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Pie's bid for Bucs' bench hardly slowing

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Bucs will troop out their regular lineup Saturday for the match in Fort Myers against the Red Sox, so it will be a timeout in another boiling camp battle.

Manager Clint Hurdle wants a left-handed bat on his bench, has three pretty good choices but does not have room for all three. Among Alex Presley, Felix Pie and Brad Hawpe, thus, there could be one or -- if the staff wants to keep the lone right-handed-hitting reserve outfielder, Jose Tabata, in the mix -- two casualties.

Hawpe rested Friday, to allow Gaby Sanchez back in the lineup. The other two kept making noise.

Presley had a double and a walk, raised his average to .317 and has reached base on eight of his last 12 plate appearance. Pie doubled for a run, which tied him with Andrew McCutchen for the team lead with eight RBIs, and is hitting .308.

Hurdle still admires the fluidity and potential of Hawpe's swing, but Pie may have an edge between them. Soon after complimenting Pie for having come into camp "after winter ball, ready to play," Hurdle identified as a key factor in the decision "the ability to help us out of the gate."

A soft-spoken 28-year-old Dominican with considerable Major League experience (1,051 plate appearances with the Cubs and Orioles), Pie admits being pleased with his spring performance but tries to not draw any conclusions from it.

"All you can do is keep playing hard, day after day, and after the last day, hear what they have to say," Pie said.

"We have some tough decisions to make," Hurdle said, "and I'm confident we'll make good ones. I like the personnel we have here."

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.

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