Confident Dumatrait bolsters Bucs' 'pen

Confident Dumatrait bolsters 'pen

MIAMI -- It would be a much better story if there had been some heavy tweaking to his delivery. Or a new pitch that he had added to his repertoire. Or maybe a change in his release point.

But, in fact, it's really not that deep. It's really not all that exciting. The difference, Phil Dumatrait says, between his struggles a year ago and how he's performed since joining the Pirates this offseason is actually quite simple.

"It's confidence," Dumatrait said.

That's it?

"I think so," he answered. "I try not to pitch to the names on the back anymore. Last year I fell into that. I just try to go out there, and I just try to attack the best I can."

When the Pirates claimed Dumatrait off waivers back in October, the 6-foot-2 lefty joined the club along with the tag that he couldn't handle the big-league spotlight. In six starts with the Reds last year, Dumatrait gave up 30 runs. That's 30 runs in just 18 innings.

Throw in there the six homers he surrendered and the 12 walks he issued, and Dumatrait hadn't proven that he was able to have success outside the Minor League levels.

Dumatrait was, however, able to win one of the final bullpen spots with the Pirates this year because of solid Spring Training results. But, from there, can he parlay that into regular-season success?

Friday provided Dumatrait with his first opportunity to see if he could do so, and while his performance may have been lost in the box score because of the game's final outcome, Dumatrait passed his first test.

"It was good to get the first one out of the way," Dumatrait said. "Definitely with how things went last year, and so far this year, starting in Spring Training, I do have some confidence, and I do take it out there on the mound every time."

He came into a tie game in the sixth and quickly quieted a Marlins offense that had pushed Matt Morris to his limit in the Pirates starter's five innings of work. Dumatrait allowed one hit -- erasing that baserunner on a double play -- and one walk in his 2 1/3 innings of relief.

"I liked the crispness to his pitches, nice velocity for him," manager John Russell said. "But the crispness down in the zone, I think, is new to him. He threw some pretty good breaking pitches to lefties. It's good to see."

Having Dumatrait in the 'pen will continue to give Russell some options in how best to construct his bullpen on any given night. Like he did on Friday, Dumatrait, who was a starter throughout his climb through the Minors, can fill in for multiple innings. He can spot start. Or, especially if Friday's performance is a harbinger of success to come, he could be used as a lefty to bridge the gap to the late-inning lefties -- Damaso Marte and John Grabow -- with an early inning of relief.

"With the way he is throwing, he gives you some flexibility as to when you can use him," Russell said. "He keeps the ball down. That's the key."

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