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03/09/11 11:20 PM ET

Correia knows command will come

TAMPA, Fla. -- None of Kevin Correia's three Spring Training pitching lines is dazzling. But after Wednesday's start in a 4-2 loss to the Yankees, the Pirates right-hander reiterated that he feels right on track to being ready and effective to start the season.

Correia threw nearly 65 pitches in the four-inning start. He allowed three runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out four. Correia has shown a knack for getting key ground balls or strikeouts when in trouble. Of course, the Pirates would like to see him minimize the trouble he gets into during the rest of Spring Training.

"It's just more location," said Correia, who has had just one 1-2-3 inning this spring. "I think there are certain pitches I feel I can go to in certain situations and throw a strike with every time. I've just missed on a couple of occasions with them. But I fully expect the command to be there in a couple of weeks."

The Pirates aren't panicking about the results, either. Correia is likely to make four more starts before the season opens in Chicago. That gives the right-hander plenty of time to sharpen his command and get ahead with more frequency. Correia will also soon make the transition from simply getting the feel of his pitches to actually pitching to hitters' weaknesses.

"You look for certain things," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The balls he left up got hit. The balls he kept down, he got soft action. I thought he threw some good sequences. He was able to get through four innings. I think he's headed in the right direction."

Asked about his Spring Training track record, Correia said that spring results have not been good indicators of his regular-season effectiveness in the past. He pitched significantly better last spring than he had in 2009, and yet Correia's '09 season was much more successful.

"I think I'm real close," Correia said. "Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done, but we are in early Spring Training. I feel pretty good about where I'm at right now."

Strikeouts a growing problem for Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. -- Striking out 16 times against five Yankees pitchers on Wednesday, the Pirates pushed their spring total to 106 through the team's first 13 games. No other club in either Arizona or Florida has struck out more.

Reducing the number of strikeouts was one of manager Clint Hurdle's primary points early in Spring Training. Actually, he emphasized it during mini-camp back in January and in phone conversations with players over the offseason.

To this point, though, the punchouts are still piling up. Besides the D-backs -- whose offense has struck out 102 times in 15 games -- no club has fanned more than 87 times this spring. On Sunday, the Pirates were fanned 13 times.

"I'm not worried," Hurdle said. "Worried wouldn't be an appropriate word. I think one of the things you look at is how we're getting to two strikes. I think we're getting balls early to hit in the count and we're not hitting on them."

The Pirates finished last season with 1,207 strikeouts, which was just slightly higher than the National League average. So far this spring, five players -- all but one of whom are slated to be starters in Pittsburgh -- have struck out at least six times.

"Nobody likes to strike out 16 times," Hurdle said. "That's the challenge in front of our guys which has been presented since the beginning of Spring Training. It's something they've got to continue to work at."

Bucs' Minor League gems rise together

TAMPA, Fla. -- While most of the focus at this time of the year centers around players who will be on the Major League club, the Pirates have the benefit of using these early weeks of Spring Training to get a closer look at the progress of some of the organization's more advanced Minor Leaguers.

This year, that includes a dozen players who spent time with a Double-A Altoona club that claimed the Eastern League championship last September. Go back one year further, and many of these same prospects hoisted the Carolina League championship trophy as teammates on the organization's Class A Advanced team in Lynchburg.

While Minor League success isn't always a harbinger for what is to come when some of these players ascend to the Majors, players who spent time on these two clubs insist there is special talent coming.

"The team last year in Altoona was really good," said Daniel Moskos, a former first-round pick and Altoona's closer for most of 2010. "I think it's almost to the point where there are so many good ballplayers that I don't know where they are going to put them all. There is a lot of young talent, and it's really good baseball talent.

"It's starting to be exciting. You've heard management talk about how the focus was on the Minor League system initially, and now the focus is on the Major League team. They're right, because they've got a lot of talent."

Of the 12 players who played for Altoona last year, most are likely to begin this season together at Triple-A Indianapolis. That includes pitchers Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke, Moskos, Tony Watson, Rudy Owens and Michael Crotta. Position players Chase d'Arnaud, Andrew Lambo and Gorkys Hernandez are also likely to make that jump.

"We'll look to repeat that this year in Triple-A, though we know that the higher you go, the harder it is to keep guys together," d'Arnaud said. "We'll make the most of what we've got. It was special to win twice with the same group of guys."

Bucs bits

Outfielder Andrew Lambo made a terrific throw from right field on Wednesday to get Eduardo Nunez, who was trying to advance to third base in the eighth inning. ... With two hits on Wednesday, Andrew McCutchen has reached base safely in five straight Grapefruit League games. ... Andy Marte doubled in a pinch-hit appearance. The hit was his fourth in nine spring at-bats. Three of those hits have been doubles. ... While the Pirates were on the road Wednesday, McKechnie Field was being used as a set for an ESPN/Gillette national TV commercial featuring ESPN personality Kenny Mayne and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. ... Wednesday's game against the Yankees was the first of three spring night games on the Pirates' schedule. The only one of those nightcaps set to be played at home is scheduled for Thursday. The game against Baltimore will be televised on MLB.TV and Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.