Dessens impressive in spring debut

Dessens impressive in spring debut

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- After being sidelined with lower back stiffness early in Spring Training, right-hander Elmer Dessens took the mound at Knology Park on Saturday to make his first Grapefruit League appearance.

Dessens needed just 11 pitches to complete a scoreless sixth inning, allowing one hit while striking out one.

"My arm feels very strong," Dessens, an 11-season veteran, said afterward. "I don't feel any pain like last year, when there were shoulder problems. I feel like I can be ready [for the season]."

The Pirates aren't quite ready to count on Dessens being ready come Opening Day. And with the bullpen slowly taking shape, Dessens appears to have an uphill climb to earn one of the final open spots. With only two weeks left until the end of Spring Training, management will have to monitor Dessens' progress before making any decisions.

"He's come back pretty nice," manager John Russell said. "He threw the ball well the other day in Minor League camp and wasn't bad today. We'll keep running him out, and [we'll] see how he responds."

The Pirates signed Dessens to a Minor League contract back in January, in hope that the veteran righty could give Pittsburgh an experienced bullpen presence.

The 37-year-old right-hander, however, was kept off the mound until March 8, when he threw his first side session. Dessens had thrown two other times since then before Saturday's appearance.

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