Pirates Notebook: Shortslef officially comes up short

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Left-hander Josh Shortslef had been through the drill before -- sort of.

"This time it's for real," he said yesterday, managing a smile.

Shortslef was among 11 players the Pirates sent from their major-league camp to their minor-league complex before beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-1. The moves reduced the number of players in big-league camp to 48.

A week ago, Shortslef was told to report to the minor-league camp for his daily workout.

He thought that meant he had been cut. He took his equipment to Pirate City, thinking that's where he would spend the rest of the spring.

"A misunderstanding," Shortslef said.

The Pirates quickly told him that he hadn't been cut. Yesterday, the word was official.

"The whole thing was a joke the whole week," Shortslef said. "It kind of lightened things up. I was kind of nervous early in camp, but that relaxed me."

"He has a great chance of being a very good major-league pitcher," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "He has a clean delivery, and his ball has late life in the hitting area. He needs to learn how to corral his command."

Shortslef, who probably will begin this season with Class AA Altoona, was one of five pitchers sent to Pirate City yesterday. The others were Romulo Sanchez, Dave Davidson, Allan Simpson and Franquelis Osoria. Outfielders Nyjer Morgan, Victor Buttler and Rajai Davis, infielders Eddy Garabito and Javier Guzman and catcher Carlos Maldonado also were sent to the minor-league camp.

Morgan's stock rose significantly last season when he hit .303 for high Class A Lynchburg and .306 for Altoona, then continued his fine offensive performance in the Hawaiian Winter League. There, he batted .294 with five triples and 20 stolen bases in 32 games. Those numbers with Honolulu earned him a spot on the 40-man roster.

"I've just always been flying under the radar," said Morgan, whose baseball career got a late start because he played four seasons of junior hockey in Canada. "I've come a long way. It's been a long ride."

Morgan, 26, took his exit from big-league camp almost cheerfully.

"It's not the end of the world," he said. "I have confidence that I'm going to be back.

"It goes without saying he has a great opportunity to be a major-league player," Tracy said. "He defends. He runs well above average. He's shown he can hit. He kind of reminds me of [former major-leaguer] Mickey Rivers. He just needs to continue to work at his craft."

Armas solid again

Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. continued to solidify his hold on the fifth starter's spot with four solid innings. He allowed one hit -- a second-inning home run by Ryan Garko.

"He had a good slider, good location with his fastball," catcher Ronny Paulino said. "If he stays healthy, he can help us. He can be really good."

Armas helped himself with the bat, too, singling in a run.

Armas in nine spring innings has yielded four hits and two runs.

"One thing he's been consistent about is throwing good quality strikes," Tracy said.

Defending the defense

Tracy praised the Pirates' defense.

"It was pretty good last year," he said, "and it's gone a step above."

Doubling over

Jose Hernandez, trying to win a utility infielder's job, had two doubles. Adam LaRoche singled in Chris Duffy in the first inning. Duffy had an infield hit, stole second base and advanced to third on shortstop Brian Bixler's roller to first.

"That was probably a two-strike strikeout pitch," Tracy said. "He did a great job. Our situational hitting at-bats are better this spring -- more mindful."

Walker homers

Neil Walker lined a two-run home run over the right-field wall in the seventh inning.

Youman, Bayliss will go

Left-hander Shane Youman will pitch today at the minor-league complex in an intrasquad minor-league game. Jonah Bayliss, who has been set back because of a quadriceps injury sustained very early in spring training, also is scheduled to pitch for the first time today at the minor-league complex.

Duel on hold

The all-Japanese pitching matchup anticipated tomorrow won't happen. Neither the Pirates' Masumi Kuwata nor Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch when the Pirates play the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

Off day

The Pirates are off today before their trip to Fort Myers tomorrow. Zach Duke is scheduled to start for the Pirates. Ian Snell, John Grabow and Kevin Gryboski also are scheduled to pitch.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Chris Duffy slides past the tag of the Indians' Luis Rivas in the first inning yesterday at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Click photo for larger image.


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