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03/25/11 2:22 AM ET

Beimel to miss the start of the season

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Given the time needed to properly build his arm strength back up, Joe Beimel will not begin the season in the Pirates' bullpen.

That announcement was made on Friday by general manager Neal Huntington, who, like Beimel, is much more concerned with the left-hander's long-term health than he is about pushing Beimel back on the mound simply for the sake of being on an Opening Day roster.

"I'm looking to be healthy for the entire season," Beimel said. "I think this will work out best for me and the team. Physically, I'm good. The ball is really coming out of my hand pretty good. I think now it's just getting my pitches to where I want them to be to start the season. I'll have time to do that and won't have to rush to get that done."

Right now, Beimel is working his way back from a second arm setback this spring. After missing time because of left forearm tightness early in March, Beimel was recently shut down with elbow discomfort.

He did return to the mound on Thursday for a bullpen session and reported feeling no elbow pain. Beimel's next bullpen session will come on Sunday. From there, the progression will be determined on a day-to-day basis.

Beimel will remain in Florida when the team heads to Philadelphia next week to close out the spring with a pair of exhibition games. While in Bradenton, Beimel will continue to get work in Minor League games. If he is still not ready by the time the Minor League season opens (April 7), Beimel could either remain in extended Spring Training or join one of the organization's affiliates to get more work there.

Because Beimel signed a Minor League contract, he will not have to begin the year on the disabled list. Rather, the Pirates can keep him off the roster entirely until he's ready to return.

"We're going to work through the timing and try to get him back on a mound as quickly as we can in a game situation," Huntington said. "The reality is that he will not be with us Opening Day, but we're going to work as hard as we can to get him back out there as quick as we can."

Because of the two arm injuries, Beimel has made only two spring appearances.

McCutchen, Yates, Gallagher sent down

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates made another round of cuts on Friday morning and in doing so eliminated three bullpen candidates.

Daniel McCutchen was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he could begin the year either in the rotation or the bullpen depending upon the eventual makeup of the club. Right-handers Tyler Yates and Sean Gallagher were reassigned to Minor League camp. Both are expected to join McCutchen in Indianapolis.

The departure of these three, coupled with the news that Joe Beimel will not be ready to begin the season in Pittsburgh, leaves the Pirates with four pitchers to fill two open bullpen spots. That group of four includes two lefties (Garrett Olson and Brian Burres) and a pair of right-handers (Chris Leroux and Michael Crotta).

The first five spots will be taken by Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Jeff Karstens and Jose Veras.

As for the three who were sent down on Friday, the Pirates are not giving up on any one of those right-handers. The organization sees McCutchen's best fit coming as a multi-inning reliever, so he will remain stretched out in Indianapolis.

Both Yates and Gallagher will pitch out of the Triple-A bullpen. For Yates, the prospect of competing again is significant in and of itself. Yates' last appearance came on May 15, 2009. He underwent right elbow surgery later that season and missed all of 2010 recovering from the procedure.

"The best thing that we can talk about with Tyler Yates is that we're talking about command," Huntington said. "We're talking about stuff. He hit 98 [mph] in his last outing. Unfortunately for Tyler, it was up. And he recognizes that. The breath of fresh air is that now the talk is about command and pitching and getting innings."

Pirates' bench picture remains unclear

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Until the Pirates announce whether they will carry two or three catchers on the Opening Day roster, the club's bench picture remains muddied even though the season opener sits one week away.

With two of the team's five bench spots already filled -- one by Ryan Doumit and the other taken because of the Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz platoon in the outfield -- Pittsburgh has three openings still available. One will go to a corner infielder. One will go to a middle infielder. And the other will go to either a catcher or an additional position player who could fit in any number of spots.

What is known is that none of those openings will be going to infielder Josh Fields or catcher Wyatt Toregas, both of whom were reassigned to Minor League camp during the Pirates' round of cuts on Friday.

General manager Neal Huntington said the decision on how many catchers to take north is one that will come "sooner rather than later." If the Pirates opt to only carry Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit, six position players would be left for the three bench openings.

Andy Marte and Steve Pearce are still competing to be the team's corner infield backup. Only one will make the club. Josh Rodriguez, Pedro Ciriaco and Corey Wimberly remain in the mix as middle infield options. John Bowker, who can play either a corner outfield spot or first base, is another strong bench candidate.

Maholm content with order of rotation

BRADENTON, Fla. -- One day after being told he would get to start the Pirates' home opener on April 7, Paul Maholm joked that it's "another thing to check off the to-do list."

Anyone looking for Maholm to be upset about being passed over in manager Clint Hurdle's choice for an Opening Day starter found the left-hander to be anything but. Publicly gracious about getting the nod to pitch behind Kevin Correia in the rotation, Maholm said he is very much looking forward to being the first pitcher to take the PNC Park mound this season.

"You're not going to see me bitter," Maholm said. "I've started Opening Day and it's definitely an honor and fun, but to get to start the opener at home -- hopefully it's a sellout and a packed house -- to get the season started off right there is going to be big. I think it's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to it."

Maholm was the Pirates' Opening Day starter in 2009, but he has never before pitched in a home opener.

Hurdle announced on Thursday that Correia and Maholm will be followed in the rotation by Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton and James McDonald, in that order.

Bucs Bits

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Right-hander James McDonald is scheduled to throw in a Minor League game at Pirate City on Saturday. McDonald, who has not pitched since March 11 with left side sorness, will throw about 50 pitches in the outing ... Brad Lincoln (right arm contusion) threw from 120 feet on Friday morning as he continues to get his arm loosened back up. Lincoln is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday. Though Lincoln remains in big-league camp, he is expected to begin the season in Triple-A Indianapolis' rotation ... After playing the final few innings of Thursday's game in center field, Pedro Ciriaco started there again on Friday. Though the Pirates are trying to see if Ciriaco is capable of playing the position in an emergency situation, the true backup to Andrew McCutchen in center is Jose Tabata.

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.