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Pirates lose first test run at PNC Park

Terry Mulholland came home Saturday, finally pitching for the Pirates after 14 seasons in the majors.

'It's great to be running out there in a Pirates uniform after following these guys for so many years as a kid,' he said.

Yet the Uniontown native left just a half-dozen tickets at the gate for the game against the New York Mets at PNC Park. Why such a small group of friends and family•

'Exhibition game,' he explained. 'Nobody cares about spring training games.'

Good thing. Mulholland threw one inning, was rocked for three runs, and wound up with a loss. He gave up four hits - including the first (albeit unofficial) PNC Park homer by Mike Piazza - as the Pirates fell, 4-3.

Pirates starter Jimmy Anderson threw six strong innings, allowing one run on three hits. Relievers Joe Beimel, Josias Manzanillo and Marc Wilkins combined for two hitless innings.

Mulholland was thrust into the starting rotation about two weeks ago after Kris Benson went down with a sore elbow. Because of rainouts, he had pitched just one inning over the past week in Grapefruit League games.

'I'm not worried about Terry,' Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. 'He got his work in. You don't worry about exhibition games.'

Mulholland threw four simulated innings in bullpen after his one-inning outing yesterday, and will throw another extended bullpen session Monday. He is slated to start Wednesday in Cincinnati, and again in the Pirates' home opener April 9.

'I'll be ready when we get to Cincinnati,' Mulholland said. 'I've got a couple more days to work on some things and get in a good, long bullpen session with Spin (Williams, pitching coach).'

The Pirates play their final exhibition today against the Mets at PNC Park, then start the regular season with a six-game road trip. That will give the grounds crew time to work out the kinks at the Bucs' new home.

'The mound is a little soft,' Mulholland said. 'We had a pretty sizable hole in front of the rubber. Hopefully, those little things can be taken care of.'

After the game, Mulholland talked with field maintenance manager Luke Yoder about firming up the mound. Manager Lloyd McClendon and several of the infielders also expressed concern about the lip at the edge of the grass.

Other than that, the ballpark generated nothing but admiration. Although it was a gray, chilly day, a sellout crowd of 34,580 turned out for the debut of PNC Park.

'They should be happy with the product,' McClendon said. 'We had a chance to win. We didn't get it done, but we certainly didn't embarrass ourselves either.'

The Pirates collected a dozen hits - all singles - but stranded eight baserunners. They had the tying run at third base with one out in the eighth and ninth innings, yet were stopped each time.

In the second inning, Aramis Ramirez delivered a run-scoring single against Mets right-hander Rick Reed. Jason Kendall drove in Adrian Brown with a sacrifice fly in the third to make it 2-0.

Mulholland came on in the seventh, and Piazza's solo shot down the left-field line tied the game at 2. The Mets went ahead on doubles by Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Rey Ordonez, and a run-scoring single by relief pitcher Dennis Cook.

'I don't think you'll see a pitcher get a hit off him when a (real) game is on the line,' McClendon said.

'It's a great ballpark,' Mulholland said with a shrug. 'I just didn't do a real good job, (but) I'm not worried about it.'

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