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03/19/11 5:12 PM ET

Middle-infield battle may go down to wire

BRADENTON, Fla. -- While it appears as if Pedro Ciriaco is the frontrunner to be the Pirates' backup middle infielder this season, both Corey Wimberly and Josh Rodriguez remain in camp and in competition for that spot.

All three of the potential middle infielders bring a different mix of tools. Wimberly and Ciriaco would both add a speed option on the bench, while Rodriguez seems to have the most offensive potential of the group. Ciriaco is the most polished defensively, and his ability to handle the shortstop position has so far been the separator.

As a Rule 5 Draft pick, Rodriguez must be offered back to Cleveland if the Bucs don't add him to the 25-man roster by the time the season opens. The Pirates have carried their Rule 5 player on the Opening Day roster in each of the last three seasons. Pittsburgh's other option -- and one the club is seriously considering -- is to work out a trade with the Indians so that Rodriguez can remain in the organization without having to take up a big league roster spot.

Wimberly has fared much better at the plate recently, after starting off hitless in his first 13 at-bats. However, the 27-year-old has struggled defensively at short, and that remains a concern. He has also drawn six walks and swiped three bases. Wimberly's ability to play center field is a plus, though the Pirates' focus is finding a defensively-strong shortstop.

"That was the question that Wimberly had to answer," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We still have time to answer that question."

Beimel scratched with left arm soreness

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For the second time this spring, Pirates lefty Joe Beimel was scratched from a scheduled spring appearance due to soreness in his left arm.

This time, the soreness is in Beimel's elbow, and the timing of the setback might hinder Beimel's ability to be ready to join the Bucs' bullpen by Opening Day.

"It is definitely frustrating and I want to be out there pitching," Beimel said, after having treatment on his arm. "But at the same time, if I'm pushing too hard to get ready for Opening Day and there is a setback, then I'm gone for a lot longer. I think it's better to take care of it now and then just go from there."

Beimel, who missed time due to left forearm soreness earlier in March, said he felt his arm tighten up on Friday. The soreness increased overnight, prompting Beimel to tell the Pirates he would be unable to throw against the Red Sox on Saturday.

The issue is believed to be elbow inflammation and not structurally related, Beimel said. At this time, he does not have any additional tests scheduled.

"I just decided it would be better not to push it too hard and go out there today and try to throw through it," Beimel said. "I definitely don't want to take any steps back and have something serious happen to it. I'm just going to rest today and come in [on Sunday] and see how it feels."

With less than two weeks remaining before Opening Day, Beimel cannot afford to be sidelined long. He has made only two appearances this spring after getting a late start due to the previous arm ailment. Beimel's most recent outing came on Thursday, when he gave up three earned runs on three hits in an inning.

Beimel said he didn't feel any hint of soreness in that appearance.

"I felt abnormally good at this point," Beimel said. "My velocity was up more than it's been in the last three years."

Beimel was expected to be the Pirates' primary left-handed reliever this season. With his status in question, the club's remaining left-handed relief candidates include Scott Olsen, Garrett Olson and Justin Thomas.

Lincoln may have to skip side session

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates right-hander Brad Lincoln, with his right arm wrapped in a bandage sleeve on Saturday morning, said it remains too early to tell whether he'll miss his next scheduled spring appearance.

Lincoln left Friday's 3-2 loss to the Phillies in the third inning after being struck in the forearm by a line drive. Diagnosed with a contusion, Lincoln was dealing with soreness and stiffness on Saturday. He confirmed that there is no concern about structural damage. He has to now just wait for the bruising to heal.

"It's a little worse than [Friday]," Lincoln said. "It's definitely tight. The strength is still good. It's just a little weak from the initial punch."

The stiffness puts Lincoln's Sunday scheduled side session in jeopardy. The Pirates have not speculated on how long it might take for Lincoln to return to the mound, though his return to Grapefruit League play would likely be delayed slightly if he is unable to throw that side.

"If I was to answer that today, I would say, 'Probably not,'" Lincoln said, when asked if he'd be ready to pitch on Sunday. "But we're going to do treatments all day on it and see where it goes. Try to get some of that swelling out of there."

Snyder aiming to return to action Tuesday

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Bucs catcher Chris Snyder has his eye on Tuesday as the day he hopes to get back behind the plate after a layoff caused by lower back soreness.

Shortly after taking 15 swings in the batting cage, Snyder said that he continues to feel better each of the past three days. He intends to increase the cage work on Sunday and hopes to then be cleared to take batting practice on Monday.

If all goes well in that progression, Snyder will catch in a Minor League game on Tuesday.

"It's going to be one of those things that I want to play over there just to get the at-bats in," said Snyder, who hasn't played since March 9. "Hopefully everything goes well and stays on track and I can stretch it out."

Assuming Snyder is able to meet these checkpoints without issue, he said he will have just enough time to get the at-bats he needs to feel comfortable starting the season.

"If it was any later than early next week," Snyder said, "then it would have been pushing it."

Bucs bits

James McDonald threw long toss on Saturday, extending himself out to 120 feet for the 50-throw session. McDonald said he had no issues during it and that he is scheduled to throw a side session off the mound on Sunday. McDonald hasn't thrown off the mound since leaving his March 11 start with soreness in his left side. ... Left-hander Garrett Olson was scheduled to arrive in Bradenton, Fla., on Saturday night. The Pirates' tentative plan is to have him throw a side session on Sunday and then pitch in Monday's game against the Twins. Olson joins the club after being claimed off waivers from the Mariners on Friday. ... Joel Hanrahan will throw one inning in a Triple-A game on Sunday. This will give Hanrahan, who pitched one inning on Saturday, his first chance to throw in back-to-back games this spring. ... Righty Jose Ascanio threw batting practice on Saturday and had no issues. ... Petrina McCutchen, mother of Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, performed the national anthem before Saturday's game at McKechnie Field. ... The Pirates established an attendance record of 6,644 at McKechnie Field on Saturday. The previous high of 6,602 was set against Boston last weekend. ... Manager Clint Hurdle said a decision on an Opening Day starter will come next week, and that the nod will go to either Paul Maholm or Kevin Correia.

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.