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3/9/2014 5:59 P.M. ET

Volquez's rough start not all on his shoulders

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was talking about a different group of pitchers -- relievers to be precise -- when he said his evaluation process includes "kicking one outing to the curb for everybody."

Edinson Volquez got his curbed outing on Sunday. In the Orioles' portion of the Bucs' split-squad action, the rotation hopeful couldn't make it through three innings, allowing six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings of the 9-2 loss in Sarasota, Fla.

After the Pirates' other defeat, 4-1 to the Red Sox, Hurdle hadn't yet received any reports on Volquez's first start of the spring. Presumably, he will get an earful on Monday from pitching coach Ray Searage, who was in attendance at the game in Sarasota.

Five of the runs off Volquez scored on home runs by Chris Davis for two and J.J. Hardy for three. The Pirates also went yard twice, but the shots by Andrew McCutchen and Tony Sanchez were solos.

Afterward, Sanchez took another shot -- at himself, actually accepting a large share of the blame for Volquez's outing.

"His stuff was really good," said Sanchez, who caught the veteran right-hander for the first time. "... I could see he was uncomfortable throwing to me and it kind of affected him.

"I'd like to think that if we had more time together to work with each other, he would have felt a little more comfortable, because I know that affected him. But I thought his fastball command, for the most part, went pretty well," Sanchez said of Volquez, who was consistently in the 92-93 mph range.

The outing raised Volquez's preseason ERA to 14.29 for 5 2/3 innings. Raising the A.J. Burnett issue is pointless for Pirates fans, however; Burnett has a spring ERA of 12.60 in five innings with the Phillies.

Hurdle praises Morton's competitive spirit

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Charlie Morton thinks he has found a new weapon against left-handed hitters, and the fact it backfired on him twice on Sunday is not going to make him holster it.

"He made a commitment to using that two-seamer inside [to left-handed hitters in Boston's lineup]," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's the thing we hadn't seen him do in the past. And he threw it 10 times, with intent, purpose, conviction …"

… And twice with frustrating results. Placed so well and with so much movement, that pitch tied up lefty slugger Mike Carp so badly in the first inning that all he could do was squib an opposite-field grounder just to the left of the third-base bag. But with third baseman Pedro Alvarez shifted near the shortstop hole, it went for an infield single.

That became harmless. But the next time a left-handed hitter punched one to the opposite side of the infield, Travis Shaw with one out in the second, Alvarez was close enough to field it, but flubbed it for an error. That extended the inning for Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-run single with two outs.

Hurdle still admired Morton's moxie.

"His rhythm may not have been as good as it was the first couple of times out," said Hurdle, citing Morton's pair of shutout starts covering five innings, "but even on days when he doesn't feel like he's where he wants to be, he still competes and is still going to give us innings and a chance to win. He made one pitch he'd like to have back."

That was the one Carp lifted high over the straightaway-right fence for a solo homer in the third.

"When I was ahead of hitters, everything turned out OK. The problem was, I didn't get ahead of many hitters," said Morton, who delivered first-pitch strikes to half of the 16 men he faced.

Worth noting

• The Pirates are anticipated to make their first cuts Monday morning, following the three days of intense activity that included five games (with Friday's "B" game and Sunday's split-squad games) and Hurdle surveying workouts at Pirate City on Saturday.

Travis Ishikawa, who went 0-for-3 as the designated hitter against Boston in his first action upon recovery from a tight right hamstring, is due to make his defensive debut at first base Monday against the Orioles.

Chris Stewart went 0-for-2 Sunday to remain 0-for-spring in 11 at-bats. However, all the Pirates pitchers love throwing to the veteran catcher, whose specialty has always been defense and pitchers' TLC.

First number, last word

8,245: Attendance for Sunday's game against the Red Sox, highest this spring and third-highest in McKechnie Field history.

"When we're in the Major League clubhouse and a 23-year-old Pirate shows up, vs. a 23-year-old guy we get from another organization -- the other guy can be a good player, but he's not the same guy. These men are growing up together … and it's fun to watch the culture that's developing there." -- Hurdle, after spending Saturday at Pirate City with Pirates prospects and the organization's player-development staff.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.