Bedard gets nod for Pirates opener

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle named left-hander Erik Bedard Thursday as the opening-day starter against the Philadelphia Phillies April 5 at PNC Park.

Jeff Karstens, James McDonald and Kevin Correia will follow Bedard.

"We felt our strongest rotation coming out of the chute would fall this way," Hurdle said after the Pirates lost, 8-6, Thursday to Tampa Bay at McKechnie Field.

The Pirates signed Bedard as a free agent in the offseason. A.J. Burnett would have started opening day, Hurdle said, had he not been injured.

The Pirates looked at matchups and statistical analysis for the first month or so of the season before deciding upon their rotation, Hurdle said, and factored in the success Correia had on the road last season when setting him up to start the first game of the series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles April 10.

Hurdle also said no decision has been reached on a fifth starter, if the Pirates use one early.

Scheduled days off allow them some flexibility.

Charlie Morton is recovering well from offseason hip surgery, but the Pirates might treat his return with caution.

"We're going to get Charlie out there again and see how he shows up, just to evaluate him a little more," Hurdle said.

Culprit was Moskos' glove

Of all the moving parts in a pitcher's delivery -- the grip, hip turn, landing spot and dozens of others that must align perfectly -- it was Daniel Moskos' glove that caused problems with his slider last season.

If he held the glove incorrectly before the pitch, he discovered, the slider lacked its usual bite. After an offseason spent studying and tinkering with the issue, the left-handed Moskos said his former out pitch has returned.

"I took the time to really evaluate what I needed to do with it and I think I was pretty successful in that," Moskos said.

He'll need that slider to compete with plenty of potential suitors for a spot in a bullpen. Being left-handed helps, as Hurdle prefers to carry two left-handers if he can, but Hurdle has said he will take his best seven relievers.

"Everybody knows there's a ton of good arms in camp," Moskos said. "That's no secret. At the same time, it's good for me. You have to rise above it. You have to go out there and just perform to the best of your abilities, and things will take care of themselves."

Moskos finished 2011, his first season in the majors with a 2.96 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 241/3 innings, but shuffled between the Pirates and Class AAA Indianapolis. The Pirates sent the 25-year-old first-round draft pick from 2007 to the minors with instructions to work on his slider.

Doing so in season proved tough, so he attacked it in the offseason. He watched film of good and bad outings and deduced that when his slider loosened up, he came set with his glove slightly off kilter. That resulted in a different path for his hand and arm.

"I was never getting to the other side of the ball and finishing the pitch," he said. "That's where the loopy sliders came in."

He practiced throwing it off flat ground as well as in bullpen sessions and came into spring training with better control of the pitch.

"That has been my put-away pitch in the past, and I didn't have it last year," he said.

"So far this spring, I feel like it's come back and been a pretty effective pitch for me."

He said he can throw it effectively to left-handed or right-handed batters and has treated his spring appearances like regular-season games to heighten the intensity. He allowed his first run -- unearned -- in 62/3 innings of spring work Thursday.

"The mind is a powerful thing," he said. "If you put it to it, it will create whatever environment you want it to envision. If you envision it like a real game, it will treat it like a real game."

Rough afternoon

The Pirates committed three errors, were picked off bases twice and walked seven batters in the loss against the Rays.

"There's a bridge to build the W," Hurdle said. "Number one, it goes with putting innings away, not putting people on free with two outs. We weren't very efficient today."

Karstens, who started the game, struggled with his command, walking four in five innings while allowing three runs, two of them earned.

"If I gave up those runs on hits, it's one thing," Karstens said. "But, when I walk guys and give up free passes, let my defense sit out there, that's not something that can happen."

Yamaico Navarro went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs, and Rod Barajas went 2 for 3 with a homer.

Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG.


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