Bay slowly working his way back

Bay slowly working his way back for Bucs

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Outfielder Jason Bay saw his name in the starting lineup Wednesday for the first time this spring.

For Bay, the sight was enough to make him smile.

"It's fun to get back out there and feel part of the team again," he said after getting three at-bats here Wednesday as the Pirates designated hitter. "It's a start."

Since coming to Spring Training last month, Bay has taken the long, slow road back to playing. He had a reason to take it slowly, though. In the offseason, Bay had surgery on his gimpy left knee, and nobody here wanted Bay to tax himself too early.

So he's been going through hitting and fielding drills at Pirate City; he's just not seen his name in the Pirates lineup -- until Wednesday anyway.

And when will Bay play the outfield?

That's a question he needed manager Jim Tracy to answer for him.

"We're probably looking at another four or five days or so," Tracy said. "We may wait until after the day off [March 13] and start incorporating him into the outfield situation."

Tracy said he's waiting patiently to get Bay back into the starting lineup, and the 28-year-old Bay, a two-time All-Star, said he's waiting patiently -- as patiently as any ballplayer can be -- to being back in the lineup.

Yet he didn't sound overly worried about when he'd get back to playing full bore. At this point in Spring Training, he's resigned simply to seeing some live pitching in a game. But he knows the clock is ticking toward Opening Day.

"I'm definitely behind," he said. "That was the first live pitching that I've seen in a week or so. But as far as picking that up, the guys have had about 10 or 12 at-bats. So, I mean, I'm only seven or eight behind them as far as they are."

He's been doing everything else, though. The hitting, the fielding drills -- the whole works. He'd just not tested his surgically repaired knee at game speed before Wednesday. He's still not done so in all phases of the game.

"I don't think I'm that far behind," he said. "I just need a little more timing at the plate."

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.