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Luis Ortiz Makes Strong First Impression in Battle for Rotation Spot



Pittsburgh Pirates, Luis Ortiz

BRADENTON, Fla. — There was only one live bullpen at Pittsburgh Pirates spring training on Monday, but it sure was an important one to watch.

The Prates have two open rotation spots and a handful of guys will battle during camp to fill those spots. Included in the mix of pitchers competing to earn a place in the starting rotation is right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz.

All eyes were on Ortiz on Monday during his live session at Pirate City. He faced four batters — Oneil Cruz (twice), Bryan Reynolds and Jared Triolo. Considering it was his first one of the spring, things couldn’t have gone much better.

“I thought he moved down the mound well,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He threw a couple good changeups and the sinker had some action to it. Talking to Bryan, Tri and Cruzy about it, it seemed like the ball had good action to it, and that’s the most important thing.”

Ortiz’s changeup looked particularly sharp on the day. The 25-year-old featured it multiple times throughout his outing and it looked better than it has in the past.

Developing his changeup into a more reliable and consistent pitch could go a long way in Ortiz’s development. He possesses a lively fastball and a slider capable of generating swings and misses. His changeup, however, has lagged behind.

He certainly showed a step in the right direction on Monday.

“He looked really good. His changeup was a lot better,” said Cruz, who struck out looking his first time against Ortiz. “That’s one of the things he was working on. Of all the times I’ve faced Luis, today I saw him in a really good spot.”

Cruz bounced one towards the second baseman’s position in his second at-bat against Ortiz. Reynolds walked and Triolo put the ball in play.

Ortiz will be among fellow pitchers Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, Bailey Falter, Chase Anderson and Josh Fleming in competition to head to Miami with the Pirates for opening day.

He knows it’s not up to him, but Ortiz plans on doing everything he can to have the decision go his way when the time comes.

“Continue to work hard,” Ortiz said through interpreter and Pirates’ coach Stephen Morales. “Just make sure I put myself in a good spot. I know it’s a competition. Just be myself, execute my pitches and somebody else will make a decision.”

Luis Ortiz has something to prove following a disappointing showing last season. At the beginning of the year, Ortiz saw his prospect status rise and he was considered one of the Pirates’ top pitching prospects.

The recognition didn’t translate to results while in the big leagues. In 18 appearances/15 starts with the Pirates in 2023, Ortiz went 5-5 with a 4.78 ERA. He only struck out 59 batters and walked 48 in 86.2 innings pitched.

As is the case with all adversity, there are lessons to be learned. Ortiz certainly learned his from his first extended look with the Pirates.

“Pound the strike zone, execute pitches,” he said. “You have to do that because now you’re getting yourself into deep trouble in the big leagues [if you don’t].”

The competition for the final two spots in the starting rotation has barely commenced, but if the first audition from Luis Ortiz is a sign of what’s to come, he could come out on top.

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