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Contrasts from last year encourage Bucs


PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- "Just one game" was a common disclaimer following the Pirates' 3-2 victory against the Rays in Saturday's Grapefruit League opener. However, there were enough subtle contrasts to 2012 to underscore the fact it was, indeed, the beginning of a new year:

• The Bucs had two stolen bases without being caught (Starling Marte and Darren Ford) and lefty starter Jeff Locke picked off the only Rays runner who took off (Rich Thompson).

After converting 73-of-125 stolen-base attempts and letting the other guys run 154-for-173 last season, manager Clint Hurdle will take the small victory.

"Jeff mixed in his hold and side-step pretty efficiently," Hurdle said. "We're very encouraged with the rhythm and the pace, and the fact we're not letting runners on base slow things down."

• The Bucs scored their first run in the fourth inning, when Garrett Jones bounced a likely double-play ball to first baseman James Loney with runners at the corners and one out.

Loney stepped on the bag to retire Jones and threw to second, but Travis Snider put on the brakes and got into a rundown long enough to allow Marte to score from third.

"A situation that last year, I'm not sure would've been handled the same way," Hurdle said. "They know what's important to the manager and they felt the sting of not executing in certain areas last year."

• The Bucs ran out seven pitchers and would have blanked Tampa Bay if not for an eighth-inning fly ball to center field lost in the high sun by Ford. That run came off Vin Mazzaro, one of two hits charged against him. Chris Leroux also allowed two hits, then escaped a fourth-inning jam.

Bryan Morris, Mike Zagurski, Duke Welker and Brooks Brown each put up a hitless inning.

"I thought we pitched the ball very well, first through the ninth," Hurdle said. "That was good to see."

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