• While the Pirates host the Phillies and start Brandon Cumpton at McKechnie Field on Friday, their Opening Day starter, Francisco Liriano, will go four innings (or 70 pitches) in a Minor League start at Pirate City.
• The Jeff Branson Factor? Starling Marte (five strikeouts in 20 at-bats) and Pedro Alvarez (four in 22) have both cut down their strikeout rates midway through Spring Training, likely a reflection of the hitting coach's sermons on better anticipating how pitchers work them.
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.