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Pirates notebook: Locke cautious with 'pull' in right side

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 7:30 p.m.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Left-hander Jeff Locke hopes a little pull in his side doesn't become a big problem during spring training.

During a bullpen session a couple of days ago, Locke felt what he described as “a continuous little pull” in his right side. He finished the workout, then told the Pirates' trainers about his discomfort. According to Locke, the medical staff is optimistic they caught the problem before it could blossom into a major oblique injury.

“From what I've heard from the training staff, it's something that if we don't take care of it now, it could be six to eight weeks (on the disabled list) later,” Locke said Wednesday. “That's something I can't afford.”

Locke had been scheduled to throw Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Right-hander Jay Jackson started the game, which the Pirates won 6-4.

After an up-and-down 2013 season, Locke is vying this spring for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. Right-hander Edinson Volquez, who signed for $5 million in December, went into camp as the likely frontrunner.

Locke is not sure what caused the injury because oblique problems usually happen on a pitcher's throwing side.

“I was just out there throwing normally,” Locke said. “It could be I was coming out of my turn quick. It could be early morning, I haven't stretched enough, team's on the road, and I'm just trying to get my work in. A lot of things could have (factored) into it.”

Locke did not seem to be in any pain Wednesday as he moved around the clubhouse.

“There's nothing that hurts,” Locke said. “I believe I'll throw off the mound again in the next two days. If that's pain free, then we'll move forward from there.”

Jackson fills in

Jackson found out Tuesday morning he would start the next day against the Blue Jays.

“Not a lot of time to prepare, but that's OK,” Jackson said. “Especially in a spring training game, (short notice) doesn't matter. I've been a starter, a long guy, a short guy. It's just fun to get out there and pitch.”

Jackson, who's in camp as a non-roster invitee, pitched two scoreless innings and allowed one hit.

Alvarez bundles at-bats

Pedro Alvarez did not make the trip Wednesday to Dunedin, but he was in the lineup the previous three games. Alvarez had started four of the first six games and was tied with Gregory Polanco for the team lead with 15 at-bats.

“There's a reason for it,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We're trying to bundle at-bats differently for all these guys and give them an opportunity to find some rhythm. The only guys who haven't played back-to-back games are (Andrew) McCutchen and (Russell) Martin, and that's by design, too.”

Last year, Alvarez played in 19 Grapefruit League games (54 at-bats) and hit .241 with two home runs. In 2012, he played in 19 games (53 at-bats) and hit .170 with two homers.

“Pedro's spring trainings have been challenging,” Hurdle said. “Obviously, the season can turn out different, but nobody likes to have to battle for an extended period. If we can give him some help along the way, like by giving him (lots) of at-bats in a short period of time, that's what we'll do.”

Around the horn

Gaby Sanchez showed his sore right knee has improved by moving well at the plate and at first base. He hit an RBI double and scored a run. “As pretty a swing as you'll see,” Hurdle said. ... The Pirates will play a “B” game against Minnesota on Friday at Pirate City. Stolmy Pimentel will start for the Pirates, and former Bucs pitcher Kevin Correia will start for the Twins. .... Closer Jason Grilli is slated to make his first spring outing Thursday. If that game is rained out, Grilli might pitch in either the “A” or “B” game Friday. ... In minor league camp, outfielder Austin Meadows is out with a mild hamstring injury. Meadows was a first-round pick last year.

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




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