Snell looking season-ready

Snell looking season-ready

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Pirates had been planning on extending Ian Snell's outing on Saturday. Snell just did it a little quicker than expected.

Scheduled to pitch five innings against the Blue Jays, Snell was pulled after throwing 75 pitches (44 strikes) in just four innings of work. The results, however -- two runs on five hits and four strikeouts -- were encouraging.

"I wish he could have done it a little more efficiently, but we need to get him stretched out," manager John Russell said. "He pitched a pretty good slider today. He was working on controlling the running game, which he did a great job of."

Other than an elevated changeup that Matt Stairs laced to center for a two-run double, Snell continued to show further mastery of pitching on the inner half of the plate, something that the right-hander has focused on since the end of last season.

"I'm glad that they brought their 'A' hitters out there," Snell said of facing a lineup similar to the one Toronto will use during the regular season. "[The hitters in] their lineup, they all take different approaches. Some guys took pitches. Some guys swung at the first fastball that came over the plate. It gave me a good experience getting to face different types of hitters."

The start was the fourth of the spring for Snell. He has pitched a combined 13 innings and allowed six runs.

On a somewhat related pitching note, Russell said after the game that the team's Opening Day starter would likely be named within the next few days. While Snell, who led the staff in ERA last season, would be a candidate for the nod, lefty Tom Gorzelanny would seem like the more likely choice.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.