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Notes: Pitchers earn skipper's praise

Notes: Pitchers earn Tracy's praise

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Friday's starter Ian Snell received rave reviews from manager Jim Tracy after throwing two innings of one-hit ball and adding a strikeout into the mix during the 10-inning, 5-4 loss to the Braves.

"Watching Ian Snell and what he did today is a direct reflection of a lot of what we saw last year, and the focus that we have seen this young man display since Day 1 of Spring Training," Tracy said. "He's a very focused individual right now, and the maturity that we have seen, and the strides that he has made, in a very short period of time, are just tremendous."

Tracy also praised Tony Armas Jr., the projected fifth starter who tossed two perfect innings in relief of Snell, and Bryan Bullington, whom Tracy said has a nice delivery and "is a very poised pitcher."

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Bullington, who had two strikeouts in a perfect seventh inning, had not seen game action other than Monday's intrasquad matchup since undergoing labrum surgery in October 2005.

Duffy's day: Center fielder Chris Duffy also earned special mention from Tracy in a postgame discussion. Tracy said Duffy, who went 2-for-3 against stiff competition in the Braves pitching staff, may be the answer to whatever ailed leadoff batters in the first half of last season.

"I think this is another guy who hasn't forgotten what he did the second half of the season," he said of Duffy, who earned hits off of eight-time All-Star and Cy Young winner John Smoltz, as well as left-hander Macay McBride. "If Duffy is the solution, the offense gets this much better."

Familiar faces: Except for the uniform, he looked like the same old Craig Wilson, with the long hair and a big smile. He was even standing on the Pirates sidelines chatting it up with his former teammates Friday. But the Braves infielder was quick to point out that the mentality is a bit different in Atlanta's clubhouse.

"Over here, obviously, the expectation is a little bit different. We expect to come out and win," said Wilson, who signed with Atlanta as a free agent. "In the past, it's been, 'You kind of hope to win.' If you finish around .500, you feel pretty good about yourself -- but in reality, you're losing half your games."

Braves reliever Mike Gonzalez, who went to Atlanta in the trade for Adam LaRoche, agreed.

"As soon as I got here, I noticed there's an expectation to win here. It comes from the top," Gonzalez said. "The first meeting manager Bobby [Cox] had with us, he made it clear that's what's expected. There's nothing to be nervous or scared about. These guys have been there, done that. It's second-nature to them. They win."

Gonzalez made it clear that while Atlanta is his team now and he's quite comfortable coming out of its bullpen, he remembers being excited about playing in Pittsburgh during the second half of the season because "the young guys are getting that winning attitude." It was nice, Gonzalez said, to be able to see and visit with the Pirates guys he grew up with while spending his decade-long professional career in the Pittsburgh system.

"The special thing is that I'm able to see some of the guys," Gonzalez said. "This is Spring Training. I'm just trying to get my work in, no matter who it is. During the season, it's a different story."

Nady update: General manager Dave Littlefield confirmed in a telephone conversation with media relations head Jim Trdinich that Xavier Nady had indeed returned to camp and reported to Pirate City on Thursday for a workout. But Littlefield had no updates as to the findings from the colonoscopy Nady underwent in Pittsburgh earlier in the week.

Odds and ends: Adam LaRoche wore No. 96 during Friday's game against Atlanta because he left his regular No. 25 jersey back in Bradenton at the McKechnie Field clubhouse. ... Snell signed his contract Friday, but terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Set your alarm: Pirates individual game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, and can be purchased online at pirates.com, by phone at (800) BUY-BUCS or at the PNC Park Main Box Office.

Those choosing the latter option will be treated to several events at the ballpark from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., including self-guided tours of the home clubhouse and dugout, batting cages and Pittsburgh Baseball Club, a meet and greet with general manager Dave Littlefield and face-painting and balloon animals for the children. Pirate Parrot, Captain Jolly Roger and Pirates Pierogies will also be on hand at the event, which also will have free coffee and hot chocolate.

Heads up: Don Kelly's 10th-inning comebacker on Friday hit Braves pitcher Peter Moylan so hard it blew the glove right off his hand. Moylan recovered quickly, though, grabbing the ball out of his glove, which had landed at the base of the mound, and tossing it to first base for the inning's first out.

Pittsburgh proud: Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, the Super Bowl XL MVP, was on hand during Friday's game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Up next: Pittsburgh travels to Tampa on Saturday for a 1:15 p.m. ET game against the Yankees. Right-hander Shane Youman will take the mound for the Pirates and oppose righty Mike Mussina. Also scheduled to throw off the mound for Pittsburgh are righties Jim Brower, John Wasdin, Marty McLeary, John Van Benschoten and Juan Perez.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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