Pirates notebook: Stolmy Pimentel to start in intrasquad workout

PIRATES NOTEBOOK


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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Manager Clint Hurdle announced Saturday the pitchers who will participate in the intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday at McKechnie Field, revealing a mixture of options for the active roster and members of the lower levels of the minors.

Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel will start and pitch two innings for the Black team, and left-hander Joely Rodriguez will do the same for the Gold.

"We will evaluate pace, rhythm, command and following the glove," Hurdle said of how the staff will judge the pitchers early in spring. "Spin, depth, variation of velocity, the changeup, the fastball, the breaking ball. We always emphasize down in the zone."

Andy Oliver and Casey Sadler also are scheduled to pitch as are non-roster invitees Jay Jackson, Zack Thornton, Jake Brigham and Cody Eppley.

"We tell them, you don't need to go out there the first time and blow our ears back," Hurdle said. "We need you throwing strikes, working quick and efficiently with the emphasis on retiring hitters on three pitches or less from the start."

Welker glad to be back

Duke Welker was with the Minnesota Twins for about a month and a half. He joined the team in October as the player to be named later in the Justin Morneau trade and made one trip to Minneapolis, where he briefly met with Twins general manager Terry Ryan.

In November, the Pirates brought him back, sending left-hander Kris Johnson to the Twins.

"To know that they know me since I was drafted, and they see my progression and see that I have a future with the Pirates, it's exciting," Welker said. "I love where the Pirates are going. I was sad to leave and I'm glad to be back."

Welker faces the challenge of earning a spot in the crowded bullpen. The number of players out of minor league options and the back-end incumbents mean Welker, who has an option remaining, must significantly out-pitch people to make the team.

"I want to make the team opening day," Welker said. "That's the goal, that's the mindset, training all offseason. All the guys talk about opening day and just the excitement and packing PNC [Park] and just how much fun it is."

Welker, 28, changed trainers in the offseason and varied his workouts. He said he feels great.

In two games for the Pirates in 2013, Welker's first major league experience, this right-hander pitched 11/3 scoreless innings. He struck out 65 in 63 innings for Class AAA Indianapolis and kept the ball in the park, but also walked 4.4 batters per nine innings.

Step-tracker

To the list of things teams quantify these days, add the number of steps the outfielders take.

The Pirates track the steps taken during a game PNC Park, then double it to account for road games, Hurdle said.

They take the total mileage and divide it by game to determine how far their players are running, which Hurdle said helps them decide when to rest certain players.

"You don't know based on the volume of balls hit in certain areas, but you will get a better read with guys that are more athletic, you can position different, strategically," Hurdle said.


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.

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