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Dumatrait will force tough decision

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BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates will have an interesting dilemma once left-hander Phil Dumatrait is ready to rejoin the starting rotation.

Dumatrait, recovering from shoulder surgery, is about two weeks away from being ready to pitch in a spring training game. Until he does that, Dumatrait can’t begin to get on track for the regular season.

He expects to start the season on the disabled list, with an eye toward rejoining the starting rotation in mid- to late-April.

“That might be the plan,” Dumatrait said. “They want me to get stretched out as far as possible, and that’s not possible in just two weeks.”

It wouldn’t do Dumatrait much good to begin the year in the bullpen. And he is out of options, so the Pirates likely would lose him to a waiver claim if they tried to send him to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Putting Dumatrait on the DL would buy the Pirates some time to make a difficult choice.

The Pirates will head north with a rotation of Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny and either Ross Ohlendorf or Jeff Karstens. Add Dumatrait to the mix and that’s seven starters for five spots.

Clearly, someone — two someones — will have to get in line … or get outta town.

Maholm and Snell are no-brainer choices for the rotation. Gorzelanny has good stuff, and his revamped attitude this spring is a plus. Duke is a trooper and a hard worker, plus the Pirates have $2.2 million invested in him this year.

Ohlendorf has looked sharp. Karstens looked great at times last season, including a near-perfect game against Arizona.

Dumatrait is a lefty, can throw hard, likes to work inside and is a reliable first-pitch-strike thrower — all of which wins him points with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.

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