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03/07/11 4:35 PM ET

Meek makes spring debut against Rays

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Evan Meek made his spring debut on Monday, tossing a scoreless inning in the Pirates' 4-2 loss to the Rays.

Meek fell slightly behind in his spring workouts when right calf tightness sidelined him during the second week of camp. But with that ailment behind him, Meek is on track to have his arm properly strengthened before the start of the regular season.

Meek got Manny Ramirez to ground into a double play after the leadoff hitter reached on an error. Meek then issued a two-out walk to Matt Joyce, who was promptly thrown out trying to steal second.

"Things were a little quick today," Meek said afterward. "I found myself trying to relax and go out and throw strikes. That was my main focus -- not really focus too much on velocity or anything. I really wanted to go in and get my work in and get back in the groove of things. It's a good step forward."

With the exception of one two-out breaking ball, Meek threw exclusively fastballs in the outing.

"No issues for Evan," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was good to see him out there. He made the pitches he wanted to. The ball is coming out of his hand really clean. Good velocity, good arm strength."

Meek will make his next one-inning appearance on Thursday.

Ciriaco could be in middle infield mix

BRADENTON, Fla. -- With neither Corey Wimberly, nor Josh Rodriguez, having exceptional starts to Spring Training, Pedro Ciriaco has to be garnering serious consideration in the Pirates' search for a backup middle infielder.

The club has always spoken favorably about Ciriaco's defensive ability, noting early on in camp that he was the best defender among the players fighting for one bench spot. Rather, it was questions about Ciriaco's offensive abilities that kept the Pirates from labeling him early on as the frontrunner for the job.

Spring Training statistics are not a great barometer for what is to come during the season, but the Pirates like what they have seen in Ciriaco's approach so far. Ciriaco spent time working on the mechanics of his swing in fall instructional league and while playing winter ball.

"He simplified his swing," general manager Neal Huntington said. "[He] had a really good second half there in the Dominican and has really carried it forward here."

In Ciriaco's first 14 at-bats of the spring, he has collected five hits.

"I was working to be a little bit more selective at the plate," Ciriaco said. "I was working on hitting more line drives and balls to the middle. I feel good right now at the plate."

The Pirates will ultimately have to decide whether defensive reliability trumps offensive potential as they choose who will back up Ronny Cedeno and Neil Walker. To this point, the Pirates have expressed concerns about how strong either Wimberly or Rodriguez is at the shortstop position.

"It would be really exciting for me to make the team and to do something to help the team win some games," said Ciriaco, who has never made an Opening Day roster. "I want to make the team. The only thing I can control is take my chance and try to do my best."

Bowker, Rodriguez suffer injuries

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Just as Ronny Cedeno made his return to the lineup, the Pirates found themselves down two other position players because of minor injuries.

John Bowker was not available on Monday due to soreness in his left wrist. He's also likely to miss Tuesday's game. Infielder Josh Rodriguez is bothered by some tightness in his right quad and will be sidelined for a few days.

Both injuries occurred during on-field workouts.

Time lost due to injuries could be critical for the pair, as both are fighting to earn a spot on the Pirates' bench. Bowker, who is out of options, is trying to play his way into being named the team's fifth outfielder. Rodriguez is the team's Rule 5 pick and is trying to make the club as a backup to the Pirates' starting middle infielders.

Cedeno missed three games due to a bruised right middle finger. He played short on Monday and finished 1-for-3 with a single.

Bucs bits

After throwing a number of side sessions, Scott Olsen is slated to throw batting practice to hitters on Tuesday. The left-hander is nearing being ready to make his first game appearance. ... In addition to Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against Minnesota, the Pirates and Twins will play a "B" game earlier in the morning. In that game, Steve Pearce will get his first opportunity to play third base. ... Catcher Chris Snyder threw out two of three would-be basestealers on Monday. The Pirates allowed 116 stolen bases in 137 attempts last season.

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.