After a span in which he made only two scoreless appearances in his first seven outings, Tony Armas recorded his second straight scoreless appearance in Friday's series opener, when he pitched 2 2/3 innings and allowed only an inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly.
"The mechanics are getting much better," Armas said, reflecting on his last two appearances. "[I needed] more repetitions, and that's what it is all about. My mechanics were so messed up."
Armas said that he and pitching coach Jim Colborn worked specifically on making sure Armas maintained his balance throughout his delivery, and that he quickened up his release. The success of those tweaks didn't come quickly, evidenced by the 11 runs Armas allowed in his first 9 2/3 innings as a reliever. But a week ago, Armas said something finally clicked, and now he believes those "messed up" mechanics are back on the right track.
However, the mechanics issue wasn't the only obstacle in the right-hander's way. There was a pretty feisty mental one, too -- learning how to deal with a role in the bullpen that he said was never clearly defined for him. Armas said that neither his manager nor his pitching coach ever specifically talked to him about what his bullpen role would be, making the transition to the 'pen even more difficult.
"It was something I had to work on," Armas said, of not knowing when he could expect to pitch. "It's not frustrating, it's more getting used to it, I guess. You have to do what you've got to do. I'm used to it now. It took a while."
Whether or not it has been specifically defined, Armas' role has proven to be a fairly consistent one. Like Friday, when he came into an eight-run hole, the right-hander has typically entered games the team has all but conceded. Only once in his nine bullpen appearances has Armas pitched in a game that the Pirates won. And in six of those games, the Pirates lost by at least five runs.
But Armas said that by remaining willing and ready to come in when the bullpen phone rings, he has learned to manage the unknown. Don't mistake his acceptance of coming out of the 'pen as contentment with it, however. His heart is still in another place.
"I would like to have a chance to start," said Armas, who had started in each of his first 158 Major League appearances. "If it's here or anywhere, I would like to start. If it's not going to be here, then what can I say?"
Bautista injures hand: Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista left Saturday's game after the top of second with a laceration of the left hand. Bautista's left hand appeared to catch the cleat of Braves third baseman Chipper Jones as Bautista slid, head-first, while trying to steal third.
The injury wasn't the first one of the season that involved Jones and Bautista. When the Braves came to Pittsburgh in May, Jones collided with Bautista and toppled over the Pirates third baseman while trying to jump over him. Jones missed time in May due to bruised palms he sustained from that collision.
Doumit update: Encouraged by the way Ryan Doumit's left hamstring has responded to running drills this week, Pirates manager Jim Tracy said that, barring any unforeseen setbacks, Doumit would be starting Sunday's game behind the plate.
Doumit showed similar encouragement in his progress, insisting that he felt well enough to start on Saturday.
"Everything's fine as far as I'm concerned," Doumit said before taking full batting practice on Saturday. "It's 100 percent."
Silence on Sheffield: Much of the chatter around the baseball world this weekend concerned recent comments made public by Detroit's Gary Sheffield about what he perceived to be Joe Torre's differential treatment of his players.
Sheffield, who played three seasons under Torre with the Yankees, said that black and white players were treated differently by the New York manager, and that Torre would call out black players publicly in the clubhouse.
Pirates reliever Shawn Chacon and utility man Josh Phelps both played under Torre, though neither offered much explanation or any justification for Sheffield's words when asked about the comments before Saturday's game. Phelps did say, however, that the criticisms Sheffield made of Torre were nothing that he had witnessed during his time with the Yankees earlier this year.
"I never saw him call out a player in the clubhouse when we had a couple of meetings this year," said Phelps, who played in New York until the Pirates claimed him off waivers in mid-June. "There was never a player called out openly. I know he had meetings with players privately. He was the utmost respectful in my experience."
And Chacon, who was a teammate of Sheffield in New York last season, wanted to stay far away from any controversy, preferring to leave all the talking to Sheffield.
"He's well-respected and he's in a better position to comment on it," Chacon said of Sheffield. "He was there longer. I'm going to keep my mouth shut."
Rehab rehash: Salomon Torres pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings in his first rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. Torres allowed one hit and struck out three during the outing. He is expected to pitch once more this weekend for the Indians before rejoining the team in Pittsburgh next week.
Minor matters: Double-A Altoona first baseman Steven Pearce brought a 24-game on-base streak into the Curve's game against Akron on Saturday. The streak is the club's longest since Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino reached base in 33 consecutive games back in 2004. ... Right-hander Jonah Bayliss made his sixth appearance for the Indians on Friday after being sent down to the Triple-A club at the end of June. Bayliss pitched a scoreless inning after having allowed runs in three of his previous four outings.
On deck: The Pirates finish off their quick three-game road trip with one more game at Turner Field against the Braves on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Lefty Paul Maholm (5-11, 4.76 ERA) will take the mound against Atlanta right-hander Buddy Carlyle (3-2, 4.50).
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.