Pirates split pair of spring games

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Juan Nicasio kept up his shutout streak, striking out eight in five innings as the split-squad Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Minnesota Twins 2-0 Monday.

Nicasio has not allowed a run in 15 innings over his five Grapefruit League starts this spring. He gave up five hits and walked two in this outing.

Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson also had a strong outing, going 4 1/3 innings, giving up one unearned run.

A single by Nicasio helped set up a run in the third, which scored on a two-out throwing error by third baseman Eduardo Nunez.


BRADENTON, Fla. — Hector Olivera extended his hitting streak to seven games and drove in three runs as the Braves roughed up opening day starter Francisco Liriano and the split-squad Pirates 7-3.

Liriano hit a home run, but departed after 3 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits and four earned runs, with one walk and five strikeouts.

“Didn’t have any fastball command today,” Liriano said. “It kept sailing all over the place, up and down.”

“That’s what we’re here for, to get better at things we need to work on. Hopefully next time will be a lot better. . One more start to get myself ready for opening day,” he said.

Olivera singled twice and has hit safely in 15 of his past 16 games.

Nick Swisher doubled twice and drove in two runs. The batters in the middle of the Atlanta lineup — Adonis Garcia, Swisher, Jeff Francoeur and Olivera — had two hits apiece.

“We swung the bats early, got some runs,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “It was a good day for the Braves.”

Pirates right-hander Daniel Bard, a minor leaguer trying to make his way back to the majors, allowed three runs on three hits and two walks without recording an out in the fourth. Bard was Boston’s setup man from 2009-11.

After navigating around some trouble early, Liriano allowed five consecutive hits in a three-run third. In three Grapefruit League starts this spring, Liriano has given up 12 hits and six runs in 8 2/3 innings.

“Frankie’s not a guy you’re going to lose any sleep over,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ll give him the ball again and see how he does.”

Infielder Jung Ho Kang (knee) faced live pitching the past two days at the Pirates’ minor league facility but has not yet progressed to the baserunning stage of rehab. General manager Neal Huntington said Kang still is expected to return to the lineup in mid- to late April.

“If he’s ready earlier, that’s fantastic,” Huntington said. “If he’s ready later, we’re in a good spot still.”

After an off-day today, Jeff Locke is expected to start Wednesday for the Pirates against Baltimore at McKechnie Field. Locke (0-3, 7.07 ERA) is in a three-man competition for the final two spots in the Pirates’ rotation.