FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Long-term, Shairon Martis would prefer to be a starter. Though the presumption this spring has been that the right-hander's only way to make the big club is in relief, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle indicated after a 7-4 win over the Red Sox on Friday night that there was a chance at the rotation.
Martis, who turns 25 on March 30, delivered two scoreless innings on the road against a rather stacked Boston lineup, letting up two hits and striking out one.
"He's in the mix. We actually want to look at him, maybe try to stretch him out more than when we acquired [A.J.] Burnett -- that landscape changed a little bit," Hurdle said. "We're keeping him involved. We like the arm, we like the young man, our scouts had been on him for a while. He was very, very good down tonight. [His] pace was quick, and the other thing [was that] he did paint himself into some corners with three-ball counts. All three [times], he was able to come back and get the hitter."
Martis has made 35 career appearances in the Majors, all but two of them starts. That was from 2008-09 with the Nationals, who had Martis at Double-A last year. The Curacao native went 8-6 with a 3.05 ERA and notched 146 strikeouts over 133 innings while with the Senators last season.
The likelihood remains that Martis ends up at Triple-A Indianapolis, and he said he's looking at himself as in competition for a big league bullpen spot.
"I'm competing for a reliever spot," Martis said, "but if I have a chance to start, I'll take it."
Martis had a busy offseason, pitching for the Dutch national team then heading to winter ball in Venezuela. He got about one month's rest in all.
"I changed my mechanics last year and I was working on it in the offseason -- little bit shorter step, quicker to the plate," Martis said.
Mechanical change paying off for McCutchen
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said Friday night that his 5-for-11 start this Grapefruit League season is not a product of a contract extension-induced relaxation, but his offseason workout program.
McCutchen went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs in a 7-4 road win over the Red Sox, and afterward, manager Clint Hurdle suggested that a mechanical change could be proving its worth, too.
"I think last year he just got a little quick with his bat through the zone," Hurdle said. "In and out of the zone, [he] became a little pull-conscious. He's a guy that's hit the ball from right-center field to the left-field line his first two years in the Major Leagues. Last year, his spray charts will show you he got a little heavy to the pull side. By opening up a little bit, he's taken that step back to get squared up, staying squared up. It's helped him stay in a better hitting position so far."
McCutchen's first hit of the night was an opposite-field single to right-center off Boston starter Clay Buchholz that put runners on the corners. McCutchen's next two hits, one off Buchholz and the other off Vicente Padilla, were scorched doubles off the Green Monster at JetBlue Park, which has nearly the same dimensions as Fenway Park. Likely home runs elsewhere, McCutchen joked, "I got to hit it a little harder next time."
"It goes back to what I did this offseason to get ready for this year," he said.
McCutchen signed a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension Tuesday.
Burnett heading back to Pirates' spring complex
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Right-hander A.J. Burnett has been cleared to return to the Pirates' Spring Training complex after a follow-up doctor's appointment Friday, one week after he underwent surgery on his right eye socket.
The initial timetable for Burnett's unrestricted return to Major League action was eight to 12 weeks. Burnett has more follow-up appointments scheduled for Saturday morning in Bradenton, which the team said could confirm his next steps. The plan is for Burnett to speak to reporters Saturday, as well.
Burnett met Friday with Dr. Randall Beatty, the same doctor who repaired his right orbital bone at Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital on March 2. The injury came about on Feb. 29, when a stray bunt off Burnett's bat caught him in the eye.
Walker still dealing with lower back tightness
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Neil Walker remains day to day with tightness in his lower back, with a goal of completing a full day of baseball activities on Saturday. If the second baseman is able to do so without pain, he likely could return to game action in the following days.
Walker was scratched from Wednesday's game because of the discomfort. He's 1-for-5 with a strikeout in two Grapefruit League games.
The Pirates also announced Friday that righty Daniel Cabrera (right forearm tightness) is scheduled to throw one inning in a "B" game Saturday. Cabrera threw batting practice Thursday without any issues.