The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 23, 2014

Pirates overcome three HRs

Bradenton, Fla. — Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Cody Asche each homered Saturday but the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied for a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rollins and Howard went deep in the first inning against right-hander Stolmy Pimentel. Asche broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a long homer to right field.

Pimentel, who will begin the season as the Pirates’ long reliever and spot starter, worked five innings and gave up three runs on six hits. He had three strikeouts.

Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett pitched 5 1⁄3 innings against his former team and allowed two runs on seven hits. He walked six and struck out two.

Travis Snider, the front-runner to be the Pirates’ everyday right fielder, went 2 for 4 with one RBI.

Travis Ishikawa, a non-roster player competing to be the backup first baseman, hit a solo homer in the eighth inning to tie it at 3.

Starting time

Phillies: Burnett put 13 runners on base (seven hits, six walks) in 5 1⁄3 innings and was not happy with his curveball.

“The hook’s inconsistent right now,” Burnett said, “But that always comes, so I’m not worried about that. The more I throw it, the more I get out there, I’m going to find that release point.”

Overall, he’s made four Grapefruit League outings with his new club and has a 7.53 ERA.

“When you get under the lights, it’s different,” Burnett said. “It’ll be OK.”

Pirates: Pimentel threw 67 pitches in five innings, which is about as far as the Pirates want him to get stretched out at this point.

He is not normally a flyball pitcher, and said falling behind in the count was the culprit for the Phillies’ power surge against him.

“I felt good, but I was working behind in the count all the time,” Pimentel said. “When you you’re behind, the hitter feels more comfortable.”

Trainer’s room

Pirates: Left-hander Jeff Locke (oblique) said he felt fine after throwing a bullpen session Saturday morning and working two innings in a minor game Friday. However, Locke, who has one minor league option left, almost certainly will not make the starting rotation.

“Jeff’s going to be in an awkward spot of being healthy but just not stretched out,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We’re just out of time to get him stretched out to 100 pitches before the end of spring training.”

Phillies: Cole Hamels (biceps tendinitis) worked two innings of batting practice Saturday, throwing a total of 30 pitches against minor leaguers. Hamels will likely remain in Florida for extended spring training and is on track to rejoin the Phillies by the start of May. ... Domonic Brown (flu) was back in the lineup for the first time since March 15. He went 0 for 3 as the designated hitter and is batting .158.

Position battle

Phillies: His speed gives Tony Gwynn Jr. an edge to open the season in the majors as an extra outfielder, but he did not win any points at the plate Saturday. Gwynn went 0 for 3, including two strikeouts, and stranded two baserunners.

Pirates: In camp on a minor league contract, Ishikawa is giving Andrew Lambo an unexpected battle for the backup job at first base. Lambo went 0 for 4, dropping his batting average to .095. Ishikawa walked twice and hit a solo homer to right field.

“We’ve tried to feed (Ishikawa) at-bats and he’s taken advantage,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s competing well.”

Call to the ‘pen

Pirates: Pimentel, Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez are in the running for three bullpen jobs. All four relievers are out of options. Huntington indicated it’s a matter of when, not if, the Pirates trade one of those arms away.

“We’ve been very open that we’re probably going to have a pretty good arm available at the end of spring training,” Huntington said. “We’re working through that process. You never want to leave yourself short. We’ve got the ability to hold until the last second to make sure we don’t have an injury. We have the ability to move if we find something we like. We can go in either direction. We think we’ll get a pretty decent return for whoever we decide to move.”

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