Dotel makes progress


TAMPA — Three relievers recovering from injuries — Octavio Dotel (oblique), Joel Hanrahan (elbow) and Wil Ledezma (shoulder) — threw duirng workouts this morning at McKechnie Field.

Dotel threw a 30-pitch side session, his first time off the mound since Feb. 21, and reported no problems. Dotel will throw a bullpen session Thursday.

Hanrahan streched his long toss out to 90 feet. There’s still no firm timetable for when he will get on a mound. Ledezma, who’s been out all spring, is working in the bullpen and told me he is “close” to being game-ready.

Today’s lineups:

Pirates: 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2, Ronnie Cedeno ss, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Andy LaRoche 3b, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Bobby Crosby dh, 8. Delwyn Young 2b, 9. Jason Jaramillo c. Charlie Morton rhp

Yankees (Hey, didn’t we just see these guys?): 1. Derek Jeter ss, 2. Nick Johnson dh, 3. Jorge Posada c, 4. Alex Rodriguez 3b, 5. Curtis Granderson cf, 6. Nick Swisher rf, 7. Randy Winn lf, 8. Juan Miranda 1b, 9. Kevin Russo 2b. CC Sabathia lhp

Pitchers for Wednesday night’s game:

Pirates: Zach Duke (50 pitches), Daniel McCutchen (45), Vinnie Chulk, Brendan Donnelly, Chris Jakubauskas.

Orioles: RHP Brad Bergesen will start for Baltimore.


Aceves, Yanks dominate Bucs


BRADENTON, Fla. — It’s a good thing the Pirates aren’t in the AL East. If they were, they’d see a lot more of Alfredo Aceves.

Monday, Aceves, who’s considered an outsider in the battle for the Yankees’ No. 5 starter job, pitched four perfect innings in a 6-0 victory against the Pirates. Aceves struck out three and threw just 36 pitches.

“He throws a lot of strikes,” Yanks shortstop Derek Jeter said. “He doesn’t really fall behind guys. It’s makes it fun to play behind him because he keeps you on your toes.”

The Pirates managed just on hit — Steve Pearce’s fifth-inning single — against Aceves and three of New York’s B-list relievers.

Paul Maholm was bounced after giving up two runs on three hits in two innings. “”I didn’t do myself any favors by falling behind almost every guy that came up there in the first,” Maholm said. “I had too much energy and was trying to overthrow. My mechanics were just off and I didn’t feel like the rhythm was there.”

– Brandon Jones, who’s been hampered by a sore knee, made his first game appearance of the spring. Jones was the designated hitter and went 0 for 3.

– In today’s other split-squad game, the Pirates blew a two-run lead and lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, in 10 innings. Joe Dillon doubled off reliever Jeff Sues, then Fernando Perez hit a two-out, game-winning single. The Rays tied the game at 3 in the eighth by scoring two runs off right-hander Evan Meek.

In the fourth inning, Jose Tabata tripled and scored on Pedro Alvarez’s infield single. Alvarez tripled for the second game in a row, smoking a 410-foot shot which short-hopped off the center field fence in the seventh inning. Two batters later, Brian Friday hit a 390-foot homer to left-center.

Brad Lincoln pitched the first two innings. He allowed one run on two hits, walked three and struck out one. “I was able to keep the ball down, and when I missed, it was down,” he said. “I had some control issues, and the result were the walks. I have to limit those. I’m pretty good at that, but today I got away from it. I’m got caught up in the moment a bit too much, but I limited the damage. Other than that, I felt good out there. I felt energized. I’m happy where I’m at.” Lincoln said he threw three changeups, two for strikes.

– Position players who will not make the trip Tuesday to Tampa to play the Yankees: Ryan Doumit, Erik Kratz, Aki Iwamura, Ramon Vazquez, Ryan Church, Brian Myrow, Brandon Moss, Jon Van Every.


Kratz constructs a career


BRADENTON, Fla. — Catcher Erik Kratz is a bit of a throwback-type player. Friendly guy, no-nonsense approach, plays because he loves the game despite never yet spending a day in the majors. Kratz and his wife and raising two son on his minor league salary, so he works a regular-guy job in the offseason.

Last year, he worked in construction. “I really enjoy it,” Kratz said. “I enjoy working outside.” He laughed when I asked if he ever accidentally dropped a brick or a hammer or something from 12 stories up. “No, but there was the drill story,” he said. At the end of the day, a co-worker asked Kratz to toss down a drill, fitted with a paddle bit. The guy caught it — but in the process pressed the power button. The drill churned up the guy’s shirt, trapping his hand so he couldn’t take his finger off trigger. Eventually, they were able to cut the power. “I didn’t get fired or anything,” Kratz said. “We all got a pretty good laugh out of it.”

There’ll be more on Kratz’s frustrating, eight-year journey through the minor leagues in Tuesday’s Trib.

– Closer Octavio Dotel is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday. It will be his first time on a mound since Feb. 21, when he sustained a strained oblique. “I feel good. I’m ready to go,” Dotel told me. Will it be an early-morning workout? “Oh, no, no no,” Dotel said, laughing. “I’m not a morning person.”

Lineups for today’s games:

Yankees: 1. Derek Jeter ss, 2. Curtis Granderson cf, 3. Randy Winn rf, 4. Alex Rodriguez 3b, 5. Juan Miranda 1b, 6. Mike Rivera c, 7. Jamie Hoffmann lf, 8. P.J. Plittere dh, 9. Reegie Corona 2b. Alfredo Aceves rhp

Pirates (split squad): 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Aki Iwamura 2b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Steve Pearce 1b, 6. Brandon Moss lf, 7. Bobby Crosby ss, 8. Brandon Jones dh, 9. Neil Walker 3b. Paul Maholm lhp

Pirates (split squad): 1. Ronny Cedeno ss, 2. Andy LaRoche 3b, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Ryan Church rf, 5. Jeff Clement 1b, 6. Jose Tabata cf, 7. Pedro Alvarez dh, 8. Erik Kratz c, 9. Ramon Vazquez 2b. Brad Lincoln rhp.

Rays: TBA.

Pitching assignments for Tuesday’s game:

Charlie Morton (3 innings/50 pitches), Brian Burres (50), D.J. Carrasco (45) and Donnie Veal (1-2 innings) are scheduled for the Pirates. CC Sabathia will start for the Yankees.


Raynor showing he belongs


BRADENTON, Fla. — In today’s 15-5 rout of the Twins, outfielder John Raynor doubled and tripled — raising his batting average to .400 — and drove in three runs. The Rule 5 pickup has played in every game so far. Because of Raynor’s special status — if he’s not on the active roster, the Pirates must offer him back to the Marlins — affects other bench spots, management is trying to get a fast read on him.

“He has kind of a low-maintenance swing, which is good,” manager John Russell said. “He’s able to drive the ball the other way, which he showed today. And he can run. He’s got some tools. He’s starting to show some signs of being able to do some things.”

– Pedro Alvarez’s first hit in seven at-bats this spring was an RBI triple into the right field corner at McKechnie Field. The ball crashed off the padded wall, scattering relief pitchers who were sitting in the outfield to get a better view of the game.

– Ross Ohlendorf worked two innings and allowed two runs on two hits. He waked one and struck out one. Both runs scored in the first inning.

“The mound was wet and he was slipping on a lot of pitches,” Russell said. “It dried out pretty quick and he made a nice adjustment. He’s throwing the ball well. His breaking ball is really good and in the second inning he had real good life on his fastball. So, I’m not worried at all.”

– Vinnie Chulk struck out five of the seven batters he faced today.

– Bobby Crosby started at first base, a position he played 54 times last season for Oakland. “He’s got good hands and that’s the biggest thing,” Russell said. “He knows the position a little bit and will continue to work there. He knows how to catch the ball, so he’s going to be OK. If he needs to play there occasionally, we can put him there.”

– In the second inning, Brandon Moss got a rare RBI opportunity against a left-handed pitcher. With Alvarez at third base and one out, Moss faced Twins starter Brian Duensing — and struck out on foul tip. Moss is a career .250 hitter with just two RBI against lefties.


Game 5: Hit parade


BRADENTON, Fla. — As we enter the second week of spring training games, Ryan Church (.333 BA, 1 HR, 3 RBI), Andrew McCutchen (.500, 1 SB) and Tony Sanchez (he’s batting 1.000 — albeit in one at-bat) already playing at a high level. Four prominent guys — Pedro Alvarez (0 for 6), Garrett Jones (0 for 5), Brandon Moss (0 for 5), Steve Pearce (0 for 6) — still are searching for their first hits.

Lineups for today’s game:

Twins (split squad) (1-2): 1. Denard Span cf, 2. Orlando Hudson 2b, 3. Justin Morneau 1b, 4. Jim Thome dh, 5. Delmon Young lf, 6. J.J. Hardy ss, 7. Danny Valencia 3b, 8. Wilson Ramos c, 9. Rene Tosoni rf. Brian Duensing lhp

Pirates (1-2): 1.Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Ronny Cedeno ss, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Steve Pearce dh, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Brandon Moss lf,8. Bobby Crosby 1b, 9. John Raynor cf. Ross Ohlendorf rhp

Pitching assignments:

Today  vs. the Twins: Ohlendorf (2 innings/45 pitches), Chris Jakubauskas (45 pitches), Vinnie Chulk (40), Justin Thomas, Ramon Aguero, Anthony Claggett, Virgil Vasquez.

Monday (split squad) vs. the Yanks: Paul Maholm (3 innings/45 pitches), Jeremy Powell (1 or 2 innings), Steven Jackson (1), Javier Lopez (1), Virgil Vasquez (1), Bryan Morris, Ron Uviedo. Alfredo Aceves will start for the Yankees.

Monday (split squad) at the Rays: Brad Lincoln (2/45), Brian Bass (2/45), Jeff Karstens (1 or 2), Jack Taschner (1), Jean Machi (1), Evan Meek (1). Mat Garza will start for the Rays.

– The position players who will be available for the Yankees game at McKechnie: Ryan Doumit, Jason Jaramillo, Bobby Crosby, Aki Iwamura, Steve Pearce, Neil Walker, Gorkys Hernandez, Brandon Jones, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Brian Myrow, Brandon Moss and Jonathan Van Every. Everyone else will go to Port Charlotte, Fla., to play the Rays.


Hart’s wild, Bucs play to tie


BRADENTON, Fla. — It was not the spring debut Kevin Hart had hoped for.

Hart, battling for the No. 5 job in the starting rotation, threw just one rough inning Saturday, as the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies played to a 3-3 tie in 10 innings.

Hart was scheduled to pitch two innings, but left the game after tossing 38 pitches. The right-hander allowed up two runs on one hit and four walks.

“I didn’t really command the ball, didn’t make the adjustments,” Hart said. “I got my pitch count up and was out of there.”

Dewayne Wise led off the game with a triple to center and scored on a wild pitch. Hart then walked the bases loaded, but the Phillies got just one run out of it when Raul Ibanez grounded into a double play.

“I think (Hart) was just a little amped up,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “He fell into some of the things he’s been trying to avoid. He’s really done a great job up to today. Hopefully, he gets it out of the way and gets back to what he’s been doing.”

Phillies righty Joe Blanton gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning. Jeff Clement had a run-scoring double and Ryan Church hit a two-run homer, his first of the spring.


Game 4: Vazquez in lineup


BRADENTON, Fla. — Ramon Vazquez will get his first start in the infield this afternoon against the Phillies. There’s been speculation the Rangers, who recently voided infielder Khalil Greene’s contract, might be interested in trading for Vazquez, who played for them from 2007-08.

Lineups for today’s game:

Phillies: 1. Dewayne Wise cf, 2. Greg Dobbs 3b, 3. Chase Utley 2b, 4. Ryan Howard 1b, 5. Raul Ibanez lf, 6. Dominic Brown rf, 7. John Mayberry Jr. dh, 8. Carlos Ruiz c, 9. Freddy Galvis ss. Joe Blanton rhp

Pirates: 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Bobby Crosby ss, 3. Jeff Clement 1b, 4. Ryan Church rf, 5. Lastings Milledge lf, 6. Jose Tabata dh, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 9. Ramon Vazquez 2b. Kevin Hart rhp

— Pitching assignments for Sunday’s game vs. the Twins: Ross Ohlendorf (2 innings, 45 pitches), Chris Jakubauskas (45 pitches), Vinnie Chulk (40), Justin Thomas, Bryan Morris, Virgil Vasquez. Lefty Brian Duensing will start for the Twins, who will bring a split squad up from Fort Myers.

— Olympic figure skaters Amanda Evora and Mark Ludwig will throw out the first pitch before Sunday’s game at McKechnie Field. Evora, who lives in Bradenton, and Ludwig finished 10th in the pairs short program and free skating competition at the Vancouver Games. They won a silver medal at the 2010 U.S. National Championship in January.

— A copy of a recent story was hanging on the bulletin board in the Pirates’ clubhouse. This sentence was highlighted: “When it comes to baseball, the smartest guy (Ross) Ohlendorf says he has met is Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.” Underneath, someone had written in bold, black marker: “Dorf: You’ve got Opening Day! — Joe.” Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.


Sanchez: I was shaking


SARASOTA — Joe Starkey and I already have mentioned what a refreshing, glad-to-be-here guy Tony Sanchez is. Tonight, Sanchez got into his first spring training game and had quite a debut.

In the sixth inning, Sanchez threw out Jonathan Tucker trying to steal second base. In the eighth — his first at-bat wearing a Pirates jersey — Sanchez knocked a game-tying home run over the center field wall. The Pirates beat the Orioles, 5-3.

After the game, I didn’t even have to ask Sanchez a question. Smiling broadly, he just started talking.

About his debut: “I don’t know what it was. The adrenaline. I got back there and I was shaking — my helmet was shaking, my legs were twitching. I was really nervous. I didn’t want to do anything wrong — looking in for signs, forgetting signs, forgetting which pitch to call. Good nerves. I embraced them. It’s funny, I told the umpire (when) Tucker got on first base, ‘Great, he’s gonna run. He’s fast and I’m going to have to throw this guy out.’ Lo and behold, he goes. I gripped the ball — I swear, I gripped it like a changeup — threw it as hard as I could and it ended up getting there. That was a rush.”

About the home run: “I didn’t know what to do. It was my first AB against live pitching in six months. I was asking guys what I should do. Be patient and take a pitch? Take two pitches? I ended up swinging at the first pitch. Felt good. Didn’t feel too bad. Got down 0-2 and I was going, ‘Oh, great. What am I going to do now? What’s he going to throw me?’ I fouled off a couple, saw a couple balls and then he threw me one in my zone. I didn’t even feel it. It felt great. I didn’t even know how to run the bases. I forgot. I was sprinting faster than my 100 percent sprint. It was a great feeling. I thought I got too much of it. I thought it was a double. I knew it was going to get over the head (of the center fielder) because I did crush it. When it got over the wall, I’m sure you guys saw my smile. I was hauling (butt) — excuse my language. Adrenaline is taking over right now. Great emotions.

About letting his instincts take over: “You’re thinking, ‘It’s the same game I played in high school and Little League, just with a lot better competition.’ I wanted to be as good as I could be for those pitchers. With the AB, the game was tied, no, we were losing. I was like, ‘Get a base hit. Get something going with two outs.’ Just … I don’t even know. I guess so, when your adrenaline’s going. I guess when you care that much and you want to do so well … God help me, man. He was there with me. I was shaking. My glove was shaking. And then I had to catch (Evan) Meek. I had never caught him (other than) a bullpen (session) of 15 pitches. I had to catch him with men on base. I was up there like a hockey goalie, not gonna let anything get by me.”

About his teammates’ reaction: “They were all laughing. They all knew I was so nervous. They were laughing and smiling, just like I was. I couldn’t have asked for a better start. “

— Sanchez he was given two balls from different people, each of whom claimed it was the home run ball. “I don’t know which is the right one,” he said, so he’ll keep them both.

— Manager John Russell’s reaction: “That was great, a great night for him. I know he was very excited. It was fun to watch. He battled, got a good pitch to hit and drove it. And he caught very well, bounced around, fielded a bunt well, received the ball well.”

As a former catcher, did Russell appreciate Sanchez’s throw on the steal attempt more than the game-tying homer? “Nah,” Russell said. “That home run was pretty nice.”


McCutchen’s sinker dances


SARASOTA, Fla. — Daniel McCutchen’s first outing of the spring tonight went well: two innings, three hits, one run.

“It’s good to get my feet wet,” McCutchen said. “I just wanted to throw strikes, not walk anybody and see how my pitches felt.”

McCutchen was pleased with his two-seam fastball, which he said showed more life than usual. “Maybe I’m a sinkerballer now,” he said with a laugh. McCutchen hasn’t changed his grip or anything. The improvement, he figures, comes from simply throwing it more often with a different mental approach.

“I’ve been throwing a lot more,” he said. “Throughout my career in the minors, I’ve thrown mostly a four-seamer. Last year, when I got called up, I started using (the sinker) more and it got me out of a lot of big jams. I’m trying to get out front with it and not try to make it do too much. I’ve really been working on it a lot. I didn’t have the best control if it today, but the life was there.”

McCutchen also threw more breaking balls tonight that he normally would. After getting two quick outs in the fourth, McCutchen shook off catcher Ryan Doumit until he got a first-pitch breaking ball. “That’s what I’m working on,” McCutchen said. Luke Scott singled up the middle. “I probably could’ve gone fastball away or changeup and got a rollover out, but I’m thinking more about getting myself ready for the season than putting up a bunch of zeros in the spring.”

— McCutchen said he heard from Brad Lincoln Thursday, after Lincoln threw his first inning for the Pirates. “He texted and let me know it was good,” McCutchen said. “I remember how I felt in my first inning. And the jitters are still there. I watched a video about (track star) Michael Johnson, and he said, ‘If I don’t feel nervous, then something’s wrong.’ Being nervous is good. It means you’re ready. I hope I’m nervous for many more years.”

— Reliever Wil Ledezma has shoulder soreness and has not yet pitched in a game. “It’s nothing serious at this point, but enough to slow him down,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

— Andrew McCutchen’s mom, Petrina, will sing the national anthem before Saturday’s game against the Phillies at McKechnie Field. No word if Andrew will accompany her as the “human beat box.”

— Kevin Hart will start and throw two innings/45 pitches max Saturday against the Phils. D.J. Carrasco (2 innings/40 max), Brendan Donnelly, Donnie Veal, Jack Taschner, Steven Jackson and Jean Machi also will pitch the Pirates. Joe Blanton will start for Philly.


Will Dotel be ready for opener?


SARASOTA — Octavio Dotel (strained oblique) doesn’t expect to throw off a mound until sometime next week, putting him three weeks behind his normal spring training schedule. At that pace, Dotel, who prefers to pitch 10-15 innings in spring games, might not be ready for the start of the regular season.

GM Neal Huntington, however, expects Dotel to be good to go on April 5.

“It’s still early in spring and we’ve still got plenty of games,” Huntington said. “Dotel has talked about wanting to get x number of appearances before he has the comfort level. He’s a veteran; he knows what he needs to do maybe to shorten his desired (number of) appearances a little bit. At this point, we still believe he’s right on track for Opening Day.”

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (0-2): 1. Iwamura 2b, 2. Tabata lf, 3. G. Jones rf, 4. Doumit c, 5. Pearce 1b, 6. Moss dh, 7. Cedeno ss, 8. Walker 3b, 9. Raynor cf. Duke lhp

Orioles (1-1): 1. Jones cf, 2. Andino ss, 3. Markakis rf, 4. Tejada 3b, 5. Wieters c, 6. Scott dh, 7. Atkins 1b, 8, Tucker lf, 9. Turner b. Tillman rhp.