BRADENTON, Fla. -- It is sometimes easy -- and dangerous -- to read too much into trends one picks up while watching the earlier stages of Spring Training.
For instance, having Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco essentially operate as the first-string outfield during Pirate City workouts has more to do with letting the trio get to know each other than with any subtle forecast of what the Bucs' season-opening lineup will look like.
However, the conclusion drawn from having Edinson Volquez shadow Francisco Liriano -- in bullpen side sessions, in batting practice turns -- is pretty much right on: Pitching coach Ray Searage and manager Clint Hurdle want Volquez to catch whatever Liriano has.
While Volquez was fashioning that 5.71 ERA last season, his boyhood Dominican pal was among National League leaders with a 3.02 ERA.
"Get [Volquez] to hang around a guy who works extremely well and is professional. Volquez has also been that, so we put them together," Hurdle said. "I just think that companionship, camaraderie, bonding and sharing of information is going to help."
Having Volquez and Liriano on the same throwing schedule also implies that at the beginning of Grapefruit League play, they will follow each other to the mound.
Pitchers named for annual Black & Gold game
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' Black & Gold Game provoked inordinate hysteria a year ago, when Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon opposed each other in the annual squad contest.
Still, the Bucs' exercise transcends the usual intrasquad game, because it lifts the veil off McKechnie Field, with gate receipts benefiting Manatee Educational Foundation, Wakeland Elementary School and G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School.
Tuesday at noon ET, the Black's Stolmy Pimentel will face off against the Gold's Joely Rodriguez in a seven-inning game that sets up as the first showcase for hurlers hoping to crack the big league staff.
None of the dozen pitchers -- with only the starters due to work two innings -- scheduled to throw are certain of making that staff -- albeit Pimentel has a bit of an inside track since he is out of options.
Pimentel will be followed by Andy Oliver, Jay Jackson, Zack Thornton, Brandon Mann and Matt Benedict.
Rodriguez will be picked up by Casey Sadler, Jake Brigham, Cody Eppley, Elvin Ramirez and Ryan Beckman.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle cautions the pitchers not to overthrow in attempts to make a good first impression.
"You don't need to go out the first time and blow our ears back," Hurdle said. "Throw strikes, work quickly and efficiently -- that's what we'll evaluate. And pace, rhythm, command, velocity variation; and we always emphasize staying down in the zone."
The Black and Gold starting lineups will be revealed Sunday, when Hurdle could also name his starting pitcher for Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees at McKechnie Field.
Ready for any role, Barmes gets time at hot corner
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The erstwhile regular shortstop charged in from third base for the swinging bunt, made the barehanded pickup, twisted his body and released a spot-on sidearm throw to first base.
Clint Barmes was both comfortable at the hot corner, and happy to be there.
"I'm pretty confident I can do the job wherever they put me. I'm excited for the chance to move all over," Barmes said. "Coming in with a new role, I knew that's what it'd be."
After working both at short and at second, Barmes saw his first practice action at third on Saturday. Though he has had stints as an everyday player at both positions around the keystone, his third-base experience is limited. The 34-year-old veteran of 11 Major League seasons has started 918 games -- four at third, three of them within the first week of the 2008 season for the Rockies and their manager, Clint Hurdle.
"So it's been a while," Barmes said. "But it'll come back."
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez and even second baseman Neil Walker, a switch-hitter, may be rested against certain tough left-handers, giving Barmes opportunities at either position. An though hitting is not his forte, Barmes has a good track record against some of the league's toughest southpaws. For instance, he has gone 7-for-27 (.259) against the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and 4-for-13 (.308) against Philadelphia's Cole Hamels with a home run off each.
First number, last word
15: Grapefruit League home games the Pirates will host at McKechnie Field, starting with Wednesday's opener against the New York Yankees. Ballpark officials project 12 sellouts, which would be a new record at the park that has been the Bucs' spring home since 1969.
"I wish we had him here. It's pretty impressive how he has established himself at such a young age." -- Pirates outfielder and mega-Seahawks fan Travis Snider, upon hearing that Seattle Super Bowl-winning quarterback and Texas draftee Russell Wilson plans to drop in on the Rangers' Spring Training in Arizona.
• Pirate club president Frank Coonelly and numerous players -- including Tony Watson, Taillon, Duke Welker and Adam Wilk -- participated Saturday afternoon in a Miracle League Fantasy Camp for special-needs children at Manasota Field, co-presented by the Pirates and their Sarasota Spring Training neighbors, the Orioles. Pirates Charities sponsored the event in partnership with Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids, a non-profit organization providing children with special needs the opportunity to learn baseball fundamentals from professional coaches and players.
• Right-hander Bryan Morris, who looks slimmed down above the waist, said he has actually gained about 10 pounds -- but it is in his upper legs, which he feels will help him bear up better to the grind of the long season. Morris was exceptional through the All-Star break, holding batters to a .193 average, but they got to him at a .310 clip in the season's second half.
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.