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'Shelty show': Bucs skipper debuts vs. old crew

@adamdberry
February 22, 2020

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates’ 2-1 loss to the Twins on Saturday was more like a dress rehearsal for Derek Shelton, a preview of what it might feel like when he steps into the dugout to manage his first game on March 26 at Tropicana Field. But it was no

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates’ 2-1 loss to the Twins on Saturday was more like a dress rehearsal for Derek Shelton, a preview of what it might feel like when he steps into the dugout to manage his first game on March 26 at Tropicana Field. But it was no less special for him.

Coincidentally, Shelton’s first Spring Training game as Pirates manager came against his former employer. He stood in the dugout, alongside bench coach Don Kelly, across the field from his former boss and longtime friend Rocco Baldelli. He caught up with old friends and received a special visit from Twins legends Rod Carew and Tony Oliva.

Carew and Oliva don’t typically travel with the Twins during Spring Training, but they made the two-hour trip north just to see Shelton. Before the game, Shelton posed for a photo on the field with Carew, Oliva, Manny Sanguillen and Bill Mazeroski.

“It was a tad humbling when Rod Carew and Tony Oliva show up. I know they don’t make road trips, and they walked up. Yeah, that kind of took me aback a little bit,” Shelton said. “They both told me they made the trip to come down and see me, which means a lot to me because I spent a lot of time with those guys in Spring Training last year.

“The fact that they got on the bus and came up here kind of was a little validation in our friendship. Anytime you get two guys of that stature that do that, then to be able to get a picture with those two guys and Manny and Maz, I mean, that’ll definitely be something that’ll go up on my wall at home.”

Even though it was just a Grapefruit League game, Shelton said he still felt nervous early Saturday. He found himself double- and triple-checking his plans to make sure he didn’t make any mistakes -- in part because, if he did, he knew Baldelli wouldn’t let him hear the end of it.

“I’m a little concerned when we go to Fort Myers what he’ll actually do. I definitely wasn’t going to mess with him,” Shelton said. “I was nice to him. … I think when we go down there, he may mess with me a little bit.”

Baldelli already put the spotlight on Shelton by obtaining Shelton’s nameplate from Grapefruit League Media Day and jokingly presenting it to him before the game. But Baldelli’s respect and appreciation for his former bench coach is sincere.

"I think it was actually really nice that it was his first game of the spring. I think everyone was waiting to catch up with him and see him,” Baldelli said. “I think it meant a lot to people on this side and obviously a lot to him as well. He's got stuff going on all day long and he's busy, but I think he really wanted to take the time to see everyone and spend some time with the group knowing that things are going to speed up really quickly and he's going to be plenty busy moving forward."

Game notes
• The Pirates managed only four hits and struck out 11 times in their spring opener at LECOM Park. Non-roster catcher Andrew Susac drove in their lone run, plating Jason Delay with a single in the seventh inning. Ke'Bryan Hayes had Pittsburgh’s only extra-base hit, a double to right field.

• Top prospect Mitch Keller, who is looking to establish himself in the Pirates’ rotation this season, worked two scoreless innings to begin the game. Keller threw 16 of his 28 pitches for strikes, gave up two hits and made use of his entire arsenal. He also started a successful rundown for the first out of the second inning, a solid display of fundamental baseball that too often eluded Pittsburgh last season.

“I’m ready just to keep competing here in big league camp, and hopefully, I’ll make the Opening Day roster and the rotation,” Keller said. “Just my mindset going through is, every time out there is an audition for me, and I’ve got to bring it every time.”

• Relief prospect Blake Cederlind immediately displayed his power stuff, touching 98 mph with his first pitch and reaching 99 mph while striking out two in a scoreless ninth inning.

“To see him with live hitters from another team and see the ball come out -- the first one he threw was 98 with power sink -- that’s a good thing to see,” Shelton said.

Up next
The Pirates will split up on Sunday to play a pair of 1:05 ET p.m. games, and both will air live on MLB.TV.

At LECOM Park, veteran left-hander Derek Holland will start against Tigers right-hander Zack Godley with Steven Brault, Richard Rodriguez, Sam Howard, Keone Kela, Robbie Erlin and Tom Koehler also scheduled to pitch. Shelton will manage that game.

Right-hander Trevor Williams will hit the road to start against the Phillies at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla. Also scheduled to pitch are Hector Noesi, Cody Ponce, Nick Burdi, Blake Weiman and Montana DuRapau. Kelly will manage that game, potentially facing his brother-in-law and former Pirate Neil Walker.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.