Notes: Crowe developing; Kuhl's new tool

March 5th, 2021

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pirates pitchers have lauded sophomore pitching coach Oscar Marin with being able to translate analytics into understandable gains. , a new face on Pittsburgh's roster, is already beginning to do the same.

Crowe, the club's No. 21 prospect, pitched two scoreless innings on Friday in the Pirates’ 3-0 loss to the Phillies at BayCare Ballpark, bringing his streak of zeroes to three innings to begin Grapefruit League action.

In Friday’s game, Crowe threw his slider more than any other offering. That bucks his track record from last year, when his four-seamer was his most-used pitch. It may be a preview of what’s to come for the right-hander this season.

“Learning all these things from coming over here to the Pirates, the slider is something that I can get ahead with and put guys away with,” Crowe said. “Get them off the heater, steal a strike early. Being able to throw that for a strike early, and earlier in the count, is a way that we're going to go about getting guys out this year."

Pitch-tunneling -- basically, throwing a ball down a similar trajectory from the outset before it moves wherever it moves -- has been a point of focus with Crowe and Marin in preparation for the season. The right-hander felt that he was at his worst last season, when he allowed 13 runs (11 earned) in 8 1/3 innings with the Nationals, as his pitches came out headed to wildly different spots instead of playing off one another.

It ties in to what he said he learned the most from Major League aces like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg while with the Nats last season before he was dealt to Pittsburgh, along with Eddy Yean, in the Josh Bell deal. The main ingredient to great pitching, Crowe said, is not stuff or ability, but execution and planning. Scherzer and Strasburg had set blueprints for how they wanted to attack every guy in the lineup multiple times through, and when they executed those plans, it made for must-watch pitching.

“I think hitters, you can throw them the nastiest slider in the world and they've seen it before,” Crowe said. “It's all about the execution. You're not going to stun or fool a hitter on a pitch he's never seen, because he's seen a million of them.”

Kuhl fine-tuning a tool
Chad Kuhl worked on a slightly new grip for his changeup this offseason, and he got some reps with it against cream-of-the-crop competition in his start Friday against the Phillies.

Kuhl threw his changeup for a swinging strike to Andrew McCutchen, a called strike to Brad Miller and a ball in the dirt and called strike to Bryce Harper, who ultimately tagged Kuhl for a home run on a 1-1 sinker.

The called strike to Harper was a good focus for what Kuhl is trying to hone in on with what he called more of a split changeup than a true change. The 1-0 offering was dotted perfectly on the inside corner to the left-handed-hitting Harper, but Kuhl was trying to get it low and away. Kuhl likes the action the pitch has shown, but he thinks he needs to be more consistent in the east-west command of it.

“For the most part, it was good,” Kuhl said. “It's just getting that fine-tuning on the side of the plate with the new grip. It played well today.”

Worth noting
• Edgar Santana made his first Spring Training appearance on Friday, throwing a quick three-up, three-down sixth inning with a strikeout. The right-handed reliever underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in March 2019, then was given an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program.

• Liover Peguero, the Pirates’ No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has arrived at camp, manager Derek Shelton confirmed on Friday. The shortstop had been delayed due to travel issues.

• Travis Swaggerty, Pittsburgh's No. 7 prospect, got his first hit of Spring Training on Friday, rocketing a single with a 100 mph exit velocity in the ninth inning.

Up next
The Pirates will send Cody Ponce to the mound to face the Yankees at LECOM Park on Saturday, with first pitch slated for 1:05 p.m. ET. Former Bucs pitcher Jameson Taillon will get the start for the Yankees. He was traded to New York for four prospects in January. The game will be available on MLB Audio and on KDKA 100.1 FM and 1020 AM in Pittsburgh.