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Duke stumbles, but stays on track

TAMPA — After cruising through much of spring training, today Zach Duke finally struggled.

Duke worked 3 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs on nine hits. He walked three and struck out one.

“It was a battle, it seemed, every at-bat,” Duke said. “The main thing is I got my work in and nothing’s hurt.”

Manager John Russell found some bright spots.

“He’s been throwing the ball very well all spring,” Russell said. “He didn’t really have his command. His sinker away was jumping at the plate just a little bit more. I still like the way he was throwing inside. His offspeed pitches looked good.”

• The Yankees took an 8-2 lead with a seven-run fourth inning. The Pirates countered with six runs, including back-to-back homers by Ryan Doumit (a three-run shot) and Adam LaRoche, off A.J. Burnett in the fifth inning.

“It would’ve been easy to get down after they scored seven,” Russell said. “We came right back. That was nice.”

Russell said Doumit, who’s batting .300, is starting to come around at the plate.

“Early in spring, he worked a lot on his right-handed swing,” Russell said. “He knew his left-handed swing would come around, and it’s starting to do that now.”

Eric Hinske hit a solo homer in the second inning.

• Craig Hansen worked two scoreless innings, lowering his spring ERA to 3.65. He’s been scored upon just once in 12 outings.

“Today was better,” Russell said. “His command was better. That’s a good sign for him. Joe (Kerrigan, pitching coach) noticed that out of his slide step his mechanics were better, so we used it a lot with men on base. We might start using it more often. He was able to attack the zone.”

• The only position players who did not make the trip were Jack Wilson (knee), Craig Monroe and Ramon Vazquez.

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