Odorizzi happy with work in strong start

Veteran righty experimenting with off-speed pitches in two-strike counts

Odorizzi happy with work in strong start

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jake Odorizzi held the Pirates to one run on three hits in 3 1/3 innings of work on Friday in the Rays' 4-3 loss at McKechnie Field, but he continued to experience the command issues he encountered in Sunday's start against the Twins.

Not to worry, says the veteran right-hander.

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"I was trying some new stuff today. I was throwing my curveball with two strikes, trying to get a strikeout pitch," said Odorizzi, who threw 30 of his 54 pitches for strikes while walking two and striking out three. "They laid off those but I'm just trying to experiment with off-speed pitches with two-strike counts, and I think that's kind of driving my pitch count up a little bit."

Pittsburgh's lone run off Odorizzi came via the long ball, when Andrew McCutchen, who fanned to end the first inning, led off the fourth by launching a first-pitch curveball to left field to put the Pirates up, 1-0.

"That's the first time I gave up a home run on a curveball in the big leagues, so not a bad guy to give it up to," shrugged Odorizzi. "I'm trying to work on my curve -- I threw it good. It was the exact one I wanted to throw 0-0, right down the middle, and he saw it good."

Despite throwing first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 13 batters he faced, Odorizzi pitched to five three-ball counts on the day.

Outlook: Odorizzi, SP, TB

"It's still early, I don't really have everything down," Odorizzi said. "Being a little too fine, which at this point is probably not what you want to do, but with the competitiveness in us, we want to make that perfect pitch, so I think that equates to my three-ball counts."

The Rays turned in the defensive gem of the day behind Odorizzi in the second when, with one out and a runner on first, shifted second baseman Brad Miller smothered a hot shot off the bat of John Jaso and flipped to third baseman Richie Shaffer, who whirled at second and fired a strike to Logan Morrison for a seldom-seen, 4-5-3 double play.

Rays turn double play

"I wanted to throw [Jaso] a splitter down, let him swing and roll over it, and that's exactly what happened, but the double play itself was pretty incredible," beamed Odorizzi.

"You had a couple of Clemson Tigers going at it right there, and for both guys being out of position, that was one heck of a turn. I think we're all going to be in heaven as a pitching staff if we have those plays behind us. It was a great turn all around."

Odorizzi helped himself in the first inning by picking off Pirates second baseman Alen Hanson, who had led things off with a walk. For perspective, Odorizzi has recorded just one career pickoff in 374 1/3 Major League innings.

"We just were working on pickoffs and rundowns yesterday," said Odorizzi. "It was my fault that he was on, and I'm glad I got to take him off myself."

Michael Kolligian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.