03/10/12 4:15 PM EST
Valencia's blast puts squeeze on Pirates
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
With the Bucs leading, 2-1, left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes retired the first two men before a walk to Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau's single preceded Valencia's first homer of the spring.
The Pirates had taken an early 2-0 lead on Chase d'Arnaud's second-inning sacrifice fly and Casey McGehee's RBI double in the third.
Both of those runs were off Minnesota starter Terry Doyle, who was spared further damage by a bizarre third inning. The first four batters in that frame had back-to-back singles, then back-to-back doubles. Yet, the net result for the Pirates: One run, two outs.
After Nate McLouth led off with a single, he was caught stealing. Yamaico Navarro singled and stopped at third on Rod Barajas' ground-rule double. McGehee's double scored Navarro, but Barajas was tagged out at the plate also trying to score.
"I think the problem today is that I felt too good," Doyle said. "I felt so good, I was overthrowing a little bit -- didn't get the ball down in the zone and couldn't get any sink on my fastball. So I tried to take it a little bit light this past week throwing bullpens, trying to make sure that I felt good. I just have to find that balance of getting my work in and not being tired, but not doing enough and being too fresh, almost."
Erik Bedard was nearly flawless over his three innings of work. The left-hander retired nine of the 10 men he faced, the exception being a two-out single in the first by Willingham.
Bedard, a leading candidate to be the Pirates' Opening Day starter, struck out three without issuing a walk.
Up next: Right-hander Nick Blackburn is set to make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday against the split-squad Yankees at 12:05 p.m. CT at Hammond Stadium. Blackburn has tossed three scoreless innings in two "B" games against the Red Sox this spring. Brian Duensing, Liam Hendriks, Jeff Manship, Tyler Robertson, Brendan Wise and Deolis Guerra are also scheduled to pitch for the Twins. Right-hander Phil Hughes is scheduled to start for the Yankees.
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.