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Pirates notebook: Inge scratched with sore right shoulder

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 8:51 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Brandon Inge scores past Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez during a spring training game Wednesday, March 6, 2013, in Fort Myers, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Brandon Inge still is feeling the effects of an errant pitch that smacked him on the right shoulder blade nine days ago.

Due to lingering soreness, the utility player was scratched from the Pirates' lineup about two hours before the game Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays. X-rays taken Thursday were negative.

Inge said the injury is not related to surgery he had on that shoulder in September. Inge played in three games after being hit by the pitch, but the discomfort — he described it as a stabbing pain — has not subsided.

“It's one of those bone bruises that you can't do much with it,” Inge said. “Coming off surgery, I'm trying to be as smart as possible with it. It's a minor ache, and I need to let it quiet down.”

Inge, 35, is in camp on a minor league contract and is in the running for a bench job. He can opt out if he's not on the Pirates' 25-man roster by Sunday, in which case the Pirates would have until Tuesday to either let him go or put him on the roster.

“I know they're under the gun, trying to put their team together,” Inge said. “I'm not trying to hold them up, but at the same time, it is spring training. All I'm thinking right now is, I like this ballclub and I want to be a part of it. They can do whatever they want. I'm not going to be mad at them either way.”

Morris among 3 cuts

Infielders Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Jared Goedert were reassigned to minor league camp, and reliever Bryan Morris was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. There are 37 players left in camp.

In seven outings, Morris had a 5.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He worked seven innings and yielded three hits and five walks and struck out four.

“I'm not going to say I didn't get enough innings or I got too many,” Morris said. “Whenever I got my opportunities, I wasn't as sharp as I should have been. That's part of the game. Hopefully I can go down there and get back to what I need to be doing.”

Morris was granted a special fourth minor league option this year, which made it an easier call to send him back to Indy.

“That's the unfortunate part about decisions this late in camp: Sometimes, (options) come into play when there's not clear separation,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “There's very little doubt Bryan is going to help us at some point this summer. It allows him to go down and refine some things. When he does that, he's going to be a very good major league pitcher for a long time.”

Take a number

A bright yellow workout jersey bearing No. 80 hung in John McDonald's locker Friday when he checked into training camp. It's a number better suited for a rookie — or a wide receiver — than for a 14-year veteran.

“I think it's negotiable,” McDonald said with a laugh. “As long as I've got a spot in the locker room, I'm happy. My first year, I was No. 72 and the last seat in the locker room in Cleveland. John Hart walked by, smacked me on the shoulder and said, ‘At least you've got a chair.' I said, ‘Absolutely.' All I wanted was to look around the room and see all those big leaguers.”

The Pirates are McDonald's fifth big league employer. He's only played in 100-plus games twice in his career, but he's happy for the opportunity for a bench job in Pittsburgh.

“When you're wearing a major league uniform, you can't look at it as a negative,” McDonald said. “I try to instill that in younger players. I tell them they should appreciate putting on one of these 30 (teams') unis. I'm real excited to be part of this.”

Karstens, Watson on track

Righty Jeff Karstens (biceps tendinitis) has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game, although he's gotten in some work with minor leaguers at Pirate City. The Pirates won't need their No. 5 starter until April 7, so Karstens has time to get into game shape.

“For us, it's not a matter of seeing him against ‘A' game competition,” Huntington said. “It's a matter of him getting his pitches and getting built up and how is his stuff responding.”

Reliever Tony Watson (sore lat) yielded three runs in one inning Wednesday, his first outing since Feb. 28, but Huntington is not worried.

“His stuff was encouraging,” Huntington said. “We saw his velocity at 88 to 94 mph. We saw some sharp breaking balls. We also saw some signs of rust. But we do feel we've got enough time left in camp to get the rust knocked off and he'll be ready to go.”

Around the horn

Right-hander A.J. Burnett threw 101 pitches in five innings in a minor league game at Pirate City. Burnett scuffled a bit, but the Pirates did not release specifics about his outing. ... Management hasn't decided whether it will bring extra players beyond the 25-man active roster to Altoona for the March 30 exhibition game against the Curve. In recent years, several minor leaguers also made the trip to Philadelphia for preseason finales.

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

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