PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Kevin Correia said he isn't pitching for the Pirates' Opening Day assignment. But Correia is pitching like he does not want to give it up.

Correia blanked Tampa Bay on two hits in a three-inning start Sunday during which he threw "everything pretty much where I needed it."

The outing extended his scoreless spring to five innings, a modest stretch, yet one that could certainly have him in consideration to reprise his Opening Day assignment of 2011.

"That's not really something I look toward. I'm just trying to get ready for the season," Correia said. "Getting to do it last year was a great thing to do, and I was really happy being able to have that opportunity."

Intentional or not, the competition for the privilege of facing the Phillies on April 5 at PNC Park could become quite entertaining. It already is, with four-fifths of the rotation (Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Correia) having thus far posted a combined ERA of 2.50 in Grapefruit League play.

The last fifth -- excluding reconditioning A.J. Burnett -- will make his exhibition debut on Monday, as Charlie Morton is due to work two innings against the Phillies.

"We're kicking the training wheels off him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's looking forward to it."

Walker robbed of home run in return

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Neil Walker made a satisfying return to the lineup against the Rays on Sunday. If not for Jesus Feliciano, it would have been a sensational return.

Leading off the second inning, his first at-bat since Tuesday and a respite with tightness in his lower back, Walker pummeled a Jeff Niemann pitch over the left-field wall -- and into the glove off leaping left fielder Feliciano.

Walker grounded out and popped out in his other two at-bats, while putting in six innings at second base. The cleanup hitter's return went smoothly, according to Hurdle.

"For missing a few days and coming back, yeah, it went well," Hurdle said. "We'll see how he feels [Monday]. If he's good enough, we'll get him out there again."

Worth noting

• Rod Barajas left camp on Sunday night and returned to San Diego to be with his wife, Stacie, as she gives birth to their seventh child. The catcher is expected to return on Wednesday night, to work out on Thursday and to rejoin the lineup on Friday.

• Jake Fox had given the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth against the Rays on Sunday by hitting his first spring homer in his 13th at-bat. Last spring, while with the Orioles, Fox had one of the most amazing Grapefruit League runs ever -- 10 homers and seven doubles among his 22 hits in 74 at-bats.

• Jared Hughes had a strong 1-2-3 eighth inning on Sunday, including two strikeouts, for an assertive bounce-back from his Thursday outing against the Phillies, who had gotten to him for three hits and two runs in an inning.

• The Pirates have a quasi-doubleheader on Monday, hosting the Phillies at McKechnie Field and meeting The Netherlands at St. Petersburg in the International Baseball Tournament. Both games start at 1:05 p.m. ET.