BRADENTON, Fla. -- If Jeanmar Gomez and Stolmy Pimentel indeed are competing for the same slot on the Pirates' staff -- right-handed long man and occasional starter -- Pimentel moved a stride ahead of his buddy Saturday.
Soon after completing his five-inning start against the Phillies, Pimentel was in the clubhouse, enthusiastically talking up Gomez, sharing an occasional laugh.
Pimentel, who had allowed three solo home runs, but little else while walking none and fanning three, tries to not think about being in competition with a friend.
"That's stuff I can't control," he said. "I'm just pitching for the opportunity, and the decision has to be theirs. Even if you think about it, there's nothing you can do.
Pimentel has somewhat been the Bucs' "secret project." Prior to taking the McKechnie Field mound on Saturday, he had pitched only two conspicuous innings, working two frames in the March 2 game in Clearwater against the Phillies. In-between, however, he has totaled seven innings in simulated, "B" and Minor League games.
Still, this was by far Pimentel's longest outing of the spring, and the fact he finished it strong -- retiring 11 of his last 12 men -- elated manager Clint Hurdle.
"I thought he had a good day. Nice sequences in later innings, four and five in particular," Hurdle said. "Three long balls ... but all solos. He doesn't get dinged, he keeps the game in check and got better as the game went along."
Pimentel has issued two walks in a total of 12 innings, and managers love guys who come out of the bullpen throwing strikes. There is much more that Hurdle likes about him, of course.
"When he got on top of his pitches," the manager said of the 6-foot-3 pitcher, "and got the ball down, he had a good downhill angle. The split started to come into play, and so did the breaking ball."
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.