Notes: Frazier on a roll; JT's spring debut

March 3rd, 2021

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For the second time in two games, showed he’s still got the same pop in his bat.

Frazier went deep in the Pirates’ 6-1 loss to the Tigers in five innings at LECOM Park on Tuesday, launching a solo swat to deep left field in the fourth inning on a 1-0 sinker thrown by Erasmo Ramírez.

“He can hit the fastball,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “Guy tried to run a fastball back on his hands, and he just clipped it and got the barrel out front.”

In the Pirates’ spring opener vs. the Orioles on Saturday, Frazier hit a solo homer off Isaac Mattson in the fifth inning.

Frazier also showed a glimpse of how well his transition to first base could go, starting a 3-6-3 double play in the second inning with a perfect throw to second base. The 35-year-old has played 113 games at first in his career, but he hasn’t seen more than 20 games there in a season since 2017.

“Nice play on that, able to get back to the bag,” Shelton said. “We’ve been working specifically on that play and him getting back. He did a nice job, and [shortstop ] made a nice turn.”

With set to get everyday reps at third base, it’s likely Frazier will stick at first base and platoon with . But since he's on a Minor League deal, Frazier said on Saturday that he’s working to make the team and just trying to prove he’s healthy and ready to contribute.

“It’s go-time for me,” he said. “It’s one of those things like when you were younger, trying to make the team -- which I am, just a little older now. When I get an opportunity to stay in there and go all nine, I will.”

Oliva scratched from start
was pre-emptively removed from Tuesday’s game with lower back tightness. He was replaced in center field by .

“His back tightened up during BP,” Shelton said. “We are fairly conservative at the beginning of camp, which we should be.”

Oliva joins a short list of Pirates with complications keeping them off the field. has yet to play a game after tweaking his groin, and is not in camp due to travel issues. is the only other active player dealing with setbacks, but he is DHing while Pittsburgh monitors his throwing after right elbow surgery performed in September.

Alford, who is also competing for time in center field, showed his swing was healthy with a homer against the Blue Jays on Monday.

Brubaker gets first turn
made his first spring start on Tuesday, pitching one inning with a strikeout and a solo homer allowed. No one is happy to give up a home run, but the pitch was in the zone, which was a focus for Brubaker.

“Building off of last year, [I'm focused on] just getting ahead,” he said. “Attacking hitters, not trying to get too far outside the zone, just trying to stay more north-south instead of trying to get east-west on it.”

Brubaker is one of a handful of Pirates competing for a spot in the back end of the rotation, along with guys like , and . Brubaker is working to improve his breaking balls -- a curveball and a slider -- in order to make them two distinct offerings, but with only 13 pitches under his belt on Tuesday, he’ll work to refine that in later outings.

For now, Brubaker is simply getting his feet under him and working to make his aggressive mentality the new normal as he pushes to be a starter.

“I’m just trying to be myself,” he said. “That’s all I’m doing. Just go out there and attack hitters how I know how to attack, and then let the decisions be made by the staff.”

Pirates welcome back fans to LECOM Park
For the first time since March 12, 2020, the Pirates had a home crowd.

LECOM Park welcomed 1,507 fans on Tuesday, with the park greenlighted to open at 25 percent capacity for Grapefruit League games. Masks were required of all visitors -- who sat in pods scattered around the stadium -- but the loud cheers were the same as any you’d hear during a typical Major League game.

“The last time we had fans in this ballpark, it seems like forever ago,” Shelton said. “It was nice to see a lot of black and gold out there.”

“Just to have fans in the stands, actually real crowd noise instead of the audio crowd noise in the stadiums, it felt good,” Brubaker said.