BRADENTON, Fla. — Johan Oviedo pitched four solid innings in what might have been his last opportunity to win a spot in the Pirates’ rotation as Pittsburgh lost to the Boston Red Sox 7-4 on Thursday in a Grapefruit League game at LECOM Park.
Following opener Duane Underwood Jr., Oviedo allowed two runs on four hits while striking out seven and walking none. He threw 40 of his 55 pitches for strikes and retired his first 10 batters.
It was the most strikeouts in an exhibition game by a Pirates relief pitcher since Phil Irwin had seven in 2013.
The two runs came on a home run by Ronaldo Hernandez.
“I definitely feel good that I went only once (to a) deep count, 3-2, so that’s something to feel good about because I’m trying to get quick outs,” Oviedo said. “I definitely feel good with the results. (Hernandez) got a good swing on slider in the middle. Other than that, I felt like I executed my pitches pretty well.”
It appears Oviedo and right-hander Vince Velasquez are competing to be the fifth starter. Velasquez has the inside track, though, after being signed as a free agent in the offseason.
Velasquez has given eight runs in nine innings this spring. In 14.2 innings, Oviedo has allowed eight runs.
Underwood pitched one inning and gave up a two-run homer to Bobby Dalbec.
Bryan Reynolds had three hits for the Pirates and Ji-Hwan Bae added two. Rodolfo Castro hit a two-run home run.
Canaan Smith-Njigba doubled in a run for the Pirates for his 10th RBI of the spring, tying Travis Swaggerty for the team lead. Swaggerty has also reached base in eight straight games after drawing a walk.
Left-hander Rob Zastryzny struck out the side in the ninth inning. He has allowed just two unearned runs in 6.1 innings in Grapefruit League play.
The Pirates play the Detroit Tigers at 6:05 p.m. on Friday in Lakeland with Roansy Contreras pitching against left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. The game will be broadcast on 93.7 The Fan and the Pirates Radio Network.