Postgame: Ohly “better,” but …

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SARASOTA, Fla. — Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf turned in his longest outing of the spring tonight in the 11-7 loss against the Orioles. That’s the good news.

The bad: Ohly worked 4 2/3 innings, allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits, walked two and struck out three. He also served up three long homers.

“Still not as good as I’d like to be, but I still thought it was better than last time,” said Ohlendorf, whose ERA swelled to 10.05 “I’ve been up in the zone too much. I was better today, but not as good as I need to be. I know I’m overthrowing some. That’s a big part of it.”

Luke Scott and Mark Reynolds mashed titanic solo shots in the second inning. Ohlendorf gave up a run in the third, the allowed three in the fifth. Felix Pie roped a homer 400-plus feet to center and Reynolds whipped a double into the left field corner.

Ohlendorf lags behind the rest of the starters in terms of innings pitched. With just one spring start to go, does he have enough time to be fully ready for the regular season?

“I hope so,” he said. “There’s no reason I can’t be. I’m not that concerned about it.”

Ohlendorf has been trying to quicken his pace to the plate with runners on base, but that also has led to some control problems.

“I think I can be quicker and keep the ball down,” he said. “But the way I was quick, the manner that I was quick, it led to me elevating some. In the first inning, I was slower to the plate. I was trying to make sure I stayed back a little bit longer, just to get my timing down. I got quicker again later in the game. I think I pitched better out of the stretch today than in my previous two outings, when I really was struggling with it.”

»»» Chris Snyder, in his first game back after missing time with a sore back. caught five innings and was pain-free. “No problem,” Snyder said. “The back held up fine.”

»»» Neil Walker jacked a pair of homers, both solo shots off right-hander Jake Arrieta. That gives him four this spring, tying him with Lyle Overbay, who went deep in the first inning, for the team lead. Maybe Walker was inspired by hitting in the cleanup spot. “We were laughing about it before the game,” Walker said. “That’s the one spot I probably haven’t hit in very much.”

»»» Josh Rodriguez hit his first homer of the spring, a two-run blast to left field.

»»» Not a good night for lefty Garrett Olson. He tossed one inning and yielded three runs on three hits, walked two and struck out one. His ERA is 7.71.

»»» Chris Jakubauskas, who hitched on with the O’s after being released by the Pirates, threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out three. Jaku, you will recall, missed a chunk of last season after being struck on the head by a line drive during his Pirates debut in Houston.

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In-game: Tribe wants J-Rod back

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Veteran scribe Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, writes that the Indians expect the Pirates to return Rule 5 pick Josh Rodriguez before the end of spring training. The Indians are low on shortstops in the upper levels of their farm system.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington has said he would like to work out a trade to keep Rodriguez, rather than send him back. If the Tribe says no, they must return half of the $50,000 purchase price in exchange for J-Rod.

»»» A bit more reaction from Kevin Correia, who today was named the Opening Day starter:

On pitching the opener: “To do it at a place like Wrigley Field should be a lot of fun. It’s a good honor for me, but I know there’s going to be a lot of work involved with (pitching) every five days. It’s not just one start.”

On finally becoming a top-of-the-rotation guy: “It’s not going to change the way I pitch. I can’t go out there like I’m the Opening Day guy, so all of the sudden I’m the ace. I’m not going to strike out every guy and win every game. I’m going to have to pitch the same way I’ve always done, and, hopefully, that will be good enough. I’m going to give it my best shot.”

On pitching at Wrigley, where he’s 1-2 with an 8.49 ERA in six outings (two starts): “The park can play a number of different ways, just with the wind direction. Some days, balls are flying everywhere. Others, you can’t hit it out, no matter how hard you hit it. I’ve never played there this early in the season; being in the (NL) West, we usually went later in the year when it’s warmer. But it doesn’t really change the way I pitch a great deal. It’s probably going to be cold. But once you get out there and start throwing the ball around and your adrenaline gets going, the weather really isn’t a factor.”

»»» Manager Clint Hurdle, talking about how well Charlie Morton reacted to the challenge of fighting for a rotation spot: “Charlie’s pitched better than anybody in camp, and good for him. The next step will be the more interesting one, as the season will come and we’ll see what that brings. But a lot of confidence has been built.”

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Pregame: Correia will start opener

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Kevin Correia will start Opening Day, going against the Cubs on April 1 at Wrigley Field.

Paul Maholm will follow Correia in the starting rotation, which means the left-hander will pitch the April 7 home opener against the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park.

Manager Clint Hurdle said it was a tough choice between Maholm, the team’s longest-tenured pitcher, and Correia, who signed over the winter as a free agent.

“We had pretty much a split (vote) internally with the coaching staff,” Hurdle said. “I talked to people, I looked up every stat you could pull up. One stat would make you think this, another would make you think that. At the end of the day, I wanted these two guys leading the pack.”

Correia, 30, is an eight-year veteran with a career record of 36-43 and a 4.57 ERA. He’s made six appearances (11 2/3 innings) at Wrigley and is 1-2 with a 8.49 ERA. Four of his outings were in relief.

»»» The rest of the rotation lines up like this: Ross Ohlendorf (who will pitch tonight against the Orioles), Charlie Morton (the most reliable pitcher this spring) and James McDonald (who’s coming off an injury and will pitch, perhaps in a simulated game, Saturday at Pirate City).

»»» Maholm will break camp with the team, but probably will leave St. Louis a day early and return to Pittsburgh to get ready for the home opener.

»»» Charlie Morton (80 pitches) will start Friday against the Rays. He’ll be followed by Joel Hanrahan (one inning), Jose Veras (one inning) and Daniel McCutchen (one or two innings).

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Lyle Overbay 1b, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Garrett Jones rf, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Chris Snyder c, 9. Ross Ohlendorf, rhp.

Orioles – 1. Brian Roberts 2b, 2. Nick Markakis rf, 3. Derrek Lee 1b, 4. Vladimir Guerrero dh, 5. Luke Scott lf, 6. Felix Pie cf, 7. Mark Reynolds 3b, 8. Matt Wieters c, 9. J.J. Hardy ss. Jake Arieta, rhp

When the Pirates make their lineups changes, it will be: 1. Pedro Ciriaco cf, 2. John Bowker lf, 3. Josh Fields 1b, 4. Corey Wimberly 2b, 5. Steve Pearce 3b, 7. Jones rf, 8. Josh Rodriguez ss, 8. Jason Jaramillo.

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Postgame: J-Mac’s comeback bid

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BRADENTON, Fla. — James McDonald is scheduled to start Saturday, probably in a minor league game at Pirate City. The right-hander has not pitched since March 11 due to an undisclosed side injury.

So far this spring, McDonald has a 4.05 ERA after making three brief outings. In 6 2/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits and three walks and has struck out two.

If all goes well Saturday, McDonald likely would remain in Florida to pitch March 31 in another minor league game. He then join the Pirates April 6 in St. Louis to start against the Cardinals. If he’s not ready to begin the regular season, either lefty Brian Burres or righty Jeff Karstens would make a spot start against the Cards.

»»» Catcher Chris Snyder, who’s been out since March 9 due to a sore back, will be in the lineup Thursday night against Baltimore. Snyder felt fine Wednesday, a day after catching four innings in a minor league game. Yesterday, he got 10 at-bats in a camp game at Pirate City.

»»» There was another hour-long round of post-game batting practice today at McKechnie Field. Today, manager Clint Hurdle pitched to Pedro Alvarez (who’s batting .245 and has struck out 13 times in his past 23 at-bats), Neil Walker (.212) and Ronny Cedeno (.268).

“It’s something I’ve always done,” Hurdle said of the extra workout. “When you have one field, you can’t do it anywhere else and you can’t hit before (regular) batting practice because the fields are wet. In some other complexes I’ve worked at, there are other fields in back, so guys can work with a hitting coach. I would’ve preferred to do this a few more times earlier (this spring), but we waited because of the workload these guys are carrying.”

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Pregame: Beimel iffy for opener

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Joe Beimel (elbow inflammation) played catch yesterday and will do it again today. He said his elbow feels fine, but there’s still no firm timetable for when he’ll throw off a mound.

“We’ll take it day by day,” Beimel said. “If (the elbow) stays the same, it shouldn’t be too long.”

With one week left in spring training, is there time for Beimel, who’s only pitched twice so far, to get ready for the regular season?

“I’m not going to go out there if I’m not ready,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that to the team. I wouldn’t count myself out for being ready, but I’m not going to do anything stupid.”

Bottom line: If the Pirates have two lefties in the bullpen on Opening Day, it’s starting to look like they’ll be Garrett Olson and Brian Burres.

»»» Ross Ohlendorf is scheduled to pitch the first five or six innings Thursday night against the Orioles. He’ll be followed by Evan Meek (one inning), Olson (one or two) and Chris Leroux (one).

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Astros – 1. Jason Bourgeois cf, 2. Angel Sanchez ss, 3. Hunter Pence rf, 4. Jason Michaels lf, 5. Brett Wallace 1b, 6. Chris Johnson 3b, 7. Humberto Quintero c, 8. Anderson Hernandez 2b, 9. J.A. Happ, lhp

Pirates – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Lyle Overbay 1b, 5. Matt Diaz rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Brian Burres, lhp.

Around the fifth inning or so, the Pirates will make these substitutions:

1. John Bowker lf, 2. Pedro Ciriaco 2b, 3. Corey Wimberly cf, 4. Steve Pearce 1b, 5. Garrett Jones rf, 6. Andy Marte 3b, 7. Dusty Brown c, 8. Josh Rodriguez ss.

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Postgame: Extra effort

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batting

BRADENTON, Fla. — The game against the Twins ended more than an hour ago, but the grounds crew hasn’t yet begun its usual postgame routine of raking, watering, digging and repairing.

Instead, the crew dragged out the batting cage and set it up the same way they did at 9 o’clock this morning for pregame batting practice. Pedro Alvarez, Josh Fields and Josh Rodriguez have been at work ever since.

Hitting coach Gregg Ritchie and a few other coaches are on the field to observe and critique. Special assistant Bill Virdon, who could be on his way to the early bird buffet if he wanted, instead is shagging flies in the late-afternoon sun.

And how about this — manager Clint Hurdle is on the mound, throwing.

The workout speaks to the work ethic of three players in very different situations.

Alvarez has made the team and is considered the eventual savior of the offense. This spring, he is batting .240 and has struck out 19 times in 50 at-bats.

Fields, 28, is a non-roster player who’s running third in a three-man race for the backup corner infielder job. He is batting .172. This morning, he had a closed-door meeting with Hurdle. Although it was roster cutdown day, Fields remained with the club — but some sort of message had been delivered, and received.

Rodriguez, a Rule 5 pickup, is hitting .280. He’s got potential and the Pirates would love to find a way to keep him. But it’ll be hard to hide a guy who has just 86 games’ experience at Triple-A on the big league roster all season, especially considering how well Pedro Ciriaco has played this spring. Management would prefer to slip J-Rod through waivers, work out a trade with the Indians (for whom he played in 2010) and re-assign him to Triple-A Indy.

»»» The May 21 game against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park will begin at 7:05 p.m.

»»» Before the game Monday against Minnesota, Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Kent Tekulve. Blyleven, a former Pirates pitcher, is a broadcaster for the Twins. It classy tribute to a guy who waited too long for a ticket to Cooperstown.

»»» The Pirates will hold a closed workout at 3 p.m. March 31 at Wrigley Field as a final preparation for Opening Day. How much do you want to bet it snows?

»»» Set your DVRs: MLB Network will air its “30 Clubs in 30 Days” episode about the Pirates at 11 p.m. Tuesday and at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Wednesday.

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Pregame: Burres to start Wednesday

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Tuesday is the Pirates’ final off day during spring camp. The game Wednesday against the Astros is the next-to-last game at McKechnie Field.

Ross Ohlendorf originally was listed as the starter Wednesday, but he’s been moved back to Thursday. Lefty Brian Burres will start against the Astros.

“We’re trying to get (Burres) stretched out to give us multiple innings,” GM Neal Huntington said. “He could potentially plug a spot in the rotation if we have a need. Stranger things have happened. Teams have lost two starters in the last five days of spring training. You have to have internal options, which is why we’re trying to get Brian and Jeff (Karstens) stretched out.”

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Twins – 1. Denard Span cf, 2. Matt Tolbert ss, 3. Joe Mauer c, 4. Delmon Young dh, 5. Jeff Bailey 1b, 6. Luke Hughes 2b, 7. Brian Dinkelman lf, 8. Chase Lambin lf, 9. Jason Repko rf. Brian Duensing, lhp

Pirates – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Steve Pearce lf, 4. Lyle Overbay 1b, 5. Matt Diaz rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Josh Rodriguez ss, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 9. Paul Maholm, lhp.

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Pregame: Olsen out of the mix

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Scott Olsen no longer is in the hunt for a rotation spot and also might be nixed for the bullpen. There’s even a chance the left-hander will begin the season on the disabled list.

This morning, GM Neal Huntington said Olsen’s progress was slowed too much by a hamstring injury early in camp. Olsen has a 15.43 ERA in two outings.

“Scott is out of the major league rotation competition and may even be out of the bullpen competition,” Huntington said. “Does that mean he starts the season on the DL? Potentially, in order to get him back to 100 percent.”

Congrats to Charlie Morton for winning the No. 5 starter’s job certainly would seem to be in order. Morton has sparkled this spring, putting up a 1.29 ERA in four outings. However, Huntington stopped short of saying Morton has clinched the spot.

“Charlie’s made a case to have that be the situation,” Huntington said. “We have not sat down as a staff and formalized that. He’s thrown the ball well. He’s attacked the bottom half of the strike zone. He’s let it fly. He’s been aggressive. His pace has been good. The results have been there. It’s been very encouraging. Hopefully, he carries it forward until September.”

»»» Relievers Justin Thomas and Fernando Nieve were reassigned to minor league camp and infielder Garrett Atkins was unconditionally released. In 17 spring training games,

Atkins, 31, hit .129 with 11 strikeouts in 31 at-bats. Three of his four hits went for extra bases (two doubles and one homer). “This gives him an opportunity to land somewhere else,” Huntington said. “He’s working through options. Part of him thinks he still has something to offer. It does sound like he has a continuing interest to play and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”

Thomas, a left-hander, and Nieve, a right-hander, likely will begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates have 41 players remaining in major league camp.

»»» Lefty Joe Beimel on Sunday took a cortisone shot to relieve pain and inflammation in his elbow. He said Monday he had “zero pain” but added there is no firm timetable for when he’ll resume pitching.

»»» Right-hander James McDonald (discomfort in left side) will throw a bullpen session Wednesday. If all goes well, he might be cleared to resume game action.

»»» Garrett Jones said he “felt a little pop” in his neck/shoulder area Thursday and still is stiff and sore. “It kind of locked up, but I feel better now. It’s nothing serious,” said Jones, who batted in a minor league game Sunday.

»»» The Pirates will hold a closed workout at 3 p.m. March 31 at Wrigley Field as a final preparation for Opening Day.

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In-game: Taillon, Nits and gators

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A few fans at Osceola County Stadium this afternoon took Gator Dude up on his offer to hold and pet the baby Gator
A few fans at Osceola County Stadium this afternoon took Gator Dude up on his offer to hold and pet the baby Gator

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jameson Taillon, the wunderkind first-round pick from last year’s draft, made his spring game debut today in minor league camp. The right-hander pitched two innings against the New York Yankees’ Class A team and allowed one run on three hits. Taillon walked none and struck out two.

»»» Righty James McDonald (sore side) threw a bullpen this morning “without incident,” according to a Pirates spokesman.

»»» Lefty Paul Maholm is slated to pitch the first six innings Monday against the Twins. He’ll be followed by Garrett Olson (one inning), Jose Veras (one or two) and Sean Gallagher (one or two).

»»» Brewers scout Ben McClure introduced himself to me today as we were eating lunch. McClure, a fellow alum, noticed my Penn State t-shirt (yeah, I’m still jazzed about the wrestling tourney). When I went downstairs to check out the dude from Gatorland (see picture above), I was stopped by a program vendor wearing Astros gear who pulled me aside and confided, “I’m not really an Astros fan. I’m a snowbird from Altoona, and I follow the Pirates and Penn State. I just do this to make some money.”

As I strolled past the dude from Gatorland, I saw a handful of fans taking him up on his offer to pet the baby gator. I didn’t stop. Gator Dude made theoffer to fellow scribe Colin Dunlap, who replied, “I’m just looking for a cup of coffee” and kept walking to the refreshment stand.

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Pregame: Olson, Pearce, Lincoln

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No spurs, but there is a big, Texas boot near the lineup dispay
No spurs, but there is a big, Texas boot near the lineup dispay

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Garrett Olson arrived last night from Arizona and was in uniform early this morning at McKechnie Field. “I’m not even sure what time zone I’m in right now,” he said, grinning.

Olson will throw what pitching coach Ray Searage termed a “light” bullpen session today, and is slated to pitch one inning Monday against the Twins.

»»» Steve Pearce is in the lineup today against the Astros at third base. Tomorrow, he’ll start in left field. With a big, important round of cuts looming, it seems management wants to take a good, long look at Pearce, who as one minor league option left.

»»» It was about a two-hour drive up here from Bradenton. The team buses pulled out of McKechnie Field’s lot at 8 a.m. Evan Meek, who made the trip, had a good idea — he brought a pillow.

»»» Righty Brad Lincoln this morning said “nothing’s changed” with his right arm, which was struck near the elbow Friday by a line drive. His arm remains swollen and painful and his scheduled bullpen today was cancelled.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Pirates – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Steve Pearce 3b, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Matt Diaz rf, 5. Andy Marte 1b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Josh Fields lf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss. 9. Charlie Morton, rhp.

Astros – 1. Michael Bourn cf, 2. Anderson Hernandez 2b, 3. Hunter Pence rf, 4. Carlos Lee 1b, 5. Brian Bogusevic lf, 6. Matt Downs ss, 7. Oswaldo 3b, 8. Humberto Quintero c, 9. Ryan Rowland-Smith, lhp

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