Iwamura loses Shikoku battle


BRADENTON, Fla. — Aki Iwamura went 0 for 3, including a strikeout, today against Braves right-hander Kenshin Kawakami. It was the first time they had faced each other in the major leagues.

“I won the Shikoku competition,” Kawakami said.

Iwamura and Kawakami both come from Shikoku Island of Japan, southwest of Tokyo. They played against each other in the Japanese Central League before coming to America.

– Charlie Morton was not dismayed after allowing five runs on eight hits in five innings against the Braves.

“I guess it was pitch selection,” Morton said. “For the most part, I was throwing strikes with all my pitches. I bounced a lot of curveballs, but other than that I was in the zone.”

Morton threw a lot of sliders, a pitch he took out of his arsenal last year. “I’m still re-learning it, basically,” he said.

Manager John Russell gave Morton some props.

“He was good,” Russell said. “A couple of wind-blown balls hurt him. He’s working on his changeup and he threw some good ones to Nate (McLouth). His slider was very good and he was very explosive with his fastball. The curveball took a few innings to get going. He did a good job of continuing to work his curveball and it did get better as the game went on.”

– Delwyn Young played the final three innings at third base. It was his first career appearances at the position.

– McLouth, a Gold Glove winner for the Pirates in 2008, made a great defensive play in the fourth. With a runner at second and one out, he made a fine running catch of Ryan Doumit’s rocket shot to deep center.

In the fifth, Andrew McCutchen, who took over in center for the Pirates after McLouth was traded, also turned in a gem. Yunel Escobar hit a looper and McCutchen made a diving, tumbling catch.

– The Los Angeles Dodgers announced right-hander Vicente Padilla will start the season-opener April 5 against Pirates lefty Zach Duke. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley will pitch the next two games of the series for the Dodgers.

– Duke (6 innings/85 pitches) will start tomorrow against the Astros in Kissimmee. Jeff Karstens, Jack Taschner and Javier Lopez also will pitch.

– Position players who will not make the trip to Kissimmee: Doumit, Ronny Cedeno, Iwamura, Andy LaRoche, Ryan Church (fractured fingertip) and McCutchen.

– Daniel McCutchen (5-6 innings/85 pitches) will start Saturday vs. the Blue Jays: Evan Meek, Brendan Donnelly, Jeremy Powell and Jeff Karstens also are scheduled to pitch.

– Joel Hanrahan (elbow) will throw one inning/20 pitches Friday in a minor league game at Pirate City.