Spring training: Dotel has ... pennant fever?
Pirates closer Octavio Dotel makes his bullpen rehabilitation session Thursday at McKechnie Field. Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan are among those watching.
Share with others:
BRADENTON, Fla. -- If anyone on the Pirates' 2010 roster is going to get dragged down by the franchise's miserable recent history, it surely will not be Octavio Dotel.
In the span of a half-hour Thursday morning ...
He pitched a spirited bullpen rehabilitation session, firings fastballs and kicking the rubber as if he were facing ... well, not a plastic dummy. When he threw one wildly inside, he shouted out, "I was trying to scare him!" And when he was done, he granted an interview to a Hispanic TV crew that he capped by crooning a song into the microphone.
"I'm having a great time," Dotel said shortly after that. "The players are great. The coaching staff. Everybody. I like what I see. When you see players who want to prove something, to show everybody, that's good."
Game: Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves, 1:05 p.m., Champion Stadium, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. RHP Ross Ohlendorf vs. RHP Tommy Hanson. Other pitchers: Brian Bass, Jeremy Powell, Javier Lopez, Chris Jakubauskas.
TV, radio: None.
Camp roster: 66 players, including 36 pitchers, six catchers, 13 infielders, 11 outfielders.
Injuries: RHP Octavio Dotel (oblique), RHP Joel Hanrahan (elbow).
Opener: 24 days until the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park.
Dotel is one of those in the proving category: He is 36 and aiming to show he is still capable of closing after two years as the Chicago White Sox's setup man.
But, in an interview Thursday, he seemed far more focused on the Pirates as a whole. And his daily enthusiasm carried over into the expectations he expressed.
"I hope it goes the way we're looking at it now," he said. "I think it's going to be something good for the city, for the fans and for everybody here to look forward to the Pirates being in the pennant race."
It was mentioned to Dotel that Pittsburgh has not seen one of those since 1997 and, of course, has not seen a winner since 1992.
"Yes, I know what the history is here. But I think we're starting over. We're going to change how people on the outside think about this team. There's talent here. And I believe in the people at the top, too. That's what I see since I've been here. They're not looking to trade players. They're looking to keep players as long as they can, to win, to be in the pennant race. That's good. When you have that mentality and the bosses have that mentality to prove themselves, they're going to bring in anyone we need to go to the next level."
He paused, then repeated: "That's what I see since I've been here. I don't see the past. The mentality here is about winning. And it should be that way. This is a major league team. It should have been that way a long time ago."
Dotel's 35-pitch bullpen session -- including 10 offspeed pitches -- was his second while recovering from a strained left oblique. He will have another Saturday and a live batting practice Monday. After that, he will pitch an inning of a minor league game.
"I feel really good that I'll be ready," Dotel said of the opener. "But I don't want to push it."
Kevin Hart, battling for the fifth starter's spot with Daniel McCutchen, was charged with five runs over two innings in the Pirates' 16-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday.
Over three spring innings, he now has given up seven runs and seven walks, including the three walks Thursday.
"I look at my line, and I look at the way I threw the ball ... I feel like I took a step forward," Hart said. "Stuff-wise, I felt better and more confident."
Hart had a 1-2-3 first but walked the bases loaded with one out in the second. Reid Brignac's double brought two runs, Elliot Johnson's sacrifice fly another. Tampa Bay tied the score when Sean Rodriguez singled, and center fielder Jose Tabata allowed it to get by him and roll to the wall. Rodriguez came all the way around.
Hart said he fared better out of the windup, which is how he and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan did most of their work between starts.
"The first inning felt under control," Hart said. "It was just like strike one, strike two, then putting a guy away. Out of the stretch, I kind of went back to some of the old stuff."
Offensive highlights: Andy LaRoche's three-run double and Ronny Cedeno's two-run home run gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead in the first. Delwyn Young homered and went 2 for 3 with four RBIs. Neil Walker hit a two-run home run and went 2 for 2. And Lastings Milledge went 2 for 2 to raise his average to .357.
Tampa Bay hit four home runs for a game total of seven on a day where winds blew 20-35 mph out to left field.
What does a manager evaluate on a day like that?
"Not much," the Pirates' John Russell said. "For pitchers, it's tough because fly balls go out. And you don't want to be an outfielder."
The Pirates rallied for four in the ninth and had the tying run at third base with one out. But Brandon Jones struck out, and Jeff Clement -- now 2 for 16 this spring -- popped up to catcher.
• Reliever Joel Hanrahan (elbow) increased his long-tossing from 90 to 105 feet, but he remains unlikely to open the season with the team.
• Evan Meek pitched a perfect fourth inning, getting two called third strikes. Each came on a cutter on the outside corner, one to a lefty, the other to a righty. "I'm feeling really good," Meek said.
• All four of Tampa Bay's home runs came off Pirates prospects, with Jean Machi and Ramon Aguero each giving up two.
• The Pirates added a B-game to their spring schedule, 10 a.m. Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles at Pirate City.
First Published March 12, 2010 12:00 am