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Bucs reliever Dotel a little behind schedule

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Pirates expect closer Octavio Dotel, who is out with a strained oblique, to be ready for Opening Day.

Dotel sustained the injury while throwing in the bullpen on the fourth day of spring training. He has not thrown either long toss or a bullpen session since then, although he has resumed conditioning drills.

Dotel hopes to be able to throw off a mound toward the end of next week, which would put him three weeks behind a normal spring training schedule.

Dotel said he prefers to pitch 10-15 innings in spring games.

"You can't go any less than that," he said. "If you do, you won't be ready."

General manager Neal Huntington, however, expects Dotel to be good to go on April 5 — even if that means cutting back on the right-hander's customary workload.

"It's still early in spring, and we've still got plenty of games," Huntington said. "Dotel has talked about wanting to get 'X' number of appearances before he has the comfort level. He's a veteran; he knows what he needs to do maybe to shorten his desired (number of) appearances a little bit. At this point. we still believe he's right on track for Opening Day."

Last season, Dotel pitched 62.1 innings as a setup man for the Chicago White Sox. He missed the final two weeks of the season due to a sore neck.

Dotel has not worked as a full-time closer since the first half of the 2007 season. He had Tommy John surgery in 2006.

» Tony Sanchez's first at-bat of spring training was a dandy. On Friday, he clubbed a two-out, solo homer in the eighth inning off Baltimore Orioles left-hander Troy Patton. That tied the game, 3-3. The Pirates won it, 5-3, in the ninth on Delwyn Young's RBI single and Jose Tabata's sacrifice fly.

» Zach Duke worked two innings, allowed a run on two hits and struck out one.

"The first inning was much better than the second," Duke said. "In the second, my sinker got a little erratic. But that's what these (spring games) are for, to get those things ironed out."

» Daniel McCutchen, bidding for the fifth starter's job, yielded a run on three hits in his two innings. Adam Jones blasted a solo homer to right in the third inning. The Orioles put runners on second and third with two outs in the fourth, but McCutchen got Jonathan Tucker to ground out.

» Pirates infielders had a sloppy fifth inning, with errors by second baseman Akinori Iwamura, shortstop Ronny Cedeno and third baseman Neil Walker. It all led to an Orioles' run.

» Reliever Wil Ledezma has shoulder soreness and has not yet pitched in a game. "It's nothing serious at this point but enough to slow him down," general manager Neal Huntington said.

» Andrew McCutchen's mom, Petrina, will sing the national anthem before Saturday's game against the Phillies at McKechnie Field.

» Kevin Hart will throw the first two innings (45 pitches max) against the Phillies. D.J. Carrasco (two innings/40 max), Brendan Donnelly, Donnie Veal, Jack Taschner, Steven Jackson and Jean Machi also are expected to pitch.

» The Pirates will be featured Sunday on MLB Network's "30 Clubs in 30 Days" show. The episode will air at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Quotable

"I'm working hard to keep that fastball. I still feel it. I'm still a strikeout pitcher because I have that fastball." — Pirates relief pitcher Octavio Dotel

Digits

46 — Saves by Mike Williams in 2002, the Pirates' single-season record

10 — Pirates closers who have recorded 25-plus saves in a season

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