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03/11/11 1:34 PM ET

Leroux still a work in progress

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Chris Leroux was handed a one-run lead in the eighth inning on Friday against the Rays, a lead he couldn't hold.

He surrendered two hits and a walk, allowing Tampa Bay to tie the score at 7. Leroux walked off the mound, covered his mouth with his glove, and let out quite the howl.

Leroux, who turns 27 in April, did feel badly that he couldn't put up a zero -- the Pirates nonetheless won, 8-7 -- but more than most in Spring Training, he's got some things he's working on. Like, everything.

"I've been working on a lot on my mechanics, [which are] almost totally different than I used to be when I came into camp," the 6-foot-6 right-hander said. "I'm working on following through. I tend to come up when I finish, and that leaves the ball up sometimes. My front step, I need to keep my front side closed, and it's just a bunch of different things. My mind's racing a mile a minute when I'm out there."

Leroux is likely ticketed for Triple-A out of Spring Training, a level at which he struggled last year, compiling an 0-3 record and a 6.95 ERA in 21 appearances. Leroux said the poor numbers were a product of a few bad games more than consistently poor outings.

Leroux has made appearances in the Majors each of the past two seasons, but he understands that, with the number of adjustments he's undertaken, a return might not be in the cards as soon as April.

"I always like to think that I have a chance of making it," Leroux said, "but now with all my mechanical changes, I realize that it's going to be a process."

Doumit sidelined by right oblique strain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Already on the trading block, Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit was officially diagnosed with a right oblique strain on Friday after a doctor's visit. The team said he'll be reevaluated on March 16, meaning it's unlikely he'd play before then.

Doumit said on Friday morning that the injury wasn't serious, but added, "These things can get a lot worse if you're not careful with them, so I'm going to play it safe."

Doumit, who suffered the strain during batting practice on Thursday, was scratched that night from Friday afternoon's road game against Tampa Bay.

Oblique injuries often take more time to heal than other strains. Doumit was slated to be the Pirates' backup catcher this season, but he's owed $5.1 million, a salary the Pirates would like to shed. If Pittsburgh were to hold on to Doumit into the season and he were healthy enough to play, the team would have to decide if they'd want him in a traditional backup catcher's role, which would give him infrequent playing time, or if they'd want to carry a third catcher, so Doumit could regularly pinch-hit.

Jason Jaramillo and Dusty Brown would be the two likeliest candidates to make the team as a third catcher.

Doumit is 3-for-17 with three RBIs this spring, and a lingering injury would certainly make a trade harder to arrange.

McCutchen, McDonald exit with injuries

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The bottom of the third inning brought only bad news for the Pirates on Friday in a road game against Tampa Bay.

Two players who figure prominently into Pittsburgh's plans went down with injuries: center fielder Andrew McCutchen and starting pitcher James McDonald.

McCutchen was pulled before heading to the field for the bottom of the third with discomfort in his left wrist. He was having a good day, going 2-for-2 with an RBI and run scored.

After laboring through the second inning, McDonald was pulled because of discomfort in his left side after giving up a double and a single in the bottom of the third. Pirates trainer Brad Henderson went out to the mound, and after a short discussion, McDonald left the game, with the count at 2-2 on the Rays' Kelly Shoppach.

McDonald and McCutchen both left the Pirates clubhouse before the end of the game to head back to Bradenton, Fla., for evaluation. McDonald appeared to be walking gingerly when he left the game and in the clubhouse.

McDonald's side discomfort could be due to an oblique injury, which would make the right-hander the second Pirates player to hurt an oblique in two days, after catcher Ryan Doumit was injured Thursday. Oblique injuries, more often than others, can mean long recovery times.

McDonald surrendered two runs, one earned, in his two-plus innings on four hits, two walks and no strikeouts. His previous outing on Sunday wasn't particularly strong, either, as he allowed four runs, two earned, to the Jays over 2 2/3 innings.

Brian Burres, already scheduled to pitch on Friday, replaced McDonald.

Bucs Bits

Corey Wimberly, who replaced the injured Andrew McCutchen in the third inning on Friday, went 2-for-3 with a steal, but was also one of two Pirates baserunners to make a mistake at third base. Wimberly was picked off at third in the ninth inning, and Garrett Jones was caught off the bag in the second inning. "I think in those two situations at third base, we've got to be smarter," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's baseball awareness. It has nothing to do with being aggressive running the bases. That's guys who got caught on the wrong foot at the wrong time. ... Those things can't happen." ... Hurdle said that shortstop Josh Rodriguez, who came in for Ronny Cedeno in the fifth inning, was impressive in the field. "We're just happy to get him back. He's been out a few days; he was dinged up a little bit, and we had to shut him down. ... He made a couple nice plays at short today, moved around well. He seems to be physically fit; we just need a long look at him." ... Right-hander Fernando Nieve's scoreless ninth inning and save were positive signs. He worked around one hit and struck out and walked none. Entering the day, Nieve had allowed seven runs and 14 hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.