03/17/11 5:57 PM ET
Ciriaco willing to play wherever asked
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
The last time Ciriaco played the outfield in a game, he said, was when he was a kid. But Ciriaco's athleticism and the Pirates' determination to get all they can out of the infielder's versatility has prompted the organization to test the 25-year-old out at the new position.
"I feel pretty good," Ciriaco said. "It was fun. You've got to adjust to whatever position you play. In the infield, everything is quicker. In the outfield, I think you've got a little bit more time to read the ball. I got one fly ball and one line drive, so it was easy today."
Other than tracking fly balls during batting practice, Ciriaco didn't have much time to prep for the position. His defensive ability seems to have him in strong position to win a spot as the club's backup middle infielder. Having Ciriaco serve as an emergency outfielder would simply be a bonus.
"You never know what they're thinking," Ciriaco said. "I think probably there is a little bit more chance [for me] to be on the team [by my playing center field]. You've just got to work and see what happens later."
Olsen intent upon remaining healthy in 2011
BRADENTON, Fla. -- While the Pirates have two weeks left to determine how -- or even if -- Scott Olsen fits on the Opening Day roster, the left-hander is singularly focused on something else, as the season approaches.
"There are no goals; it's all about health," Olsen said. "That is the goal. I can't have any goals unless I'm healthy. After two frustrating years in a row, that's all I want."
Injuries have been Olsen's biggest deterrent in recent years. The mild left hamstring strain that cost him precious time early in Spring Training could be considered hardly a setback after what the left-hander has experienced the past two seasons.
Olsen made just 11 starts in 2009 while dealing with a left shoulder injury. Left shoulder tightness cost Olsen time again in 2010. He finished the year with 17 appearances (15 starts), but without stellar results.
"There were times when I felt really good, and there were times when I felt terrible," Olsen said of last season. "I couldn't ever have a consistent feeling. It was just very frustrating having that all year."
2010 Spring Training - Pittsburgh Pirates
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Spring Training Info
Olsen worked three days a week with a physical therapist in the offseason to improve the strength, range of motion and stability of his shoulder. He hopes that extra work prevents the recurrence of shoulder issues this season.
As for where Olsen might spend the season, much remains to be determined. He continues to be an option for both the bullpen and the rotation, though there is concern that Olsen might not have enough time to build up his arm to jump right into a starting role the first week of the year.
"I don't know," manager Clint Hurdle said when asked if Olsen is still in the starting mix. "He could be. I can't say no. I'll leave the speculation out there for people who want to speculate. I'll keep giving him the ball and see where it takes him."
Olsen made his second spring appearance on Thursday and allowed three runs on three hits, including one homer, and three runs in 1 1/3 innings. The left-hander has not been particularly sharp in either of his first two spring appearances.
Karstens, Burres have versatility in their favor
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Neither did so with much fanfare, but Jeff Karstens and Brian Burres both took the mound in the Pirates' intrasquad game at Pirate City on Thursday morning. Not that either guy is used to getting much attention in the first place.
Both Burres and Karstens find themselves in somewhat similar positions this spring: They have each shown a knack for being able to bounce back and forth, as needed, from the rotation to the bullpen, and that has left them without a defined role.
The Pirates extended the two pitchers on Thursday, with Karstens throwing three innings and Burres going four. Getting the two to make multiple-inning appearances gives the Pirates the flexibility to push either into a starting role if the team has such a need.
"For other people, it's probably hard, but I'm used to it," Karstens said, when asked about the absence of a defined job. "I just kind of roll with it. Obviously, I have to earn [a spot]. So I haven't really thought about Pittsburgh at this point. My job is here. And if I go that way [to Pittsburgh], I go that way."
Given that Karstens is already on the Major League roster and will earn a guaranteed $1.1 million this year, he appears to be a near lock to be in the Pirates' bullpen. There, Karstens would be a long relief option. He would also provide the ability to step in and spot-start, if needed.
Burres' chances of joining Karstens in the 'pen could be hurt by the fact that he is not on the roster and that he fits in a role very similar to the one Karstens is likely to fill. However, the way Burres has pitched this spring has to warrant his name being in the conversation.
In addition to tossing four scoreless innings in Thursday's intrasquad game, Burres has not allowed a run in nine Grapefruit League innings. Opponents have just five hits off the left-hander. Burres could challenge Scott Olsen as an option to be the club's second left-handed reliever.
"If I fit in as a starter, I'd be more than happy to do that, obviously," Burres said. "If they have me in a relief role, I'd be just as happy with that, too. I just want to go up there and help the team win some ballgames."
Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit is scheduled to return to Grapefruit League action in Friday's game against the Phillies. Doumit, who last played on March 8, went 3-for-4 with a homer and double in a Minor League game on Thursday and experienced no discomfort in the area where he had a minor oblique strain. Doumit also participated in batting practice and fielding drills at McKechnie Field again on Thursday morning. ... Outfielder Miles Durham was shaken up in the ninth inning of Thursday's game after running hard into the right-field wall trying to make a catch. Durham lay on the ground for a few minutes, while he was attended to by trainers before getting up and walking off the field. "A big man hit the wall really, really hard," manager Clint Hurdle said. As he was leaving the clubhouse, Durham said he was feeling fine. ... The Pirates wore green hats and used green bases at McKechnie Field on Thursday as part of baseball's St. Patrick's Day celebration.
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.