Lefty relievers boost their resumes for roster spot

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The southpaw derby isn't officially on the Pirates' Spring Training racing form. But it officially got under way Friday night, in the middle of the Bucs' 6-3 exhibition loss to the Orioles.

If there is a seat in the bullpen waiting for a second left-hander to complement Tony Watson -- and manager Clint Hurdle has never identified that as a necessity -- Kris Johnson and Mike Zagurski upped their bids.

Working consecutively in relief of Kyle McPherson, both Johnson and Zagurski were perfect in their innings -- Zagurski doing it more impressively by striking out the side.

Johnson's outing improved his spring line to one run allowed in 3 2/3 innings, with five strikeouts. Zagurski has retired all nine men he has faced in three innings, also with five punchouts.

"It's too early to get into any competition for a spot on the roster," said Zagurski, a Major League veteran of 82 games, including 45 last season with Arizona. "The breaking ball, usually my strikeout pitch, was a little tighter tonight, and that's a good sign."

"All I'm concerned with is progression every time I go out there, getting a little better with every chance," said Johnson, still seeking his first big league exposure.

Both Johnson and Zagurski could be chasing Justin Wilson, the Bucs' fifth-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft who has allowed one earned run in six innings, and has fanned seven.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.