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Pirates notebook: McPherson eases back into regular routine

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 7:27 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates rmanager Clint Hurdle greets Jose Tabata at the dugout after Tabata homered against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Kyle McPherson, shown during spring training Feb. 25, 2013, is ranked as the Pirates' seventh-best prospect by Baseball America.
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Kyle McPherson delivers against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — After battling shoulder problems last year in spring training and again in winter ball, right-hander Kyle McPherson is taking a cautious approach this year in camp.

“I'm pacing myself more this year to err on the side of caution but still going out there and competing,” McPherson said. “With that spot in the rotation (open), I want to be healthy and ready to go.”

McPherson was almost perfect Monday in two innings in the Pirates' 5-4 loss against the Minnesota Twins. Firing a fastball that touched 95 mph, he needed only 15 pitches to set down six batters.

“Just kept it short and sweet and tried to get my work in,” McPherson said. “I got enough work in the bullpen and in the game that it amounted overall to a pretty good day.”

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he isn't worried about McPherson's injury flaring. But Hurdle chose not to give McPherson another inning as he did Sunday when Jeff Locke pitched a bonus inning after cruising through the first two.

“For Kyle's first time out, our biggest interest was in the up and down twice,” Hurdle said. “Obviously, we're going to monitor him and not give him too many innings. We've got plenty of time to get his pitch count where it needs to be.”

McPherson is the first Pirates starter to allow a hit this spring — Josh Willingham singled leading off the second inning — but he made up for it by inducing Justin Morneau to line into a double play. Overall, the starters have tossed seven consecutive scoreless innings over three games.

A Jones for fielding

First baseman Garrett Jones leaped to snare Morneau's sizzling liner and double up Willingham.

“All reaction,” Jones said. “He hit the ball so dang hard, you take one stab and hope it goes in the glove. I never saw it. I just felt it hit my glove.”

Tabata in a groove

After smacking a solo homer, Jose Tabata said his swing is in a really good place.

“I'm seeing the ball better,” Tabata said. “I'm opening my legs more this year. Last year, my stance was more closed, and I didn't have too much power.”

Need for speed

After his start Sunday, right-hander James McDonald was asked if he's happy with his velocity at this stage of camp.

“I can't tell what my velocity is right now,” McDonald said. “In the spring, I really look at strikes. Velocity usually gets better, so I don't worry about it. I worry about throwing strikes and getting pitches in the zone.”

Rodriguez to start Tuesday

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will start Tuesday against the Orioles. Rodriguez will make two starts for the Pirates before leaving to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Also scheduled to pitch Tuesday are left-hander Andy Oliver and right-handers Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris, Hunter Strickland and Duke Welker. Left-hander Mike Zagurski also might get in the game.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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