Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Niese's Pirates debut comes vs. Wacha, Cards

After opening a new Major League season, the Cardinals and Pirates will return to action on Tuesday in the first night game of 2016 at PNC Park. It's the setting in which Jonathon Niese will make his Pittsburgh debut, as well.
Swapped for Pirates lifer Neil Walker -- and, fittingly, taking his No. 18 -- this past offseason, Niese will make his first career start out of a Mets uniform. The December trade that landed him in the Pirates' rotation ended his 11-year tenure in New York's organization.
Things did not go so smoothly for Niese this spring, however. He allowed four earned runs in three of his four Grapefruit League starts, and, in total, gave up 14 on 18 hits over 15 spring innings.
Michael Wacha, Tuesday's scheduled starter for the Cardinals, had a similarly uneven spring. But after allowing eight earned runs over his first four spring starts (12 2/3 innings), Wacha closed Grapefruit League play with five strong scoreless innings. He credited a mechanical tweak for the improved command his last time out.
Things to know about the game
• Gregory Polanco (6-for-12) and Andrew McCutchen (8-for-19) have had notable career success against Wacha, who is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven regular-season games (six starts) vs. the Pirates.
• Manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates won't have a designated seventh-inning reliever. Pittsburgh could use setup man Tony Watson in the seventh, Hurdle said, and former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz will have "every opportunity" to pitch late in games.

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