PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) - The competition for the final two rotation spots continued in Bradenton Wednesday as the Pirates beat Baltimore 6-5. Jeff Locke went 5 innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits and struck out 3.
"Well, we got through it," Locke said. "It was good. There are still some things that need to be fine-tuned a little bit, but if everything got fine-tuned, we'd all be perfect."
Locke is pleased with how he is pounding hitters inside and expanding the plate, but still working on burying breaking balls and finishing his pitches. Locke got three double play balls, joking that's more than all of last season.
"You always have to take the good stuff and go with it; it's something that we preach here so much," Locke said. "Any of our offensive guys go one for four, they take that one and they move forward with it. Same with me, got through another five innings of work healthy, strong and that's what's important."
"Continued to be very businessman-like on the mound, got some balls elevated, more balls up in the zone than he wants to, but also was very efficient," said manager Clint Hurdle. "Got in on right-handers, broke bats. I see him continue to work and be steadfast in what he is doing. When there are runners on base, he's continued to be very aggressive and very poised out there on the mound."
So how does Locke see the battle for the final two rotation spots between himself, Juan Nicasio and Ryan Vogelsong?
"To be honest with you, I'm not sure because it's never been up to me," Locke said. "It's not my decision to make."
Locke has a 6.63 ERA this Spring and notes he's never been given a job until the final day of Spring Training.
"It's unfortunate you are in these spots all the time where you want to come into camp and work on stuff and progress, but at the same time you think that you have to do more, or impress more, or every game needs to be a no-hitter," Locke said. "You have to throw great every time. I've seen guys have great camps and terrible seasons and vise versa all the time."
"We've seen him good in different halves, we've seen him good in stretches," Hurdle said. "He wants to take the next step and it's not about potential anymore, it's about consistency."
"Whatever decision they decide to make, that's going to be up to them and hopefully that decision is what they feel betters this ball club and I'm on board with that," Locke said.
Pirates went with what could be an Opening Day lineup with John Jaso leading off followed by Andrew McCutchen, David Freese at third, Starling Marte, Francisco Cervelli, Gregory Polanco, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.
Polanco hit a homer over the right field Boardwalk and also doubled in four at bats. Freese walked, doubled and scored twice. Cervelli doubled. Marte hit a 2-run homer and McCutchen a solo shot, his fifth home run during Grapefruit League play.
for more features.