BRADENTON, Fla. -- Despite Joel Hanrahan's continued progress on the road back from a right elbow injury, it does not appear as if there will be enough time for the righty to be ready for the Pirates' April 5 opener against the Dodgers.
That was the initial prognosis back at the start of Spring Training, when Hanrahan's flexor-pronator strain was first revealed to reporters. But after Dr. James Andrews confirmed that there was no structural damage in Hanrahan's elbow at the end of February, the Pirates opened the door to the possibility that Hanrahan could very well be pitching in Pittsburgh on Opening Day.
Now, he's doubtful, at best.
"He's coming along just fine, so I don't want to raise any yellow flags there," general manager Neal Huntington said on Thursday. "We just don't have enough time to give him enough outings to where he's going to be able to knock enough rust off or build enough confidence to go pitch in a high-leverage situation on April 5 or 7 or 8. I think the reality is that he needs a little bit more Spring Training."
The Pirates don't anticipate Hanrahan's absence on the Major League roster to linger very far into April, so that is certainly encouraging news for a club that was looking at Hanrahan as one of its late-inning arms. Assuming he continues progressing as he had over the past two weeks, Hanrahan will be able to pitch in Grapefruit League play before the Pirates break camp. When the team travels north, Hanrahan would then stay in extended Spring Training to get a few more innings under his belt.
Hanrahan continues to work through a long-toss program, and he extended himself out to throwing from a distance of 105 feet on Thursday. That distance will increase to 120 feet before Hanrahan is cleared to return to the mound. He is expected to throw his first side session off the mound early next week.
From there, Huntington said, Hanrahan's progression will be dictated by how he feels. There is no set target date for when Hanrahan will make his first spring appearance.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.