A pair of sidelined Pirates are considerably closer to getting out of sick bay after encouraging workouts the past couple of days.
Catcher Russell Martin, shelved by "upper-body soreness" since Tuesday, could rejoin the lineup at least in a DH capacity on Saturday. And right-hander Jeff Karstens' throwing program on the way back from biceps tendinitis will be stepped up following Wednesday's encouraging side session.
Martin had what manager Clint Hurdle called "a very good day" on Thursday, and will pick up a bat again on Friday.
"We'll get him swinging the bat and, if all goes well, probably get him a DH opportunity Saturday in Lakeland [where the Pirates will play the Tigers]," Hurdle said.
Karstens responded well to a 26-pitch session on Wednesday in which he was limited to throwing fastballs and changeups.
"That went very well," Hurdle reported. "Friday he will throw a more complete bullpen, mix in his breaking ball, then we'll re-evaluate him from there."
However that session grades out, Karstens is anticipated to needing to throw live batting practice at least twice before consideration is given to having him pitch in a game.
Taillon has great time in first spring start
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jameson Taillon's experience in his first big league camp reached a new peak on Thursday, with his start for the Pirates in the 16-6 Grapefruit League loss to Boston.
The right-hander, the Bucs' No. 1 choice in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and their No. 2 pitching prospect behind Gerrit Cole, had little to do with that ugly score and the ugliness that forged it. In his two innings, he allowed only the first of the 15 walks by Pirates pitchers, and one hit along with one unearned run, while fanning three.
He had a far better time than the pitchers who followed.
"I was a little amped up at the beginning, like any normal person would be, since it was my first big league camp start," Taillon said. "But once I threw that first pitch and settled in, I had a really great time out there."
It very likely was Taillon's only Grapefruit League exposure. On Sunday, he will leave to hook up with Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic, and is due to pitch only a bullpen prior to that. And even if Canada is not one of the two countries to survive Pool D play in Phoenix, when Taillon returns he could be re-assigned to the Minor League camp.
The Florida-born and Texas-raised right-hander is looking forward to his Classic adventure. "Turncoat" Taillon is due to face the United States on March 10.
"I'm really excited. It'll be a cool deal for me and my family," Taillon said. "The whole family is going out there, including some siblings I don't always get to see, and my brother (Jordan, 30) will be having his birthday while we're there. But from a baseball standpoint it'll be really exciting, too."
Sanchez sees game action at third base
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gaby Sanchez played the last four innings of the Pirates' game against the Red Sox on Thursday at third base -- the first public viewing of what had been a covert project since late last season. Sanchez hasn't played any position in the Majors other than first base, but he had played the hot corner in the Minors -- most recently in 2009, at Triple-A New Orleans.
"I started working out at it toward the end of last season. Taking ground balls, just in case," Sanchez said. "You never know. This spring, after about a week, they came up to me and said, 'Hey, how about catching some more grounders at third base?' You never know what will happen, but there's more opportunities in being able to play both."
Sanchez had one chance on Thursday, nearly triggering an around-the-horn double play on a grounder by Ryan Lavarnway in the seventh inning.
"[Sanchez] worked very hard at it last season and it was part of his exit interview, we told him to prepare for more when he came in this spring," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's been working diligently here, so we wanted to get him in some games. We'll get him some more innings, get him some more defensive work there."
"It's a different angle," Sanchez said, "but I felt comfortable. I've been doing it for about five days now, getting my legs underneath me, trying to get that comfortable feeling. It felt good today."
"It's non-negotiable. You've got to control the runners. He was too focused on just the hitter." -- Pitching coach Ray Searage, stressing the new mandate for Pirates pitchers by finding fault with the Grapefruit League debut of top prospect Gerrit Cole, who pitched well but allowed a run when consecutive steals set up a score on Wednesday.
• Gerrit Cole's best fastball during his two-inning Grapefruit League debut Wednesday was clocked on the Pirates' bench at 91-92 mph, a few notches below his three-digit reputation. But it's early.
• Brock Holt finally made it to Pirates camp, a couple of weeks after Jason Grilli had wondered when he'd get here. The Pirates' off-the-wall reliever hadn't been aware that Holt accompanied Joel Hanrahan in the deal with Boston. Holt played and batted second for the Red Sox in their 16-6 win over the Pirates, going 2-for-4 with a walk.
Hanrahan, who had pitched on Wednesday, did not travel with the Red Sox, but he will have his reunion with some of his former Buccos buds on Friday, when a Pittsburgh split-squad buses to Fort Myers for a night return date with Boston.
• Nine of the 15 walks issued by the Pirates in the loss to Boston went to four ex-Buccos: Drew Sutton (four), David Ross and Lyle Overbay (two each) and Holt (one).
• A pair of long-shot left-handed candidates for the rotation had the roughest outings Thursday. Non-roster southpaw Jonathan Sanchez and Andrew Oliver, the one-time highly touted member of the Tigers, combined to issue seven walks and be charged with six runs in a composite two innings.
"That's why you have Spring Training," sympathetic manager Clint Hurdle said. "Some of these guys are trying to find their ways, and they found a way to not do it."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.