Spring Synopsis: Vasquez to start today vs. Yankees

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Wednesday's game: In Port Charlotte, Fla., Jeff Karstens allowed a two-run homer to Adam Kennedy among his five-hit, five-strikeout five innings, and Rule 5 draftee Donnie Veal struggled with two earned runs, two walks and a hit batsman (Evan Longoria) in 12/3 innings in a 4-2 Pirates loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Brandon Moss went 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI, and Steve Pearce doubled him in. Six Rays pitchers combined to strike out seven Pirates and walk none.

Today: Virgil Vasquez, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation who last pitched in a major league exhibition March 17 at the New York Yankees, is scheduled to start against Toronto at 7:05 p.m. in the last of two spring night games at McKechnie Field. The game will be broadcast on WPGB-FM 104.7 and the Pirates Radio Network.

Camp roster: Camp roster: 40, with 18 pitchers, 4 catchers, 10 infielders and 8 outfielders.

Competition: Look at first base now. Moss will get a start there tonight against Toronto, after a long line of Adam LaRoche, Eric Hinske, Steve Pearce and Garrett Jones playing there in the past week alone. Just another example of how versatility can play a major role on a ballclub.

Inside pitch: The lineup, posted long in advance for tonight's game, includes Nyjer Morgan in left field, Freddy Sanchez at second base, Nate McLouth in center field, Ryan Doumit at catcher, Hinske in right field, Moss at first, Andy LaRoche at third base, Brian Bixler at shortstop and Vasquez. Manager John Russell may well continue his gracious approach from Monday, when he allowed Tampa to use the American League's designated hitter while he had his Pirates pitchers bat to prepare them for National League play.

Fun at ... the beach? All was quiet at McKechnie Field yesterday as players stayed away on their day off as if the place were quarantined. A few of the coaches did show, though.

Meet me in St. Louis: 11 days until the opener.



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