Shreve, who joined the Pirates this spring on a Minor League contract, decided to find a silver lining in the experience, working on his mental game while he waited for his next opportunity.
The left-hander said he worked to find a more positive mindset on the mound. For example, with men on base, instead of thinking: ‘What should I avoid here? How can I keep them from scoring?’ Shreve would think, ‘I’m going to attack this hitter and get him out. I know what I need to do.’
“When I’m about to step on the mound to face a hitter, you’ll see that I’ll take a deep breath,” Shreve said. “I’m just talking to myself, pumping myself up. Thinking of positive outcomes. I do that all day, basically, and I think it truly helps.”
It’s paid off as he tries to crack the Pirates’ Opening Day roster. Shreve, who along with Sam Howard are the main lefty options for the club, had one bad outing against the Orioles in which he allowed three runs on four hits. Outside of that, he’s given up three hits in eight games without yielding a run.
Shreve’s refreshed mentality and willingness to attack rather than being picky has been key, he said.
“[Pitching coach Oscar Marin] put up a paper the other day showing 0-1 counts, how many times you’re in a 1-1 count. I think I was like 70 percent, 0-1, and 80 percent, 1-1.” Shreve said. “That’s what I wanted to focus on coming into camp was just attacking the hitters and getting ‘em out. I think that’s what I’ve done.
Though Shreve’s roster spot is not secure, Pirates manager Derek Shelton said the pitcher transcends the limited LOOGY — left-handed one-out guy — role that has largely been muted due to the three-batter minimum. Thanks to some reliable offspeed offerings, including a split-finger fastball that Shreve throws more than a third of the time, Shelton views Shreve as being very useful if he lands in Pittsburgh.
“To get right-handers out for a left-hander, you either have to have heavy, heavy velocity or you have to have the ability to do something unique, like he does with the splitter,” Shelton said.
• Adam Frazier logged two more hits from the leadoff spot in Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Orioles, raising his Spring Training batting average to .553 with six doubles, two triples and two home runs. However, with Kevin Newman hitting .714 without a strikeout in 34 plate appearances this spring, Shelton said he could see using Newman in the leadoff spot some this season.
“I think he definitely has earned some consideration. I don’t know who I’m going to hit there,” Shelton said. “ … What goes into consideration is the matchups, the flow of the lineup, the back and forth of the right and left because of the three-batter [minimum], but normally, it’s different kinds of matchup [and] pitcher types are the big things that go into it.”
• Mitch Keller made his final regular-season tuneup with Sunday’s start. While he limited the O’s to one hit and no runs in three innings, command issues led to four walks and a 71-pitch outing.
Shelton said he’s seen firsthand how hard Keller has been working to get ready for the 2021 season after inconsistency led to a wide range of results in his first two seasons.
“I know he and [Oscar] had a good video session,” Shelton said about Keller’s last start. “From talking to both of them — I actually walked past when they were in a conversation about it, listened to them for two or three minutes of it, and it was good.
• Quinn Priester, ranked as the Bucs’ top pitching prospect and the No. 52 overall prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, made his second spring appearance on Sunday. He recorded a couple of outs, but was replaced by Blake Weiman after issuing three walks.
The Pirates play their penultimate Spring Training game at 1:05 p.m. ET on Monday against the Twins at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. Miguel Yajure, who recorded a 4.50 ERA in four spring games, makes his first Grapefruit League start for Pittsburgh. Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez, Chasen Shreve, Chris Stratton and Tyler Bashlor are expected to follow Yajure out of the bullpen. Matt Canterino will start for Minnesota. The game will be broadcast live on AT&T Sportsnet and free on MLB.TV.