Dotel sits with sore left side
Bucs closer eyes quick return from minor injury
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Soreness in his left side kept Octavio Dotel from taking the fields with the rest of his Pittsburgh teammates on the first day of full-squad workouts at Pirate City on Tuesday. However, the minor injury is not expected to keep the Pirates' closer off the mound for long.
Dotel said he first felt a hint of discomfort after throwing a side session on Sunday. The soreness persisted on Monday, prompting the Bucs to play it safely by sitting Dotel on Tuesday. He is expected to miss the next few days of workouts but likely no longer.
"I didn't pull anything," Dotel clarified. "I don't think it's going to be a big deal. I don't want to keep pushing. We just started in Spring Training. If I keep pushing, I'll make it worse."
Manager John Russell confirmed the minor nature of the injury, adding that there is no reason to believe that it will keep Dotel from being prepared to open the season in the bullpen.
Dotel, as well as Brendan Donnelly, were already expected to handle a lighter workload this spring than the rest of the club's pitchers. Call it the Mariano Rivera treatment if you'd like, as the Pirates' Spring Training plans for the veteran relievers will largely mimic the New York closer's annual spring routine.
Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan is taking a more hands-off approach when it comes to helping Dotel and Donnelly prepare for the season. And like Rivera, who throws only about 10 innings each spring, the plan is not to have Dotel and Donnelly log as many innings in Grapefruit League play as other relievers.
"The key with them is to get them into their routine the last 10-12 days," Kerrigan said. "Don't peak too early with them -- build up to those last 10-12 games and then get them locked in. Get them into in-season form.
"With the veteran guys like that, they know how to get ready. If they get roughed up early or in the middle, it doesn't matter. It won't faze them. They know they have to get their arms conditioned first."
That slowdown in spring preparation will begin as early as Thursday, when Donnelly pitches a shorter batting-practice session than everyone else. Pitchers typically start out throwing two innings of 17 pitches. Donnelly will instead throw one 25-pitch frame. Once Grapefruit League play begins, Donnelly is targeting eight or fewer innings of work.
"You don't want to waste the good ones," Donnelly joked. "We've been there and done it. We know what we need to do to get ready for the season. There's no reason to come out of the gate hard charging."
Donnelly threw his third side session of the spring on Tuesday and declared it by far his best of the three. The 38-year-old right-hander continues to work through some timing issues that plague him at the start of every Spring Training.
"My lower half and upper half don't really work together," Donnelly said. "It takes some repetition to get that all ironed before I start facing hitters. I get to a spot at home throwing bullpen [sessions] where I feel like I'm ready to go. Then I get here and you've got to turn it up to another gear."
Assuming there are no lingering issues with his side, Dotel plans to be a bit more aggressive than Donnelly in his work this spring. Dotel began working out in November -- earlier than he has in the past -- with the hope that he'd be able to start the season closer to peak condition.
And in order to try and combat his slow-start tendencies of the past, Dotel is eying somewhere between 10-15 innings of work in the team's Grapefruit League games.
"The main thing was it takes too much time for me to get where I want to be in the season," Dotel said. "In April, I'm OK, but I don't have my best. I get my best in May. I don't want to do that now. I want to be able to be ready to go on April 5."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.