Miley flashes midseason form against Pirates

Miley flashes midseason form against Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Boston's Blake Tekotte singled with two outs in the ninth to drive in the tying run, as the Red Sox and Pirates played to a 2-2 tie in Grapefruit League action on Saturday.

Boston starter Wade Miley blanked the Bucs through five efficient innings, allowing two hits and walking two, while fanning five.

Francisco Liriano, the Bucs' Opening Day starter, matched Wiley for four innings, blanking Boston on two hits. But three walks and six strikeouts upped his pitch count to 81 and shortened his outing.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Rusney's red-hot start: Center fielder Rusney Castillo is certainly making up for lost time. After clubbing a home run in his Grapefruit League debut on Friday, Castillo ripped a single to center and clubbed a triple off the wall in right in his first start on Saturday. Castillo, who was sidelined with a left oblique injury, went 2-for-3 and played five innings.

Though Castillo figures into the long-term plans for the Red Sox, there is a logjam in the outfield that could squeeze him out of the early-season mix. Mookie Betts, who has had a brilliant camp, is the favorite to start in center field. And Shane Victorino, coming off back surgery but healthy at this point in camp, is projected to play right. Castillo could start the season at Triple-A, but if he keeps up his current hitting pace, he will make the decision a tough one for the Red Sox.

Castillo's triple

Bradley's improved stroke pays off: Prior to the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke of the improvements Jackie Bradley Jr. made in shortening his swing. The results were evident when the left-handed hitting Bradley smoked a single up the middle and worked a full-count walk against Liriano, the tough Pirates lefty. Later in the game, Bradley belted a double off the wall in right against righty Mark Melancon.

Much like Castillo, Bradley's path to the Major League roster could be blocked by Boston's overwhelming depth in the outfield. But with performances like this one, Bradley could increase his trade value and open up a better opportunity for himself.

Bradley Jr. on Spring Training

Marte on center stage: Playing in sidelined Andrew McCutchen's spot, Starling Marte has continued the remarkable offensive show he first staged last season when the Buccos' regular center fielder was on the DL. After going 2-for-3, he is batting .550 (11-for-20) this spring as a center fielder. Marte hit .358 (24-for-67) in McCutchen's shoes last summer.

"Two-headed" first baseman doing well: The Bucs' position to watch -- first base -- has been something to see. After Corey Hart went 1-for-3 with an RBI on Saturday, he and Pedro Alvarez are a combined 13-for-29 (.448), with three homers and 10 RBIs in Grapefruit League play.

Hart's diving catch

QUOTABLE

"I don't even pay much attention to it. I just go out there. I really don't feel that I'm working that fast. I just get the ball and get back on the mound. That's kind of my philosophy. My college coach was huge on it. He never wanted us to turn our back on the catcher. From my freshman year in college, we just had that in our head and it stuck with me." -- Miley on his fast pace

Miley on his performance

"Your engine is your pitching staff. It makes the game easier when you don't have to score seven, eight runs to have a chance to win." -- Hurdle on the fine command Pirates starting pitchers have exhibited all spring.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

• Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Miley fared so well in Sunday's start against the Pirates. In lifetime regular-season action against the Bucs, the lefty is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA.

• Although both were pitching shutouts, Liriano needed nearly twice as many pitches (61) to get through three innings as did Miley (32) -- and wound up throwing 81 over four innings compared to his counterpart's 56 over five.

WHAT'S NEXT

Knuckleballer Steven Wright draws the start for the Red Sox in Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET home game against the Phillies in place of right-hander Joe Kelly, who will miss one start due to right biceps soreness. Position players Pablo Sandoval, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez should all be in the starting lineup. Clay Buchholz, who is likely to pitch against the Phillies on Opening Day, will pitch in a Minor League game on Sunday.

Charlie Morton, whose last outing was in a Minor League sim game at Pirate City, is due to make his first Grapefruit League start in 11 days, when the Bucs travel to Kissimmee to meet the Astros in a 1:05 p.m. ET game. John Holdzkom is also scheduled to pitch in his ongoing bullpen battle with Arquimedes Caminero. Righty Roberto Hernandez makes a return start against the Bucs, to whom he allowed three runs over three innings in his last start on Tuesday.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.