Notes: Pirates try Opening Day lineup

Notes: Pirates try Opening Day lineup

BRADENTON, Fla. -- If not for the fact that Jason Bay had not yet returned from the World Baseball Classic on Saturday, the sellout crowd at McKechnie Field and a television audience back home in Pittsburgh might have been treated to an early glimpse of the Pirates' Opening Day lineup.

With the Bucs facing Curt Schilling and the Red Sox, Chris Duffy batted leadoff and played center field, followed in order by shortstop Jack Wilson, first baseman Sean Casey, left fielder Craig Wilson (filling in for Bay), right fielder Jeromy Burnitz, third baseman Joe Randa, second baseman Jose Castillo, catcher Humberto Cota and pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong won't be the Bucs' starting pitcher on April 3, and Humberto Cota might be on the bench that day, too. But for an early Spring Training game, the Saturday lineup was about as close to an Opening Day lineup as you'd ever see, with at least six players starting in what could be their regular season spots in the order.

"Today was a day to involve the group somewhat collectively," said Tracy, who has been working with a combination of different lineups this spring, in part because Major League Baseball rules stipulate that teams must send at least four regulars to road exhibition games. "You pick points in time here and there where it makes a lot of sense to get them together.

"It was an opportunity to put it together a little bit today and take a brief glimpse of what it has a chance of looking like."

Early on, it didn't look the offense was going to get much done against Schilling, who faced the minimum nine batters through the first three innings. But, in the fourth, the Pirates sent eight players to the plate against the Boston ace and scored four runs on RBIs by Casey, Burnitz, Randa and Castillo.

For the game, the Pirates scored 10 runs on 10 hits and two walks in what Tracy described as his offense's best showing of the spring this far.

"There was very little, if anything, that we didn't do offensively successfully," said Tracy. "We did a lot of things right today."

Vogelsong struggles: Vogelsong, who is one of five pitchers competing for two openings in the Pittsburgh starting rotation, had a rough outing Saturday that was a result of equal parts poor command and bad luck.

Vogelsong often found himself behind in the count while allowing two runs or three hits in each of the first two innings. This made it tougher for him to overcome a couple of well-placed, if not well-struck, extra-base hits by the Red Sox.

"I made more good pitches than bad, but I have to catch a break every once in a while," said Vogelsong. "A ball lands on the left-field line in the corner. A ball dribbles over the third-base bag on a ball a guy hits off the dirt. I've got to get one to go at somebody every once in a while."

Vogelsong came back to retire the side in order in the third inning. He was able to pinpoint many positives aspects of his outing despite not being able to put together the kind of pitching line that he'd have preferred.

"I look at the results, and obviously the results aren't good. But I'm making progress with my delivery," said Vogelsong. "All my pitches are sharper. My curveball hasn't been this sharp in three years.

"They were swinging early on my fastball and put some balls in play and put me in a little bit of a hole there early. But I came back and had a good third inning. The arm feels good and the ball is still coming out of my hand good."

Tracy said it was no coincidence that Vogelsong's lack of command early in the first two innings went hand-in-hand with his tough luck. "I hope Ryan learned something for himself today about the approach he took in the third inning versus the first two," said Tracy. "Go after the bat. Go get the bat. Because when you start throwing ball one and ball two and you limit the choices that you have as a pitcher, and you limit location area that you have to throw to, more than likely there are going to be some very good swings taken against you.

"Even though he was behind in the count, they didn't really thunder the ball off of him. They grounded a ball down the third-base line that wasn't hit all that well, just located perfectly. However, things like that seem to happen, more times than not, when you look up and see 2-0 or 3-1 counts."


Quotable: "When you are surrounded by the defensive potential we have, we're not going to sit there and have pitchers fall behind, 3-0, 3-1, walking guys." -- Tracy, on wanting his pitchers to be aggressive in the strike zone

On deck: The Pirates will host the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sunday at McKechnie Field. Southpaw Zach Duke will make his third start of the spring against fellow left-hander Casey Fossum. C.J. Nitkowski, Matt Peterson and Marty McLeary are also scheduled to pitch for the Pirates.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.