Outlook: Grilli capable of 30+ saves in closer role

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When the Pirates travel to Tampa for a rematch with the Yankees on Thursday, Jason Grilli will remain at camp and throw batting practice to teammates who are also skipping the trip. One of these days, Grilli will make a game appearance -- when he feels it's time.

Taking advantage of a luxury he never had -- not having to scramble to make a team, thanks to a guaranteed contract -- the 37-year-old closer is on his own slow ramp to the season.

"For a reliever, Spring Training can be too long," Grilli said. "How many times do I have to go out there to pitch one inning? It's different for these young guys who want chances to show what they've got as they try to make the team.

"And it's not like I don't come to camp in shape. I work out hard all offseason, on my legs and core, which is where it all starts. The arm is just along for the ride. Why use up bullets before the season starts? I only need about seven games to be ready."

That is exactly what Grilli had a year ago -- including an appearance for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic -- and went out of the chute strong, not allowing a run in his first 11 outings.

Grilli figures he will throw on the side at least twice more before surfacing in a Grapefruit League game. The best guess is Monday, when the Pirates host the Red Sox at McKechnie Field.

Hurdle glad to get Grapefruit slate underway

Clint Hurdle on goals during Pirates' Spring Training

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It was only one exhibition game, the first one at that.

Yet Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener between the Yankees and the Pirates offered a fascinating look into the different ways the two teams from different markets operate.

The Yankees' starting lineup included six players new to their organization -- including three free agents (Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann) signed for a total of $283 million. None of the nine appeared in a single game last season with the Yankees.

In contrast, the Pirates' starting nine was composed entirely of incumbents.

Perhaps, deep down, that added to the satisfaction that manager Clint Hurdle felt about the 6-5 comeback victory in front of a record house at McKechnie Field.

"It was good to get the games going. I thought we competed well. It was fun to watch," said Hurdle, calling the onset of exhibitions "just the next phase [of Spring Training]."

"The games don't count," he added, "but they matter. Everyone gets to hit the rest button at the end of it, but everything we do matters. Our focus needs to be in a good spot."

First number, last word

4-for-7: Combined line of three men who will be part of the first-base puzzle all spring -- Gaby Sanchez (1-for-1), Chris McGuiness (2-for-2) and Andrew Lambo (1-for-4).

"Keep up this pace? We'll see what happens tomorrow." -- catcher Tony Sanchez, on having hit three-run homers in Tuesday's intrasquad game and in Wednesday's 6-5 win over the Yankees

Worth noting

Travis Ishikawa will need a few more days to rest the tightness in his right leg that had forced him out of Tuesday's Black-Gold game.

Edinson Volquez's tendency to lose focus seemed evident in his first outing for the Pirates. His first three pitches were strikes, but after not getting the call on a borderline 0-and-2 pitch to JR Murphy, 10 of his next 17 pitches were out of the strike zone.

Charlie Morton, who will start on Thursday in Tampa, looks forward to facing Derek Jeter, whom he and his family admired when he was a teenager.

"It should be fun. He deserves everything that is being said about him," Morton said of Jeter, who will be making the first game appearance of his farewell season.

Gregory Polanco replaced Jose Tabata in right field in the sixth inning on Wednesday and did something that, with his speed, he will probably not do often: He grounded into a double play on a hot smash to short.

• The "oven mitt" Starling Marte wore last September to protect his bruised right hand appears to be a keeper. He sported it on Wednesday after reaching on an error.

"Better safe than sorry," Hurdle said.