Pirates relief pitcher Dotel says he's on track
By Karen Price, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, March 12, 2010

Pirates closer Octavio Dotel, who on Tuesday threw off the mound for the first time this spring, had another good session on Thursday.

The 36-year-old righty, who is recovering from a strained oblique muscle, said before yesterday's session that he planned to push it a little more than on Tuesday, when he threw 31 pitches, all fastballs.

"I'm going to try to go between 80 and 90 percent and see how it feels," he said. "If it feels good, I'm pretty sure I might change the schedule we've got. But if I feel OK, I might just stay on the schedule we've got."

He ended up throwing 41 pitches, including 12 breaking balls, in a session that pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said went "extremely well."

Dotel, who is expected to pitch once more off the mound Saturday before throwing batting practice on Monday, believes he'll be ready for Opening Day on April 5.

[HIGH-LIGHT][/HIGH-LIGHT] The Pirates fell short of a ninth-inning comeback in a 16-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday at McKechnie Field. Mike Ekstrom (1-0) got the win for the Rays, now 8-1 in Grapefruit League action, while Jeff Karstens (0-1) took the loss for the Pirates (3-6-1). The game, which took three hours and 41 minutes to complete, was played under windy conditions at a steady 20-25 mph blowing toward center field with gusts reaching 40 mph.

[HIGH-LIGHT][/HIGH-LIGHT] Kevin Hart started out well in yesterday's game, setting down the top of the Rays' order with two pop-outs and a strikeout. But he got into trouble in the second, walking three of the first four batters and ultimately allowing five runs to tie the score. "I made the adjustment late," he said. "To give up a five-run lead and walk a couple guys, it hurts."

[HIGH-LIGHT][/HIGH-LIGHT] Reliever Joel Hanrahan is still on track to throw off the mound for the first time Monday.

[HIGH-LIGHT][/HIGH-LIGHT] Pitcher Zach Duke said that despite a tough first-inning Wednesday night, he's where he needs to be at this point in spring training.

"My stuff is good, my breaking pitches are where they need to be with good action on them," he said. "The sinker will come around the more I work on it."

[HIGH-LIGHT][/HIGH-LIGHT] The Pirates and the Central Blood Bank will host a blood drive on Monday from noon to 6 p.m. inside the press conference room at PNC Park. All donors will receive a pair of tickets to the game on April 18 against the Cincinnati Reds. For information or to schedule an appointment, call (412) 209-7010.

[HIGH-LIGHT]Quotable[/HIGH-LIGHT]

"Not much. For pitchers, it's tough because fly balls go out. And you don't want to be an outfielder on a day like this." Pirates manager John Russell, on how much he can evaluate performance from Thursday's game, with wind gusting 35-40 mph.

[HIGH-LIGHT]Digits[/HIGH-LIGHT]

4 Home runs hit by the Rays in Thursday's win

3 Home runs for the Pirates, hit by Ronny Cedeno in the first inning, Neil Walker in the seventh and Delwyn Young in the eighth.

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