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Paul Skenes impresses in brief spring training debut

You know it’s serious when Pirates fans are even angry with team owner Bob Nutting and the powers that be at Major League Baseball for not televising or live-streaming a spring training game.

As if it were that easy to get play-by-play personnel and a camera crew in place in time for an afternoon spring training baseball game in Sarasota, Florida.

Why were Pirates fans so up in arms over not being able to see an ordinary, everyday spring training game?

Because there was nothing ordinary about the Pirates’ “road” date with the Orioles on Thursday afternoon. The fans were up in arms because they wanted to see the magnificent pitching arm of Paul Skenes, the number one pick in the 2023 MLB Draft.

Whether Skenes performs well or not is paramount to the Pirates’ immediate future. If he is the stud everyone hopes he’ll be, Pittsburgh’s professional baseball team should do a lot of damage over the next few years.

How did Skenes do in his debut against the Orioles? He threw 10 pitches in the bottom of the first inning. Three of them topped 100 mph–including one that was clocked at 102 mph. Skenes faced three batters and induced a groundout, a flyout and a pop-up.

And just like that, Skenes’s day was over. No, there wasn’t a strikeout, but it’s sure easy to imagine plenty of them in his future.

It’s an exciting time to be a Pirates fan. Yes, everyone is optimistic during spring training–including managers, coaches, players, fans and even Bob Nutting.

But only one group has the power to turn that spring training optimism into summer and fall ecstasy.

Since a baseball manager’s effectiveness is limited, and since everyone knows it ain’t gonna be Nutting and his checkbook, the only entity Pirates fans can rely on is the players they cheer for.

The Pirates have some good ones now, and Skenes is at the top of the list. He’s currently the third-ranked prospect in all of Major League Baseball. Will he begin the 2024 campaign at the Major League level? I doubt it. I realize this makes fans angry, but the service clock means a lot. If the Pirates delay Skene’s debut for even a month, they’ll buy themselves another year of his services.

If the Pirates can get six years out of Skenes instead of five, they have to do that. There is no way Pittsburgh will be able to afford to keep Skenes if he even comes close to living up to his draft pedigree.

But nothing is stopping the Pirates from winning the World Series while Skenes is here, and that’s why the fans were so eager to see him do his thing on Thursday afternoon.

Again, the players are all Pirates fans have, and they might have a damn good one to cheer for in Paul Skenes.


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