3/25/2014 6:17 P.M. ET
Mann opening eyes in Pirates spring camp
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
BRADENTON, Fla. -- There have been plenty of productive relievers in the Pirates' Spring Training camp, guys with names and resumes. Yet one of the most interesting emerging stories is a tall left-hander with a sidearm delivery.
Most people probably mistook Brandon Mann for one of the many young Minor Leaguers who regularly parade through the big league clubhouse and Grapefruit League box scores, starting their journeys in baseball.
Actually, Mann is a 29-year-old who has ridden the rails for 12 years since being a 27th-round Draft pick of Tampa Bay. He spent the first nine of those years never rising above Double-A, so Mann took his left arm to Japan for the 2011-12 seasons. He did not pitch at all last year.
But he became one of the Bucs' busiest lefties the latter half of this preseason, appearing in six games and allowing only a run in 4 2/3 innings, with four strikeouts and -- managers love this about southpaws -- no walks.
"He's been interesting," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle agreed. "He's shown good fastball command. He's been put through the ringer. He was asked to pitch, get up, get down, do different things. We kept an interested eye on him, no doubt."
The first thing that probably caught that eye is that wrinkle in Mann's delivery -- he'll lift his right leg and balance on the left one for a beat before continuing the windup, a hitch that throws off batters.
"He's got that little hitch in his get-along," Hurdle said. "And he'll ambush off that. After you think he's rocked you to sleep, he'll go without the hitch and is right on you. That's one of the reasons we kept bringing him in. Most important is where he goes next, the quality and volume of work that he can pick up."
Wandy looks healthy on mound, in batter's box
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Six weeks ago, Wandy Rodriguez tentatively threw a bullpen in Pirate City. Just to be on the safe side, he did not climb the hill again until three days later -- as if everyone was afraid his left forearm would fall off.
On Tuesday, Rodriguez concluded an encouraging Spring Training in which he threw harder, broke off curves sharper, went deeper every time out and convincingly demonstrated the health of the forearm. A winter's rest quelled the arthritis that had shelved him for the final four months of last season.
And, incidentally, Rodriguez truly went deeper Tuesday -- helping ignite a 29-hit attack with a two-run homer in the second.
On the mound, the lefty went 4 2/3 innings in the Bucs' 22-5 win over Toronto, and it would've been at least a little longer had he not walked the last three men he faced, with two outs in the fifth.
"Those pitches were close. They were quality pitches," Rodriguez said, more with amusement than anything else. "I don't know why he [home-plate umpire A.J. Johnson] didn't call them."
Still, Rodriguez's longest start brought his final Grapefruit League line to 11 2/3 innings, in which he allowed four earned runs and struck out nine. The feel-good, however, was immeasurable.
"The only thing I can say is I've been able to put the ball where I wanted," Rodriguez said. "I'm very happy. When I started throwing this spring, I think a lot about my arm. Now I just go and throw and feel good."
It is making Clint Hurdle feel good. Like everyone else, the manager had to enter camp with a wait-and-see attitude.
"There are still things to polish up. He's still got a ways to go," said Hurdle, comparing the Rodriguez he saw Tuesday to the one he regularly saw prior to his June 5 injury. "He's not where he can get, but it's good to see him healthy, good to see him taking the ball."
Pirates acquire Worley from Twins for cash
RADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates liked Vance Worley in 2011, when he was an 11-game winner with a 3.01 ERA for the Phillies. They liked him even on March 7, when they were personally knocking him around for seven hits and five runs in 1 1/3 innings of a Grapefruit League game.
So when the Minnesota Twins outrighted Worley in the wake of a horrid Spring Training, the Bucs seized the opportunity to acquire the 25-year-old right-hander in a cash transaction Tuesday.
Worley will report to Pirate City, get ready to join the rotation of Triple-A Indianapolis, and let the Bucs' reputed pitching doctors go to work on him.
"He's a guy we liked in the past, and someone our scouts continued to like, even through some of his struggles," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. "We might be able to help him get back on track. If we can, we've got somebody else who can help us on the big league level.
"We like his stuff, and we've got some people who might be able to help him. If we do, he'll be a nice addition. It's a worthwhile chance to take."
Having struggled since that 2011 debut in Philadelphia, Worley has a lifetime record of 19-18, with a 4.05 ERA in 63 games, including 56 starts.
That March 7 encounter with the Pirates hasn't even been his roughest day this spring. A few days prior to being cut by the Twins, Worley allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay. Overall, he has a 13.50 ERA in four appearances this spring.
First number, last word
0-for-37: Wandy Rodriguez's batting line for the 2012 season at the time he joined the Pirates in a late-July trade from Houston; in Tuesday's game, Rodriguez hit his first Major League homer -- regular or preseason -- in 449 at-bats.
"I have a comfort level with a lot of the guys that went down. There's not one guy that I don't expect to see at some point in time during the season." -- Hurdle, on the 11 men, many of whom were having a fabulous spring, cut by the Pirates on Tuesday.
• Scheduled Opening Day starter Francisco Liriano's final test Wednesday of his tight groin muscle will consist of trying to go three innings or 50 pitches in a simulated game at McKechnie Field.
• Edinson Volquez, who would make his Pirates debut in the season's sixth game if Liriano's health permits the club to stay in rotation, is expected to stay behind in camp for an extended Spring Training start before rejoining the team.
• Jeff Locke was brilliant in his start Tuesday against Pittsburgh's Triple-A players in Pirate City, holding them hitless for three innings, while walking two and fanning five. Locke threw 47 pitches in his first game action of any kind since his lone Grapefruit outing, on Feb. 27.
• At 31 players, the Bucs are still six over the regular season limit of 25, which has to be set by 3 p.m. ET Sunday. In all likelihood, the club will go to Philadelphia for Friday-Saturday exhibitions over the limit, then make its final cuts.
• Jose Tabata doubled his previous output of hits for the entire spring with his 4-for-4 Tuesday.
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.