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.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.