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Pirates' Meek expected to get up to speed

| Monday, March 12, 2012

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Evan Meek's velocity still is not where it was in 2010 when he was an All-Star relief pitcher. However, the Pirates don't necessarily see that as a red flag.

"There's no reason physically that the velocity won't come back," general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday. "We expect it will."

After missing most of last season with shoulder tendinitis, Meek has been throwing his fastball at 92 to 93 mph this spring. That's 3 or 4 mph slower than a couple of seasons ago.

When Meek's fastball is good, it has a short, hard, late cut. That hasn't been there all the time this spring, sometimes varying even between batters in the same inning.

"You can tell when he trusts it and lets it fly," Huntington said. "There are other times you can tell he babies it a little bit because he's probably trying to paint. He's not a painter. He's a stuff guy, a power guy."

Meek threw 40 pitches Saturday in a B game against the Minnesota Twins. The extended outing was designed to help the right-hander build arm strength.

"It definitely was a good day," Meek said. "I felt stronger out there. Throwing one inning and 10 pitches wouldn't have done me any good. I needed to throw more."

• Pedro Alvarez and Jake Fox crushed solo homers for the Pirates yesterday, but the Tampa Bay Rays scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a 4-3 win. Fox hit a long shot to left field off right-hander Josh Lueke in the top of the inning to give the Pirates a short-lived 3-2 lead.

• Neil Walker played six innings at second base after missing four games with lower-back tightness. He went 0 for 3 but was robbed of an extra-base hit in his first at-bat when Jesus Feliciano made a leaping catch in the left-field corner. "We'll see how he feels (today)," manager Clint Hurdle said. "If he feels good, we'll get him out there again."

• Kevin Correia started and tossed three scoreless innings. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one. "I got in some longer counts with some guys but managed to get out of it," Correia said. "You never want anyone to get on base, but it's helpful moving forward to work out of the stretch a little bit."

• The Pirates started all of their regulars against the Rays, but Alvarez warned against reading too much into the lineup at this point. "It was just the lineup for today," he said. "It doesn't mean it will be the lineup tomorrow or in April or June. It's day by day. That's the mentality we have."

• Catcher Rod Barajas last night returned to San Diego to be with his wife, Stacie, for the birth of their seventh child. If all goes as expected, Barajas will return to Bradenton on Wednesday night.

Additional Information:

Scouting report

Pirates vs. Phillies

1:05 p.m., McKechnie Field, Bradenton, Fla.

Radio: KDKA-FM (93.7)

Phillies starter: RHP Vance Worley

Pirates starter: RHP Charlie Morton

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