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03/13/11 5:30 PM ET

Olsen ready to make run at fifth-starter job

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Another candidate is about to enter the competition for the fifth spot in Pittsburgh's rotation, as Scott Olsen is ready to make his spring debut on Monday.

Olsen will pitch one inning in the Pirates' road game, which will be broadcast live on MLB.TV, against Baltimore. The appearance will come 18 days before Opening Day, leaving Olsen little time to log the number of innings that starters typically get in a full Spring Training schedule.

Regardless, the Pirates are not counting Olsen out of the race for the rotation. There is still a scenario in which the left-hander could throw enough pitches to be deemed ready to start by the first week of the regular season.

"It's a challenge, but provided Scott continues to feel good, provided he continues to make strides, there is enough time," general manager Neal Huntington said. "There's not a lot of room for a setback or margin for error, but he has continued to progress as we go forward. If he's not ready, that's a decision we'll make at the end of Spring Training -- what happens at that point in time."

Olsen is behind schedule because of a mild hamstring strain that cost him time early in camp. After giving the hamstring time to rest, Olsen spent about two weeks throwing bullpen sessions and batting practice to get himself ready for game action.

"I've felt good through the build-up process," Olsen said. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow to get some actual work against batters."

Asked if he thought he'd get enough work in to feel comfortable starting the first week in April, Olsen hesitated to make any guarantees.

"I don't know," said Olsen, who has enough time to make four appearances if he pitches every fifth day. "It's close. I guess I will figure it out in the next few days. I just really don't know. I'm just really excited to go out there [Monday] and do something in a game."

Olsen isn't the only pitcher slated to make a Grapefruit League debut on Monday. Joe Beimel, a non-roster invitee to camp, will as well.

Beimel, who is expected to be the Pirates' primary left-hander in the bullpen this season, had his progression delayed earlier this month because of left elbow tightness. Assuming Beimel doesn't incur any more setbacks, he will have ample time to get ready for the season.

"I'm anxious for each of them to get out and compete," manager Clint Hurdle said. "[I'm] very excited, and hopefully neither one of them is too amped up."

If Olsen is not able to sufficiently build up his arm, the Pirates will consider having Olsen open the season in the bullpen. It's a role that Olsen isn't necessarily fond of, but one that might be dictated by any number of circumstances.

"I don't really have much of a choice," Olsen said, when asked if he'd accept a relief role. "I'm open for whatever."

Hanrahan working out the kinks

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Joel Hanrahan sees much more work to be done in advance of Opening Day, but results-wise, Sunday was a significant step back in the right direction for the Pirates' closer.

After allowing four runs, five hits and a walk in an inning of relief on Thursday, Hanrahan returned to the mound on Sunday and had a relatively routine outing. He served up a solo homer to Darnell McDonald, but he retired the other three hitters he faced in the frame.

Hanrahan got through the outing, too, without feeling like he could rely on his slider.

"It was just something today that I really didn't have the feel for," Hanrahan said. "I would have liked to have been able to throw a 3-2 slider, but I didn't feel like it was a good pitch to throw today."

Though Hanrahan did throw a handful of inside fastballs, he went into Sunday's outing much more concerned about getting outs than working on something in particular. On Thursday, he had noted that most of his problems were exacerbated by his inability to pitch inside.

The right-hander is still leaving too many pitches up, which was the case on the 3-2 fastball to McDonald. And he is falling behind in the count with too much regularity. Those are issues Hanrahan hopes to have worked out by the end of the month.

"I don't really know why everything is up," Hanrahan said. "I felt great. I've just got to work on keeping the ball down. I've got to start getting some better results."

McCutchen's role on staff to be determined

BRADENTON, Fla. -- One year after coming out the winner in a two-pitcher battle for the Pirates' final rotation spot, Daniel McCutchen finds himself in camp unsure of where he will be and what role he'll fill in 2011.

The Pirates do have a starting spot to fill again this spring, though McCutchen hasn't been mentioned among the front-runners for the opening. That means it's to the bullpen or to Triple-A Indianapolis for the 28-year-old right-hander, who hasn't been able to establish himself in Pittsburgh since being acquired at the 2008 Trade Deadline.

"I still think I can be a starter, but right now I'm just trying to get back in the mix," McCutchen said. "I'm just going with it. I'm just trying to pitch well when I get an opportunity."

McCutchen has had mixed results in his four spring appearances so far. He bounced back with three scoreless innings after allowing three earned runs on two hits in his first Grapefruit League frame. His most recent appearance came on Saturday, which saw the Blue Jays knock McCutchen around for two earned runs on three hits in two innings.

McCutchen had moderate success in a bullpen role with Pittsburgh last season, that coming after he struggled in the big league rotation. Whether that's the best long-term fit for the righty, though, hasn't been determined.

"It wasn't an easy season, but I learned a lot," said McCutchen, who had a 4.28 ERA in 20 relief appearances. "I learned the things that you can do to be successful. I try to focus on the positives, but learn from the mistakes at the same time."

Even if the Pirates decide to slot McCutchen into a bullpen role this year, he appears a long shot to break camp with the Major League club. With Jeff Karstens the favorite to earn a spot as the team's long reliever and the need to carry at least one lefty, the openings are reducing quickly.

Bucs Bits

Right-hander Kevin Hart threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Saturday, as he continues to work his way back from right shoulder surgery. Hart still has a few more steps before he will be cleared to pitch in a game. ... Catcher Chris Snyder received treatment again on Sunday morning for soreness in his back. He remains out of the lineup, though the Pirates do not believe that it's an ailment that will linger. ... On Sunday, Jose Tabata started in center field for the first time this spring. That was by design, as the Pirates want to make sure Tabata gets a little work in center in case he would need to fill in there for Andrew McCutchen during the season. Garrett Jones is going to spend some time at first base during Spring Training for the same reason. ... Infielder Pedro Ciriaco played the final four innings of Sunday's game at third base. While the majority of Ciriaco's spring work will be in the middle infield, the Pirates want to keep him sharp at third in case he would be needed there during the year. ... McKechnie Field set a Spring Training record with 6,602 fans in attendance on Friday. The ballpark's previous high was 6,221 in 1994.

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.