugouts.
Jacobsen was the only participant to hit the “pin” — really team mascot the Pirate Parrot — in center field on a shot from near home plate, earning money for charity.
The good news is that PNC Bank made a $1 million donation to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh in Palmer’s name.
The bad news is that after the game finally started – 11 minutes late – it was back to reality, and the visiting Cubs tied a major league record by beginning the game with eight straight hits.
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.