What in the Hell are the Pirates doing with their instructional League players?

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Craziness coming out of Pittsburgh. Dejan Kovacevic is reporting that Pirates Instructional League players are training like Navy SEALS down in Florida. Much to their chagrin and possibly to their developmental detriment.

Kovacevic reported this last Friday, but today he has more, including an email from Pirates Assistant General Manager Kyle Stark, who is the apparent architect of this regimen. The email, sent to Pirates personnel back in June, was obtained by Kovacevic and it is … strange, with talk of “swagger,” “reckless abandon,” “turning boys into men,” creating “Hells Angels” and “pushing players beyond their comfort zones, putting them in risky situations.” It ends with him saying “HOKA HEY — It’s a good day to die!!!”

Kovacevic then details the training — three days of military style drills — which includes the following schedule:

• Wake up at 5 a.m.

• Organize room/locker

• Pushups and sit-ups

• Serpentine on the grass

• Crab walk

• Running along the beach with a telephone-type pole, carried by five or six players

• Pushing a truck tire through the outfield for 90 feet, then flipping it

• Being sprayed by a hose

• Diving into a sand pile

All with a drill sergeant barking orders throughout.

Sounds a little — no, a lot intense for baseball players. Especially given that this Stark guy has no military background and, based on what Kovacevic says, isn’t otherwise a physical training expert himself.

Jeff Passan has some followup on this, and he notes that, according to his sources, Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a knee injury doing this stuff.  It is a training program that many in the organization despise and many around baseball are mocking.

Crazy stuff. I’d expect to hear more about this as the Pirates season comes to a thudding, dispiriting end.

Sean Manaea thought he was throwing a one hitter

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Tossing a no-hitter doesn’t just require physical excellence; it’s a mental feat, too. Which is why it may have helped that Athletics hurler Sean Manaea didn’t realize his no-hitter was intact until the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox.

While the first few innings passed uneventfully, Sandy Leon managed to reach base in the fifth inning after skying a ball to shallow center field. It wasn’t a clean hit, of course — shortstop Marcus Semien dropped the ball on the catch and was promptly charged with an error to preserve Manaea’s no-hit bid.

That was news to Manaea, who told reporters that he didn’t realize he still had a no-hitter going until he saw the scoreboard in the eighth inning. “Until the eighth, I thought it just like was a one-hitter,” he said. “I looked up in the eighth and saw there were still zeros and was like, whoa, weird.” The delay of that realization may have calmed his nerves as he continued to blank the best team in baseball, eventually capping his 108-pitch, 10-strikeout effort in the ninth.

A few fun facts about the feat:

  • Manaea’s no-hitter was the 12th of its kind in franchise history, dating back to Weldon Henley’s no-no against the St. Louis Browns in 1905.
  • The most recent pitcher to do so for the A’s was fellow left-hander Dallas Braden, who completed the club’s second-ever perfect game against the Rays in 2010. Surprisingly, Manaea managed to make even more efficient use of his pitch count than Braden did during his perfecto; he fired just 108 pitches against the Red Sox, a hair under the 109 pitches used by Braden against the Rays.
  • Manaea himself, however, is just the seventh Athletics pitcher (and third lefty) to toss a no-hitter. Legendary southpaw Vida Blue pitched two no-nos for the team, including a combined no-hitter that also featured Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers against the 1975 California Angels.
  • Until Saturday, the Red Sox had the second-longest streak without being no-hit in the majors, at 3,987 games… a record that was only eclipsed by the A’s own streak.
  • With a 17-2 record and .895 winning percentage, the Red Sox were the most successful team to be no-hit in major-league history. Prior to Saturday’s loss, they averaged 6.4 runs per game and had yet to be shut out by any team in 2018.
  • Since 1908, 46 no-hitters have been pitched against AL East teams: four against the Blue Jays, five against the Rays, eight against the Yankees, 13 against the Red Sox and 16 against the Orioles. Mariners lefty Chris Bosio was the last pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox, a feat he accomplished almost exactly 25 years ago on April 22, 1993.