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Pirates notebook: Locke ready to roll against Dodgers

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Saturday, April 6, 2013, 8:30 p.m.
 

LOS ANGELES — Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke is not fazed about having to make his season debut Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers' big-money, star-studded lineup.

“I threw against the American League East all spring training, a bunch of good lineups,” Locke said. “I'm excited to face the Dodgers.”

Locke pitched in seven Grapefruit League games and faced the Boston Red Sox three times, the New York Yankees twice and the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles once each. He went 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA to win the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. It's the first time Locke has been on the Opening Day roster.

“This opportunity wasn't given to me because I had a good year in 2011 or last year. I earned this,” Locke said. “I put myself in position to be in this spot in the rotation. I feel competitive. I feel ready. I've been preparing for this. It's time to go.”

When Locke was told he had made the team, he knew the off day last week would push his debut back to Sunday. Last Tuesday, he threw his final tune-up in extended spring training in Bradenton, Fla.

“And I've been doing my homework (on the Dodgers), watching who they've put in their lineup,” Locke said. “I am super pumped up. It's a much different feeling for me — being here as a part of the 25-man roster, first road trip, Dodger Stadium. I can't wait.”

A bruising catch

Jeanmar Gomez never really saw the liner off Adrian Gonzalez's bat. Gomez dropped into a crouch on the mound — “Instinct,” he said. “Just trying to protect myself.” — and felt the ball smack into his ribs. His elbow stopped the ball, and he cradled it against his body.

“At first I didn't know I'd caught it,” Gomez said. “I didn't feel anything right away. Then came the pain.”

Gomez's nifty play logged the final out of the eighth inning Friday. After the game, he was taken for X-rays, which came up negative. Gomez didn't dodge the baseball, but he did dodge a bullet — nothing broken, just a contusion.

It was Gomez's first outing with the Pirates, and he tossed three scoreless innings. Unable to crack the starting rotation in spring training, the right-hander is adjusting to a long-reliever's role.

“It's a little strange for me, but it's part of the game,” Gomez said. “You just have to prepare your mind and your body every day. I get loose before and during the game, so I'm always ready to go.”

After throwing 39 pitches Friday and taking that shot to the ribs, Gomez likely will be kept out of action until Monday.

Planet of the aches

Right-hander Charlie Morton (elbow surgery) is slated to pitch two innings Monday in an extended spring training game. Morton threw a 36-pitch bullpen session Friday. ... Lefty Francisco Liriano (broken arm) will throw a two-inning simulated game Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla. ... Reliever Jose Contreras (elbow) will work two innings in an extended spring game Wednesday. ... Righty Jeff Karstens (shoulder) played catch on flat ground Saturday. ... Infielder Brandon Inge (fractured shoulder blade) went 0 for 3 and played the whole game at second base Friday for Triple-A Indianapolis. Inge is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday.

Chow time

Travis Snider — a.k.a. “LunchboxHero” on Twitter — is the Pirates' resident connoisseur of fine dining, but even he needs a little help sometimes. After spending the past five years in the American League, Snider admits he doesn't know much about the eateries in Los Angeles.

“I haven't been here on vacation or to play before, so this is virgin territory,” Snider said. “I know there are some famous spots. I've watched a lot of ‘Entourage' and seen the places they've gone.”

Around the horn

Andrew McCutchen was the most popular guy in the clubhouse Saturday. He bought Dr. Dre headphones for every player on the team and passed them out before the game. ... Reliever Justin Wilson had to come up with about 20 tickets for friends and family, some of whom drove nearly three hours to see the games. “Most of them are Angels fans, anyway, so they'll have no problem rooting against the Dodgers,” Wilson said.

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

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