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Pirates notebook: Outfielder makes pitch for mound appearance

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, March 22, 2014, 6:12 p.m.
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez celebrates with Jaff Decker after hitting a two-run homer against the Twins on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez celebrates with Jaff Decker after hitting a two-run homer against the Twins on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Every now and then, Jaff Decker looks like a wannabe pitcher in the outfield.

Decker has shown off his strong throwing arm a few times during spring training. Against the Detroit Tigers, Decker gunned down speedy Hernan Perez, who was trying to score from first base on Rajai Davis' double. Last week against the Boston Red Sox, Decker threw out Xander Bogaerts, who was trying to stretch a single into a double.

“Taking a run away is fun,” Decker said. “It's a good feeling, throwing somebody out. You're helping the pitcher, saving their (stats).

“I used to pitch, so that's the only time now I get to let one go. I like those opportunities.”

Decker was a pitcher in high school, but became a position player in college. He sometimes misses being on the mound.

“I try to relive it in the outfield, and I don't have to worry about hitting my spots,” Decker said with a laugh. “I want one (pitching appearance) in the majors. Just one, and I'll never bring it up again.”

Last season, infielder Josh Harrison made a mop-up outing on the mound in a blowout loss against the Colorado Rockies.

Could manager Clint Hurdle consider Decker part of his emergency bullpen?

“Well, I have a right- and a left-handed option now,” Hurdle said.

Ishikawa impresses

Travis Ishikawa is keeping his foot in the door for the backup first baseman job. In Saturday's 5-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies, Ishikawa walked twice and launched a long solo home run to right field. He has homered twice in his past three games and is batting .359 overall.

“We've tried to feed (Ishikawa) at-bats, and he's taken advantage,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's competing well.”

When Ishikawa came to camp as a non-roster invitee, management thought he might get some time in the outfield, too.

However, he tweaked his hamstring the first time he went to right field in early March, and Hurdle now says Ishikawa will be used only at first base.

Andrew Lambo, who has been given first crack at winning the spot behind starter Gaby Sanchez, went 0 for 4 Saturday, dropping his batting average to .095.

Fan taunts Burnett

Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett, who pitched the past two seasons for Pittsburgh, started Saturday against the Pirates. As he was leaving McKechnie Field after the game, Burnett took exception to something yelled at him by a fan on the boardwalk behind right field.

Burnett walked briskly back through the Pirates bullpen and shouted angrily at the fan through a fence.

The situation did not escalate, however, and a policeman watched intently as the fan left and Burnett turned and exited the park in a different direction.

Go easy on Walker

Neil Walker does not believe fans on Twitter and the radio sports talk shows have higher expectations for him because he's a Pittsburgh native.

“Honestly, I think people probably take it a little easier on me,” Walker said. “I don't know if that's right or wrong. I don't really care. My job is to help this team win and get the most talent out of myself. Expectations are what they are. People are either going to love you or hate you.

“Some people take it easy on me because I'm the hometown kid. This is my 11th season, and you learn to block out things from the outside and focus on the team and the everyday, boring baseball events.”

Around the horn

Charlie Morton tossed seven shutout innings Saturday in a minor league game. He had seven strikeouts and allowed seven hits and two walks. ... Stolmy Pimentel threw 67 pitches in five innings against the Phillies. Pimentel is set to open the season as a long reliever/spot starter.

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

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