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Pirates' Jones scratched because of oblique strain

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 7:27 p.m.

Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones was a late scratch from the lineup on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays because of what he called a minor left oblique strain.

“We talked it over and felt it would be better to just not play the next few days and rest it so that it's 100 percent,” said Jones, who was replaced in the lineup by Brad Hawpe. “(We don't want to) risk making it worse and worse and missing a lot of games. Just take it easy the next few days and it should be fine.”

Jones said he isn't sure how it happened. It felt tight when he woke up on Wednesday, but he played against the Red Sox and felt fine during the game.

He said he doesn't believe the injury is serious and hopes the precautionary move of sitting out will prevent it from becoming a bigger issue.

He said he plans to limit his action Friday, perhaps taking only ground balls and playing catch. Jones doesn't plan to swing the bat.

“Just taking it easy for a day, maybe two more days, then get back at it,” Jones said.

In, out, up, down

James McDonald was roughed up in his first two outings, but he allowed only one hit, struck out one and walked three in four scoreless innings Thursday in the Pirates' 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at McKechnie Field.

His focus, he said, was on moving his fastball to the four quadrants of the strike zone.

“Flipped a couple breaking balls here and there but really just commanding my fastball,” he said. “Going up when I want to go up, down when I want to go down. That's about it.”

It was McDonald's best outing of the spring, but he shot down the notion that his previous two outings had been bad. It's spring training, he said, and the important thing is to take the mound with a plan.

“I feel like I've gone out there with an idea of what I want to do each and every game,” he said. “I feel like I'm accomplishing my goal every time I go out.”

More work at third

Gaby Sanchez got his second start of the spring at third base and his first against a major league team.

Sanchez, who played mostly third base at the start of his minor league career, has not played the position at the top level. He made a throwing error to first base with two outs in the seventh inning that led to four unearned runs by the Rays.

Manager Clint Hurdle said developing Sanchez's skills creates another option in case something happens to Pedro Alvarez or he needs a day off.

“He just doesn't have the reps,” Hurdle said. “It's been a long time since he's been over there, so we're going to try to get him as many as we can that makes sense without taking away from his time at first.”

Odds and ends

Russell Martin, who doubled in the ninth to score two, is on track to start Saturday at catcher for the first time this spring. … Jeff Karstens will throw another live batting practice Friday. He is scheduled to throw two innings. ... Jeanmar Gomez was on the mound in the seventh for the Rays' four runs.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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