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Williams cruises before blip in 'nice' first start

Kuhl roughed up in split-squad outing vs. O's; Bucs sign 31 pre-arb players
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- After a couple of piggyback outings to start the spring, Trevor Williams got back in the starting routine on Saturday afternoon.

Making his third Grapefruit League appearance, Williams pitched three hitless innings before giving up three runs on a double and a home run in the fourth. Still, Williams and manager Clint Hurdle were pleased with the right-hander's overall body of work in his four innings of the Pirates' 15-1 loss to the Braves at LECOM Park.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- After a couple of piggyback outings to start the spring, Trevor Williams got back in the starting routine on Saturday afternoon.

Making his third Grapefruit League appearance, Williams pitched three hitless innings before giving up three runs on a double and a home run in the fourth. Still, Williams and manager Clint Hurdle were pleased with the right-hander's overall body of work in his four innings of the Pirates' 15-1 loss to the Braves at LECOM Park.

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"I made a few bad pitches at the end that hurt me, but other than that, I felt like all my pitches were working great," Williams said. "I had a lot of consistent release points on all my pitches. We did a good job moving the ball around the plate, going up and down, and overall I thought it was a great day aside from a few pitches at the end."

After cruising through three innings with only one baserunner, Williams walked Ronald Acuna Jr. Then came Johan Camargo's double to left and a hanging slider that Dustin Peterson drove over the boardwalk beyond the left-field fence -- a homer out of the hand, as Williams put it.

Video: ATL@PIT: Peterson crushes two-run homer to left field

But Williams effectively commanded his fastball, particularly inside against both right- and left-handed hitters, and worked in all his offspeed pitches. He also rediscovered his pregame preparation as a starter after making a pair of relief appearances.

"It's nice getting a start, that's one thing as far as getting in your rhythm and your routine," Williams said. "It's nice getting into that rhythm and getting into that routine. Every five days from here on out, it's going to be that. I'm looking forward to doing that."

Kuhl hurt by homers early

Making his third start of the spring, Chad Kuhl got into trouble early against the Orioles. After an impressive two scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Feb. 28, he's now struggled in each of his last two starts. He allowed three earned runs on five hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings against the Braves on Monday, before allowing eight runs on seven hits over 2 1/3 innings Saturday.

Orioles right fielder Colby Rasmus singled before Kuhl allowed back-to-back home runs to first baseman Trey Mancini and shortstop Manny Machado. Two batters later, second baseman Jonathan Schoop homered to give the Orioles four runs in the first inning.

"It's just the way that spring goes sometimes," Kuhl said after his club's 13-5 loss at Ed Smith Stadium. "There's not any doubt or anything like that. It's just the way it goes sometimes, getting back into the swing of things."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

 Last season, Kuhl finished with a 0.97 HR/9 ratio -- good for a ninth-place tie among all National League pitchers with a minimum of 150 innings pitched.

"Yeah, that's just kinda what I've been good at, keeping the ball out of the air or in the park at least," he said. "It felt like that first inning was just different. It felt like I was kinda guiding the ball, and it didn't translate to very good pitches."

Kuhl, who surrendered two or more home runs only twice over 31 games in 2017, called his first frame against Baltimore "one of the worst innings I've ever had" and said he felt "out of sync" with catcher Francisco Cervelli.

"It wasn't disagreement on pitch call or anything like that," he said. "Just kinda out of sync, for whatever reason."

Spring Training information

Pirates sign pre-arb players

The Pirates on Saturday agreed to contract terms with their 31 pre-arbitration eligible players. That group includes Josh Bell, Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, Kuhl, Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Jameson Taillon, Williams and every other player on the 40-man roster who has accrued less than three years of service time but does not have a guaranteed contract.

Clubhouse cook-off

Before sending half their squad to Sarasota on Saturday morning, the Pirates split up into smaller groups and held a cooking competition outside their clubhouse. The winning group consisted of David Freese, Tyler Jones, Jose Osuna and Bo Schultz. The runners-up were Brault, Moran, Cole Tucker and Brett McKinney.

Tweet from @Pirates: Morning fun with the team...a cooking competition at LECOM. pic.twitter.com/0y5RYnwIQP

Around the horn

Corey Dickerson picked up his first RBI of the spring in the first inning against the Orioles. After Starling Marte reached on an infield single, Dickerson lined a double down the right-field line to score Marte from first. In four games this spring, Dickerson has three hits in 11 at-bats.

• Marte, who also tripled, has reached base safely in all seven games he's played this spring. He owns a .526 average, five RBIs, and five runs scored.

• Appearing in his fifth game of the spring, Michael Feliz bounced back nicely after a rough outing on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Feliz pitched a flawless two innings and struck out two.

Up next

The Pirates will travel to Dunedin Stadium to face the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. ET on Sunday, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Right-hander Clay Holmes, ticketed for Triple-A to begin the season, is scheduled to start for the Pirates. He'll be followed by lefty Jack Leathersich and righty relievers Richard Rodriguez, Casey Sadler, McKinney and John Stilson.

The game will also be broadcast live on KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh and on the Pirates Radio Network.

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

Kris Dunn is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Pirates in Sarasota, Fla., on Saturday.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams