BRADENTON, Fla. - In somewhat of a surprise move, Zach Duke will get the ball on April 5, when the Pirates open the season.
Duke received the nod over Paul Maholm, who has outpitched him to this point this spring. Maholm started on Opening Day last year, when he allowed one earned in 6 innings in a 6-4 victory against the Cardinals on the road.
"When we talked about the three, it wasn't about an accolade for one guy," manager John Russell said. "We wanted to balance it and put guys in position to be more successful."
Ross Ohlendorf is scheduled to start the second game against the Dodgers on April 7, and Charlie Morton will pitch the series finale the next day. Morton and Daniel McCutchen are expected to round out the rotation, which consists of a lefty, righty, lefty, righty and righty in that order.
Duke was unavailable for comment.
"Realistically, we could have picked any one of the three," Russell said. "Ross had a great finish [last season]. Zach made an All-Star team. Paul is a consistent starter."
Maholm has the lowest earned run average (2.70) among the three candidates this spring.
"[Recent performance] didn't enter into it at all," Russell said. "What they accomplished as pitchers came last year. Put all three in that position, and any one of them could have done it."
Hanrahan to return
Relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan will not pitch in a Grapefruit League game and will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list.
Because Hanrahan will not take part in an exhibition game, his stay on the disabled list will be retroactive to before the start of the regular season. He will return to active duty on April 12, when the team is scheduled to meet the Giants in San Francisco.
Hanrahan will make his regular-season debut without the benefit of a major league appearance beforehand.
"If we pitched Joel in a Grapefruit League game, it would be 15 days into the season before he was available," Russell said. "He just needs to get out there. He'll still pitch in minor-league games, and that will be enough for him."
Hanrahan is scheduled to throw 18-to-20 pitches in a minor league instrasquad game at Pirate City today.
"I'll be able handle it," he said. "When you come into a Grapefruit League in the eighth inning, it's the pretty much same as a minor-league game, anyway. The main thing is, I feel good right now."
Dotel to pitch today
Relief pitcher Octavio Dotel is scheduled to pitch in his first Grapefruit League game this afternoon (1:05, WBGG-AM), when the Boston Red Sox come to McKechnie Field.
Maholm will get the start for the home team. D.J. Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly and Javier Lopez also are slated to pitch.