Hurdle happy to see Luebke in game action

Left-hander trying to earn a spot on Pirates' roster

Hurdle happy to see Luebke in game action

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates signed Cory Luebke just before Spring Training began, intending to give the left-hander the chance he wanted to crack the Opening Day roster.

But shortly after camp opened, Luebke -- set back by injuries for so much of the last three years -- experienced another nagging setback, a right hamstring strain that kept him out of game action until the ninth inning of Thursday's 7-2 loss to the Yankees at McKechnie Field.

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Luebke walked the first batter he faced, immediately erased the runner with a ground-ball double play and retired the next batter on a flyout.

Brought in on a Minor League deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training, Luebke has enjoyed a successful big league career when he's been healthy. The last three years, however, have brought a number of medical issues for the 31-year-old.

Luebke posted a 3.25 ERA in 188 1/3 innings for the Padres from 2010-12, pitching well enough to earn a contract extension. Then came Tommy John surgery in May 2012 and another in February '14.

After two years lost to injuries, Luebke got back on the mound last year, pitching seven games in the Padres' system. But he had to undergo an operation to remove loose bodies in his forearm, and then a staph infection six weeks after surgery ended his 2015 season.

Luebke will be on a "normal progression" going forward, manager Clint Hurdle said, surely a welcome relief after waiting so long to get back into the game.

"This is a guy we wanted to see," Hurdle said. "Good to see him on the mound, and I know he's excited to be back out there as well."

Around the horn

• The Pirates released left-hander Jesse Biddle on Wednesday but hope to re-sign him and work with him as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. The Bucs acquired Biddle from the Phillies over the offseason in exchange for reliever Yoervis Medina.

Biddle reported to Spring Training at Pirate City and recently began the flat-ground portion of his throwing program.

Michael Morse started in right field and went 1-for-1 with a walk on Thursday. The first baseman/outfielder is hitting .350 (7-for-20) through 10 games this spring.

• Before Thursday's game, the Pirates recognized the West Virginia Black Bears, their short-season Class A affiliate, for winning the New York-Penn League championship last season.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.