Hart, Yates throw bullpens


BRADENTON, Fla. — Right-handers Kevin Hart (shoulder) and Tyler Yates (elbow), who both are rehabbing from surgeries, threw bullpen sessions this afternoon on day two of minicamp.

Both threw 25 pitches, all fastballs, under the watchful eye of pitching coach Ray Searage. “I like what I saw,” Searage told me. “Of course, their timing’s going to be off a little bit because they haven’t been on the slope for a while. Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic. What they did today gives us a good foundation. We’ll build on that. We’re on the right track.”

It was the first time Hart had thrown off a mound since May, when he had surgery to repair a torn labrum.

“It was pretty good,” Hart said. “I felt calm and relaxed and everything. It felt good to get on the mound.”

Yates had Tommy John surgery in July 2009, but had setbacks in May 2010 and again in October 2010. That second setback forced Yates to scrap his plans to play winter ball.

“He started throwing some breaking balls and that’s when the setback happened,” Searage said. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Today’s workout was the second time Yates had thrown off the mound since October.

“Hopefully, I’ll be game-ready by the first day of spring training,” Yates said. “If I’m a week behind, that won’t be too bad, either. Right now, I’m not worried about my velocity; it’ll come. My arm feels strong.”

Both pitchers will throw another 25-pitch session on Friday. Both also hope to be able to compete for big league jobs in spring training.

“We’ll take our time with it,” Searage said. “I’ll have a better idea in two or three weeks.”

»»» Jose Tabata played against Jorge Julio this offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League. “He looked good,” Tabata said. “He’s still a good pitcher.” Julio, 31, a right-handed reliever, has a 1.88 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings for Tiburones de la Guaira. The Pirates signed Julio, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009, to a minor league deal without an invite to big league spring training — an indication that he must prove himself in Triple-A before management considers giving him a shot during the season.

»»» Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay, Joel Hanrahan, Neil Walker and Ross Ohlendorf will conduct an hour-long roundtable chat tonight with a group of the Pirates’ top minor leaguers. “I have no idea what I’m going to tell them,” Ohlendorf said early this morning. “I’ll come up with something.”

»»» I was talking this morning with Josh Rodriguez, whom the Pirates claimed last month in the Rule 5 draft. “You’re a Rule 5 guy, too?” asked Evan Meek, who joined the Pirates in 2008. Meek offered to sit down sometime with Rodriguez and chat about what to expect.

This spring will be the first time Rodriguez, 26, attends big league training camp. Pitcher Daniel McCutchen grinned as he ambled over to offer some advice: “It’s pretty easy. You’re biggest job will be getting coffee every morning for me and Evan.”

»»» Kris Benson, whom the Pirates made the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1996, has retired. Benson, 36, went 70-75 with a 4.42 ERA in 206 games (200 starts). He battled intense shoulder pain the past three seasons and had three arm surgeries in his career.

»»» Class A State College will hold its annual SpikesFest on Feb. 12 at the Penn State Multi-Sport Facility. Manager Dave Turgeon and prospect Matt Hague are slated to attend.

»»» Jim Leyland, Lanny Frattare and Kent Tekulve will appear at the Washington Wild Things’ annual hot stove event at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn on Racetrack Road in Washington.