BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates spent much of the winter hoping for a reunion with A.J. Burnett. On Saturday, they will finally have it -- not in the preferred way, though.
Burnett is due to make his first appearance for his new team against his old team when the Bucs go to Clearwater, Fla., to take on the Phillies. Jeff Locke, his PNC Park locker-room neighbor and best Pirates bud, won't travel to see his friend in Philadelphia red. And it seems to be very tough for him.
"No, I won't go. It's not protocol to go on the road when you're not pitching to see your friend pitch," Locke, who went two innings in Tampa on Thursday, said with a wry grin. "It'll be exciting, for sure. It'll be special.
"I know for a fact [Burnett] is excited," added Locke, who has a hunch Burnett asked for the assignment against his teammates of the last two years. "I wouldn't be surprised. It's in A.J.'s nature to want something and try to go get it. We'll be ready, and it'll be a good challenge for our guys to face someone like him. I wouldn't want to throw against our guys, so good luck to him."
The Phillies, the only National League team on the Pirates' exhibition schedule, will see the Bucs five more times. So there is an excellent chance Locke will eventually get that firsthand look at Burnett in red. He might even get to pitch against Burnett.
Still, there is nothing quite like that first reunion.
"I'd like to see A.J. give a hat nod or something to [manager Clint Hurdle] and the guys," said Locke, who would miss not being on the receiving end of that acknowledgment.
Wandy in good shape after return to mound
BRADENTON, Fla. -- After a while, Wandy Rodriguez had to giggle. Reporters kept finding different ways to ask him how he felt, but he had only one answer.
Fortunately, that was, "I feel good."
Rodriguez looked the part on Saturday. In his first outing for the Pirates of any kind since walking off the mound with a strained forearm on June 5, Rodriguez held the Rays hitless for the first inning of the Pirates' 10-inning, 2-2 tie with the Rays.
Rodriguez did allow an unearned run when a pair of errors escorted home Sean Rodriguez -- whom he had hit with his second pitch -- but he threw free and easy and hard, fanning Matt Joyce and Logan Forsythe.
"My first pitch, I felt a little nervous," Rodriguez said. "I don't know how to explain it now, but I felt something ... when we [pitchers] go out after not throwing for a long time, we think a lot about how we will feel, so that's normal."
"After that first pitch," manager Clint Hurdle said, "we got to see that confidence build as the inning went on. This was a big step forward for him."
"The key is concentration, putting the ball wherever I want," Rodriguez said. "And that's what I did. It was very good. I got everything going today. I don't feel nothing."
Asked whether he felt "normal" then, Rodriguez answered emphatically, "Yeah."
"I threw every pitch. Curve, two- and four-seam fastball," Rodriguez said. "About 15 [pitches]. When I finished that first inning, I felt very good about it."
Rodriguez was scheduled for only that one frame. He will next throw a side session in between sets of two off-days, then he'll aim to go two or three innings in his next start.
Barmes shines with bat in first start at second base
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Clint Barmes made the most of his first start at second base in four years ... at bat.
Barmes drilled a double with two outs in the second to drive in the first run of the Pirates' 2-2 tie in 10 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Afield, a sellout crowd of 7,959 -- the third largest in McKechnie Field history -- saw Barmes have little action in his first start at the old-new position since Sept. 5, 2010. Barmes was the Rockies' regular second baseman that season, across from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
In his five innings, Barmes got one chance, on a third-inning grounder by Logan Forsythe.
"We said we would spin Barmes around the infield," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his starting shortstop of 2012-13.
Barmes is not only up for the task, but enthusiastic about it.
"It'll be exciting to move around. Something to break up the routine," Barmes said. "Wherever they need me, even third or maybe first, I'm all for it."
First number, last word
13: Number of three-run home runs the Pirates hit all last season; they had one in each of their first three spring games, two by Tony Sanchez and another by Mel Rojas Jr.
"It put him at ease. He can build off this and we'll see where he can take it. But it sure was good to see him smile again." -- Hurdle, on Rodriguez's pitching and mood, which were both good on Saturday.
• There was sound reason for Neil Walker, who has not played since Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener, missing the start against a lefty (the Rays' David Price) and being down for another off-day Sunday. His right side is a little sore "just from swinging too much."
"We didn't want to push it; [we're] just giving it a couple days to calm down," said Walker, sporting a small ice pack on that side.
• Phil Irwin, scratched from his planned Friday outing after experiencing elbow discomfort for a while, will stay down a couple more days before starting a throwing program designed to get him back on the mound. The righty did play some catch Saturday and he is not concerned, dismissing it as a typical Spring Training bump.
• Gaby Sanchez experienced discomfort in his right knee, resulting from a slide in Friday's game in Dunedin, Fla., against Toronto, and he was scratched from his Saturday start at first base and in the cleanup spot.
Sanchez is day-to day -- as is Travis Ishikawa, with discomfort in the right hamstring.
• Infielder Chase d'Arnaud, who had been designated for assignment when the Pirates needed roster space for Brent Morel, has cleared outright waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis.
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.