BRADENTON, Fla. -- At first glance, Ian Snell and Phil Dumatrait seem to have nothing in common.
Except they are teammates and somehow friends.
"It just kind of happened," Dumatrait said. "He's just one of those guys you get along with, you know."
Snell, about to begin his third full season in the rotation, is from Delaware. Dumatrait, who hopes to begin his first season with the Pirates, is from California.
Snell is a right-handed pitcher, Dumatrait is a left-hander.
"To tell you the truth, righties and lefties don't really get along," Snell said. "They have some weird stuff, lefties do. They have some weird superstitions. They have a tendency to look out for each other more than a right-hander would look out for a right-hander."
Perhaps right-handers are jealous of left-handers because lefties seem to have much longer shelf lives in the major leagues.
"That's true," Dumatrait said. "We do stay in the game a little longer. Teams always have a job for a lefty."
Snell's counter? "I think [lefties are] jealous because we throw harder," he said.
Whatever, the two became friends almost immediately after training camp began a month ago.
"We just started picking on each other and we just slowly started becoming friends," Snell said. "Hopefully, this friendship will keep going."
The best chance for that to happen is Dumatrait making the opening day roster.
Dumatrait's best chance for that to happen is landing one of the spots in the bullpen.
He's been built up so far as a starter -- four innings in a start against Detroit last Sunday -- but he will pitch in relief today against Toronto.
"We're looking at the five guys now," pitching coach Jeff Andrews said.
That would mean a starting rotation of Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Matt Morris and Snell.
"We don't want Phil to lose that [starter stamina] if something happens," Andrews said, "but the thing is, his arm works. He has the arm motion to probably do both starting and relieving.
"He's valuable. No. 1, he's left-handed. No. 2, he throws strikes. No. 3, it appears he can do some relieving and starting."
"The more guys you have who can do more things, that's fabulous. It gives you a sense of comfort."
Comfort was not quite what Dumatrait felt Aug. 2 when he made his major league debut for Cincinnati in Washington.
"I didn't feel anything," Dumatrait said. "When I got out there, I was just so overwhelmed with everything. It was my lifelong dream to get there and I was just kind of in awe."
His big league career began thusly:
Felipe Lopez singled.
Ronnie Belliard walked.
Ryan Zimmerman singled, but Lopez was thrown out at the plate.
Dmitri Young singled, driving in Belliard.
Dumatrait regrouped and struck out Austin Kearns and retired Ryan Church on a fly to left.
However, he left in the fourth inning en route to a 7-3 loss. He allowed eight hits, three walks and six runs in 31/3 innings.
Dumatrait's other five starts last season weren't any better. He finished 0-4, allowing 39 hits -- including six home runs -- 12 walks and 30 runs in only 18 innings.
In his final start against Milwaukee, he yielded home runs to the first three Brewers -- Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun.
"It was a learning curve," Dumatrait said. "I learned a lot while I was up there."
The Reds were unimpressed. They put him on waivers in October, and the Pirates claimed him.
Even though Dumatrait knew the Pirates had the potential for three left-handers in their rotation and two more lefties set in their bullpen, he welcomed the chance.
"I was excited," he said. "I knew the situation over here with there being some [bullpen] spots open."
Snell is rooting for his new friend.
"He's a competitor," Snell said. "He knows about the game. He knows how to pitch. He has a good, strong work ethic. He just goes out and handles his business. He's a cool guy."
There's this, too.
Unlike all those left-handers Snell thinks have all those weird superstitions, Dumatrait said he doesn't have any. Maybe because he really isn't a left-hander.
"I just throw lefty," he said. "I do almost everything else right-hander. I'm not a typical lefty, I guess. I'm kind of messed up a little bit."
First Published March 15, 2008 4:00 AM