BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jeff Locke has pronounced himself back, running on all cylinders. He also realizes he is likely running out of time to be a part of the Pirates' season-opening rotation.
The left-hander went through a 45-pitch session in the bullpen on Friday. He felt good, with no reminders of the right-side discomfort that surfaced soon after his only spring outing, two innings on Feb. 27. Locke expects to throw live batting practice on Monday.
"Then maybe get in a game," Locke said. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm back to normal. I hope to get back out there. Watching gets a little old."
Opening Day, two weeks away, is out. Even if the Bucs did not need a fifth starter until April 14 due to two off days, Locke would be a long shot for that. However, manager Clint Hurdle said after Sunday's 5-0 spring win over the Phillies in Clearwater that he is more likely to share the load and use a fifth starter earlier, which definitely rules Locke out.
So Locke's more realistic expectation is being ready, if needed, by the first of May.
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.