MLB Insiders - Pittsburgh Pirates

Zach Duke

Zach Duke's first outing of spring training was all too reminiscent of many of his regular-season starts in 2007.

However, the Pirates left-hander wasn't down after being tagged for five runs, four earned, and six hits in two innings by Cincinnati on Saturday. Duke walked none, struck out two and gave up home runs to Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn in the first inning.

"I felt healthy, and that's the most important thing," Duke said. "I felt good out there, and I couldn't always say that last season. It was nice to throw all my pitches and not worry about my arm hurting."

Duke went 3-8 with a 5.53 ERA in 20 games, 19 starts, last season and spent 2 1/2 months on the disabled list. That is why Duke said the results Saturday did not matter as much as how his arm felt.

"It's spring training, and I'm just trying to make some pitches," he said. "I made some bad pitches, but I also made some good pitches.

"It was just kind of a weird outing. There were some bloop hits that fell and some plays didn't get made in the field that normally would get made. It's the third game of spring training, though, so you can't really put any stock in it. Right now, it's just about trying to get back into the groove again."

Pirates manager John Russell was encouraged with what he saw of Duke, who went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts as a rookie in 2005, then slipped to 10-15 with a 4.43 ERA in 2006 before his trouble-filled 2007.

"He obviously had some trouble with the left-handers, giving up the homers to Griffey and Dunn, but I thought he throw the ball pretty well," Russell said. "They chopped a couple of balls on him that got through the infield and that made things look worse than they really were."

--LHP Tom Gorzelanny pitched one scoreless and pain-free inning in his first start of the spring Sunday against Tampa Bay. That left the Pirates feeling relieved after Gorzelanny was scratched from the exhibition opener on Feb. 28 against Philadelphia because of pain in his throwing shoulder. Gorzelanny led the team in wins last season when he was 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 32 starts.

--OF Nate McLouth was scratched from the lineup Saturday against Cincinnati when he felt tightness in his right hamstring during batting practice. The injury is not considered serious, and McLouth, battling OF Nyjer Morgan to be the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, is expected to return by the middle of the week.

--LHP Damaso Marte, the Pirates' most reliable setup reliever last season with a 2.38 ERA in 65 games, was still feeling the effects of missing the first week of spring training with a bad case of the flu. Marte was supposed to make his spring debut March 3 in a "B" game against Philadelphia but was pushed back at least three days because he does not feel he has built up enough arm strength to face opposing hitters.

--RHP Byung-Hyun Kim, who signed as a free agent on Feb. 24, is still building arm strength. He will likely make his spring debut March 6 when the Pirates face Toronto. Kim is the front-runner to become the primary right-handed setup reliever.

--C Steve Lerud and C Milver Reyes, in camp as non-roster players, were both reassigned to minor league camp. Neither got into any exhibition games.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Errors the Pirates committed in their first four exhibition games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If the errors continue, we'll have to talk about it. Right now, though, I just attribute it to guys still getting their feet on the ground earlier in the exhibition season." -- Manager John Russell.

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