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Pirates notebook: Backup catcher Stewart tests well in spring debut

| Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — With 35 years and a recent knee operation behind him, Chris Stewart knows he has to change his routine between games.

“It's going to be a lot more tedious than the past where I would just shower up and go home,” Stewart said. “I've got to work on the finer things, a little more ice tub, more massages … ”

Stewart paused and smiled.

“I know that sounds terrible, more massages,” he said. “I'm just making sure I'm taking care of my body the way it needs to be taken care of. That way, I can go out and do my job.”

On Tuesday, Stewart caught the first four innings of the Pirates' 6-3 victory against the Atlanta Braves. It was the first game this spring for Stewart, who had surgery in September.

“Kind of tested everything: blocking, throwing, hitting, running,” Stewart said. “Everything went well. Everything felt great.”

In the second inning, Stewart threw out two baserunners. Anthony Recker was picked off second base for the first out.

“I saw him leaning the wrong way,” Stewart said. “I was ready if he was going to third base. I saw him stop, then you readjust and try to throw it as hard as you can to second base.”

The inning ended when Micah Johnson, who has racked up 179 steals over five seasons in the minors, was thrown out trying to swipe second.

Stewart originally was supposed to make his debut Friday but talked manager Clint Hurdle into changing the plan.

“I got the itch and wanted to get out there, wanted to test it out today,” Stewart said.

The strong debut might warrant a call to starting catcher Francisco Cervelli, who's in Arizona training with Team Italy for the World Baseball Classic.

“I'm going to let him know what happened today, like, ‘Hey, while you were out on vacation in Arizona, here's what I was doing,' ” Stewart said with a laugh.

Rocky start for Williams

Right-hander Trevor Williams scuffled in his first start of the spring. In 22⁄3 innings, he yielded two runs on three hits. Six of the 12 batters he faced reached base.

Williams tossed two scoreless innings of relief Thursday against the Detroit Tigers. On Feb. 25, he worked one scoreless inning against the Baltimore Orioles.

“It was good to get the start and find my routine again,” Williams said. “Hopefully, I get to start again in five days and not have to piggyback again. It was good to get that routine started.”

Brault relieves

Steven Brault, who started in his first two outings, worked the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out three.

“I felt pretty good, all things considered,” Brault said. “My command was a little bit off. It was a little bit different coming out of the pen.”

Brault and Williams are in the mix for the lone open spot in the rotation. They also are spring training roommates and worked out together during the offseason.

“It's a friendly competition,” Brault said. “We bounce everything off each other. We're not going to stay away from each other and pretend we hate each other when we don't. We're not going to pretend we don't want that spot. I want it. But I also want Trevor to get as good as he can because the best competition you're going to get is if we're both at our best. We're trying to push each other.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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