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03/16/11 4:52 PM ET

Hurdle still mulling over Bucs' batting order

Tabata at leadoff, McCutchen in No. 3 hole is possibility

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Manager Clint Hurdle is not ready to commit to a lineup just yet, but he does expect to have one tentatively set by about this time next week.

Hurdle has been experimenting with a variety of batting orders all spring, paying close attention to how Andrew McCutchen fits in the No. 3 hole. With McCutchen batting third and Jose Tabata in the leadoff spot again on Wednesday, it's appearing more and more likely that Hurdle will keep the two outfielders in those spots for the regular season.

Hurdle has said he likes the idea of slotting McCutchen into a run-producing spot in the order, even though the majority of McCutchen's big league at-bats have come from the leadoff spot. What Hurdle particularly wanted to see over the last few weeks was whether Tabata could show more patience while hitting at the top of the order.

"I've really liked [Tabata's] approach leading off," Hurdle said. "He's shown some discipline. He's had some walks. He can hit the ball the other way. He's got speed when he gets on. He looks like that's something that he's able to do."

One of the bigger questions about McCutchen hitting third -- if that is indeed where he ends up -- is how that might affect the Pirates' ability to capitalize on McCutchen's speed. Stealing more bases has been a focus of McCutchen's all spring, and no matter where the center fielder hits, the Pirates want him to run.

"We've got to take some chances," Hurdle said. "[Likely No. 4 hitter] Pedro [Alvarez] is a power hitter in growth. It's not like we're running with [Albert] Pujols up at the plate. It's a whole different complex, a whole different dynamic. We want to keep this mindset of going, of being aggressive, especially with Andrew. I do think that's a part of his game that he can continue to open up more and we don't want to take that away at all if he ends up in the three spot."

When Hurdle does announce his lineup, he anticipates that it will stick, at least for a while.

"I want to try and find something that works and commit to it for a period of time and let it play out," Hurdle said. "I do think one of the things with a younger club, as far as Major League experience goes, is continuity. We're taking a lot of different looks right now. That will slow down a little bit soon."

Huyke gets to be manager du jour vs. Jays

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Longtime Pirates coach Woody Huyke has managed more than 1,800 games as a member of the organization. But on Wednesday, he enjoyed a managerial first.

Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle told Huyke about two weeks ago that he'd have him step in to serve as manager du jour before the end of Spring Training. Hurdle wanted to spend the day observing Minor League camp and wanted to honor Huyke for the 42 years he has spent with the Pirates.

"I enjoyed it very much," Huyke, 73, said afterward, even though he claimed to have done minimal actual managing in the game. "I didn't manage. I was there. I can manage if I have to, but I didn't."

He joked, too, that the 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays wouldn't go on his personal record. "He wrote the lineup down, so it's not me."

Huyke has been in professional baseball as a player, coach or manager for 53 years. He is currently a coach for the Pirates' Gulf Coast League club, which plays in Bradenton. Huyke spent 31 of those years as a Minor League manager and has worked with the majority of players who have ascended through the Pirates' system.

Getting reacquainted with some of those players was Huyke's highlight on Wednesday.

"I saw some of the kids that went through my hands a while ago, and I was very happy to see them successful," Huyke said. "It's nice to see some of those guys. Sometimes you don't see them."

At the 2010 Winter Meetings, Huyke was recognized with the Mike Coolbaugh Award, an honor given to someone who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players. Huyke was also last year's Pride of the Pirates Award recipient.

Doumit will return to action on Thursday

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Ryan Doumit, who hasn't played since March 8, will return to game action on Thursday for the first time since being sidelined by a right oblique strain.

Doumit will take about six at-bats in a Minor League game, the last step before he would be cleared to return to Grapefruit League play. Doumit said he felt no discomfort in his side on Wednesday after taking batting practice, running the bases and throwing. He still has plenty of time to get enough at-bats to be ready for the start of the season.

"[I] feel just fine," Doumit said "I knew it was nothing to begin with."

Fellow catcher Chris Snyder backed off on the baseball activities on Wednesday after feeling some more stiffness in his lower back. Snyder had been hitting and throwing the previous two days, but was not scheduled to do any of that again on Wednesday.

"We're going to be cautious right now and ease into it," said Snyder, who still expects to return to the field well before Opening Day. It's kind of a day-to-day thing. See where we're at. See how it feels. See what I can do. Be smart about it."

Right-hander James McDonald (left side soreness) will resume throwing on Thursday. He will throw on flat ground and, assuming all goes well, follow that up with a bullpen session over the weekend. McDonald could then be cleared to return to pitch in a game next week.

At this point, he has missed just one turn through the rotation. McDonald said on Wednesday that he feels "way better" and seems to have no concern about this ailment being anything that lingers.

Ciriaco being slated for first outfield duty

BRADENTON, Fla. -- As Pirates manager Clint Hurdle promised, he is beginning to test out the versatility of a number of his players.

Pedro Ciriaco is set to play center field in Thursday's intrasquad game, marking the first time that the infielder will venture out to the outfield this spring. Ciriaco, who has been getting early work in the outfield, is competing for a bench spot on the club. Being capable of serving as a backup outfielder would only further embellish Ciriaco's resume.

Steve Pearce will play third base in that same game. Pearce has made a handful of appearances at third already, as the Pirates go through the process of determining whether Pearce can be considered capable of backing up Pedro Alvarez during the season.

Garrett Jones played first base in Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays, marking the first time this spring that Jones has been anywhere but the outfield. While the Pirates anticipate Jones playing almost exclusively in right field this season, the club does want Jones to get a little work at first so he would be ready to step in if needed.

John Bowker played first base on Monday for the same reason.

Bucs Bits

Jose Ascanio (right elbow soreness) threw a bullpen session on Wednesday without any issue. The Pirates have not said when Ascanio might be able to actually pitch in a game, though it certainly does not look like the right-hander will have enough time to be ready by the start of the season. ... The Pirates will have a 10 a.m. ET intrasquad game at Pirate City on Thursday before the club takes the field for its regularly scheduled Grapefruit League contest. Both Brian Burres and Jeff Karstens are scheduled to throw at least three innings in that game. Tyler Yates, Evan Meek and Fernando Nieve are all expected to pitch, as well. ... On Wednesday, the Pirates announced their full PNC Park concert schedule for the season. Huey Lewis and the News (June 11), .38 Special (July 9), Train (Aug. 6) and Steve Miller Band (Sept. 24) will all perform. ... The Pirates announced that their home game against Detroit on May 21 will be played at 7:05 p.m. ET. A time had not been previously set for that date. ... The Pirates will be donning green hats on Thursday in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Green bases will be used at McKechnie Field as well.

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.