Blue Jays bring double trouble for first spring win

Pillar plates run on one of three club two-baggers, plays superb D; Stroman sets stingy tone

Blue Jays bring double trouble for first spring win

BRADENTON, FLA. -- Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar and Dioner Navarro all had doubles as the Blue Jays came away with a 4-1 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon at McKechnie Field.

Pittsburgh's lone run came in the second inning, when Jordy Mercer scored on a wild pitch by left-hander Rob Rasmussen. Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman was charged with the unearned run, and Pirates right-handed starter Gerrit Cole allowed one run over his two innings with three strikeouts.


The Blue Jays scored all of the runs they would need in the fourth inning off right-hander Vance Worley. Navarro led off the inning with a double to left, and Worley compounded his issues by hitting Daric Barton with a pitch.

Pillar followed two batters later with a double to left. Navarro scored, and Barton advanced to third, where he would later score on a grounder by Ramon Santiago. Worley was charged with both of the runs on two hits, and he took the loss after his two innings of work.


Maturing prospect: Pompey might have started last year in Class A Advanced Dunedin of the Blue Jays' system, but he has a pretty advanced approach at the plate for someone who is 21 years old. Pompey displayed that skill set during the first inning, when he fell behind in the count but fought off a tough pitch on the outside corner and sent it the opposite way. The ball dropped a couple of feet inside the left-field line for a ground-rule double to set up the first run of the game. Pompey later added a single to right and is now 3-for-5 with a run scored, a stolen base and a walk in two games this spring.

Charge up a new battery: Cole started the game for Pittsburgh, and started off with a new catcher: Francisco Cervelli. The results were solid, with Cole retiring the last four men of his two-inning stint, three of them on strikes, and he hit it off with his new batterymate, who is in the glare of the spotlight replacing Russell Martin. "Throwing to [Cervelli] was good," he said. "I had told him I wasn't going to shake him off at all, and we'll just see how it went."

Pillar of strength: Pillar had himself quite the day both in the field and at the plate for Toronto. One day after hitting a two-run shot against the Pirates, the third-year outfielder followed up that performance with an RBI double in a two-run fourth inning. Pillar later added a head-first diving catch in left field to take a hit away from Steve Lombardozzi. The 26-year-old is the early favorite to start in left field until Michael Saunders is able to return from a left knee injury. After that, Pillar likely will become the fourth outfielder, but he should receive competition from Ezequiel Carrera, Chris Dickerson and possibly Dayan Viciedo.

Making friends with McKechnie mound? The last time Worley toed the rubber at the Pirates' spring home, he was doing it in a Minnesota uniform, and the results were ugly: He was battered by the Bucs for five runs and seven hits in 1 1/3 innings on March 7, 2014. On the near-one year anniversary of that debacle, Worley allowed a couple of runs in two innings but proclaimed everything in order. "Nothing was working last year. I couldn't get strike one, or strike two or strike three," he said. "Everything felt good this time. Just a typical first-time outing, trying to get the ball over and keep it down."

Alvarez shifts into gear: In the second inning, Pedro Alvarez jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Stroman and ripped it sharply to left field -- nowhere close to any of the Toronto infielders who were into the usual shift against the lefty slugger. Alvarez has three hits in the first two exhibitions -- each to left. "He's been working hard at being a better, more complete hitter," manager Clint Hurdle said of Alvarez's conspicuously new approach. "We told him to be cognizant of hitting that fastball away early in the count. He's shown a very nice approach the last couple of days, covering the ball, hitting it where it's pitched."


• "He's fine. No big deal. Nothing to worry about." -- Andrew McCutchen, after walking off the field alongside Josh Harrison, who rolled his left ankle and had to come out of the game after one inning

• "I was excited, it's something I've been looking forward to for a long time. It's just good to get back out there and compete against another team. It was a little rough in the first inning, but my body feels great, my arm feels great and I was pretty pleased with it." -- Stroman on making his spring debut


• Among rookies last season, Stroman tied for fourth in wins (11) despite ranking 10th in starts. His .625 winning percentage as a rookie starter is the highest in Blue Jays history ahead of Gustavo Chacin (2005) and Ricky Romero (2009), who both posted a .591 mark at 13-9.

• Pirates pitchers, after ranking second in the Majors by hitting 78 batters last season, have plunked three batters in the first two exhibitions.


Left-hander Daniel Norris will make his season debut when the Blue Jays visit the Orioles for a rare evening game during Spring Training. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday and will be available on MLB.TV. This will mark the beginning of a very important Grapefruit League season for Norris, who is competing alongside Marco Estrada for the final spot in the rotation. Chad Jenkins, Jeff Francis, Cory Burns, Roberto Osuna, Preston Guilmet, Colt Hynes and Juan Oramas also are scheduled to pitch.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.