Pirates notebook: Pimentel not on his 'A' game in start

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- In one of the final tune-ups before the start of the regular season, Stolmy Pimentel allowed three home runs Saturday in his start against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pimentel, who will make the active roster as a long reliever, said he fell behind in the count too often.

"They were feeling comfortable as I was pitching in the hitter's count, 2-0, 1-0," he said. "They were just waiting for that pitch right there. But you learn something from every start. For me, that's something to learn about. Try to be more ahead in the count, try to make the hitter feel uncomfortable."

The three home runs all came against left-handed batters (Jimmy Rollins hits switch) and went out to right field, where the wind was blowing for most of the game. Rollins, the second batter of the game, homered, and Ryan Howard followed with another two batters later. Cody Asche clobbered a ball over the boardwalk in the fifth, Pimentel's final inning of work.

"Three long balls, but they're all solos," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He leaves, but he doesn't get dinged up. He keeps the game in check. Got better as the game went on."

Pimentel, a starter for most of his minor league career, said his arm felt good as he stretched out to five innings. He had made only one appearance in Grapefruit League play before Saturday, pitching two innings March 2, but threw at the Pirates' minor league facility in the interim.

"I'll just prepare for next time and try to be ahead more in the count," Pimentel said. "My arm was feeling really good and I was using all my pitches."

Pimentel threw 67 pitches, which Hurdle said would probably represent his limit.

"When he got on top of his pitches and got the ball down, there was good downhill angle," Hurdle said. "The [splitter] started to come into play. The breaking ball came into play."

First baseman makes a push

Travis Ishikawa hit his third home run of the spring, raising his Grapefruit League average to .350, and walked twice.

"He's been in play, grinding out at-bats," Hurdle said. "He's competing well."

Ishikawa can only play first base and is fighting for a roster spot that by all indications will go to Andrew Lambo. Ishikawa is having a strong spring and hit well in the minors last year, but has not played regularly in the majors since 2012.

Hurdle did not say whether the non-roster status of Ishikawa would affect his chances.

"We'll make those decisions here sooner than later," Hurdle said. "There's always a part where there's a number of things to consider when you make moves."

Michael Martinez, another non-roster invitee, went 2 for 3 to raise his spring average to .394. Martinez, though, has a .187 average in parts of his three major league seasons.

Under review

Hurdle said the Pirates would likely run through some practice scenarios using the instant replay technology when the team reaches Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, which has more complete camera angles than spring training stadiums. The Pirates have only challenged one call, which stood as called on the field.

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

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