Lobstein keeps up scoreless spring vs. Phils

Southpaw, competing for spot in 'pen, gives up one hit in three innings

Lobstein keeps up scoreless spring vs. Phils

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Kyle Lobstein knew he was pitching Friday, and he knew he was scheduled to work up to three innings. When he showed up at McKechnie Field early Friday morning, he thought he'd be pitching in a Minor League game at Pirate City. Not too long after that ...

"You give a guy a tap on the shoulder at 7:30 and say, 'Hey, by the way, we changed our mind,'" manager Clint Hurdle said. "'We want you to pitch in the 'A' game. Get on the bus and come face the Phillies.'"

This was supposed to be Gerrit Cole's start, but he wound up staying to face the Yankees' Triple-A team on a back field at Pirate City. Pitching in his place at Bright House Field, Lobstein handled the quick change well, holding the Phillies to one hit over three scoreless innings in the Pirates' 15-12 loss.

Cole, Kang play in Minors game

"I've been able to translate what we've been working on in the bullpens to the game," Lobstein said. "That always feels good."

Competing for the final spot in the Pirates' bullpen, the left-hander hasn't allowed a run in seven innings through four Grapefruit League appearances this spring. Without elite velocity, Lobstein relies on mixing his pitches, moving the ball around the strike zone and keeping hitters off-balance. So far, he's done that.

"He's been a quiet guy that's just trying to get things done," Hurdle said. "It's been fun to watch him continue to compete."

The Pirates traded for Lobstein in December, sending the Tigers cash for the 26-year-old who bounced between Triple-A and Detroit the last two seasons. He could be a second lefty reliever capable of throwing multiple innings, or he might begin the year in the Triple-A rotation.

The Pirates insist they don't necessarily need another left-handed reliever. They could carry a sixth right-hander if that's the best option.

It's a wide-ranging competition between long-relief lefties like Lobstein, one-inning southpaws like Eric O'Flaherty and right-handers like Rob Scahill. How will the Pirates make that decision?

"We want to have a couple guys who can pitch multiple innings. We want to have some different looks, some different arm slots as well," Hurdle said. "But at the end of the day, it's going to be the guys that we believe are going to get people out."

The Pirates will continue ramping up Lobstein's workload this spring until he's thrown six innings and 100 pitches. Lobstein said the club hasn't yet clarified his role any further beyond that.

In the meantime, Lobstein has been working on his mechanics between outings with pitching coach Ray Searage. They're trying to build up Lobstein's arm strength and speed, getting as much extension on his pitches as possible in order to increase his velocity and improve the sharpness of his offspeed stuff.

"Every time on the mound, he's there watching me, getting a feel for my style," Lobstein said. "We've been working together this last week and a half or so, the last few bullpens.

"I think it's translated well into the games these last two times out."

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.