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Pregame: Beimel out until April

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Five players were sent out of major league camp this morning, but the big news was that lefty reliever Joe Beimel will not open the regular season with the Bucs.

Beimel battled injuries to his forearm and elbow for much of camp. He says he 100 percent healthy now, but needs more time to get into game shape.

“I started looking at the calendar and realized it was going to be pretty hard to do,” Beimel said. “I’m not going to go out there if all my stuff isn’t working. I don’t want to have to rush to get ready for a date that doesn’t really mean anything. It is Opening Day, but I’m looking to be healthy for the entire season. I think this will work out to be best for myself and for the team.”

Beimel will throw a bullpen session Sunday. After that, the team must determine whether he needs to throw another round or two of batting practice, or if he’s good to pitch in a game. Then, it’s a matter of how many games will it take before he’s ready to go – the focus is the number of outings, not so much the level of competition.

“He might be ready by the time the minor league season begins (the second week of April),” GM Neal Huntington said. “If not, then we decide to either send him to Indy or to Altoona or keep him here in Bradenton (for extended spring). It will be a day-by-day process.”

»»» Pitchers Sean Gallagher and Tyler Yates, catcher Wyatt Toregas and infielder Josh Fields were re-assigned to minor league camp. Right-hander Daniel McCutchen was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. All five will end up at Indy. The Pirates have 36 players left in camp.

Fields, 28, likely won’t get much playing time at Indy, so might ask the Pirates to release him. “I have an option, so I can go either way,” Fields told me. “I’ll think about it. We’ll see.”

Yates, 33, had elbow surgery in July 2009, but his health has not been an issue this spring. “The best thing we can talk about with Tyler Yates is we’re talking about command, we’re talking about stuff,” Huntington said. “It’s not, ‘How does the elbow feel? Is the velocity coming back?’ He hit 98 in his last outing (Thursday against the Astros). Unfortunately for Tyler, it was up. He recognizes that. Our focus is to get him to Triple-A and get him as many innings as we can and make an evaluation as to where he’s going and can he come and help us.”

»»» With Beimel out, there’s an opening in the bullpen. The only stone-cold locks are closer Joel Hanrahan, setup man Evan Meek and swingman Jeff Karstens. Jose Veras, Chris Resop and Garrett Olson also are all-but-certainly in. That leaves three pitchers — rookie Mike Crotta, lefty Brian Burres and righty Chris Leroux — vying for one spot.

»»» Huntington was asked if it’s possible both Andy Marte and Steve Pearce make the team: “Most likely, one or the other.”

»»» Huntington said there should be a decision within the next couple of days about whether the Pirates will carry two or three catchers. “It will come down to … how do we best give Clint weapons to win games off the bench. How do we give our club the opportunity to rest players appropriately. We’re working toward that decision and we’ll make it sooner than later. But we won’t be forced into that decision.”

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Pirates – 1. Pedro Ciriaco cf, 2. Josh Rodriguez ss, 3. John Bowker lf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Steve Pearce 3b, 6. Matt Diaz rf, 9. Charlie Morton, rhp.

Rays – 1. Ben Zobrist rf, 2. Elliot Johnson 2b, 3. Evan Longoria 3b, 4. Manny Ramirez dh, 5 Dan Johnson 1b, 6. B.J. Upton cf, 7. Kelly Shoppach c, 8. Reid Brignac ss, 9. Sam Fuld lf. Jeff Niemann, rhp

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