Thursday, February 26, 2009

Prospect makes splash in exhibition win over Phils

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a second baseman for 2009, but they might not for 2010.

Thus, prospect Shelby Ford realizes he is in his first major-league spring training camp as a non-roster invitee to make an impression for the future.

Ford made the quite the splash Wednesday as his three-run home run sparked a four-run fourth inning that broke a 1-1 tie and powered the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 8-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in an exhibition opener at McKechnie Field.

The Phillies were playing their first game since winning last year’s World Series.

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez could become a free agent after this season if the Pirates do not pick up his contract option for 2010. Ford is the heir apparent, as Baseball America ranks him as the eighth-best prospect in the organization.

“I’m still taking this seriously,” Ford said after admitting his chances of making the opening-day roster are miniscule. “I want to do well. I want people to know that I can help in the future.”

Ford, 24, was limited to 81 games at Class AA Altoona last season because of back and hip injuries, hitting .285 with four home runs, 32 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.

“Shelby has got a lot of tools and the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter at second base is a nice bonus,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “What we want to see from Shelby this spring is for him to find a good routine that can keep him healthy. Injuries are really the only thing holding him back.”

Game details: Sanchez went 2-for-2 with an RBI double before Ford pinch hit for him in the fourth inning and homered off Joe Bisenius. Craig Monroe and Brandon Moss both drew a pair of walks.

The Pirates used nine relief pitchers in order to get their starting pitchers set on a regular schedule. Chris Bootcheck, Matt Capps, Donnie Veal, Ronald Uviedo, Juan Mateo, Craig Hansen and Even Meek each pitched one scoreless inning while Romulo Sanchez and Jesse Chavez both gave up one run in one inning.

Veal got credit for the win. As a Rule 5 Draft pick, he must stay on the major-league roster all season or be offered back to the Chicago Cubs for $25,000.

“I was a little nervous when I first got out there, but I realized I just had a job to do,” Veal said.


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