TAMPA, Fla. -- Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke was pitching for only the feel of his pitches and of the setting. But even he conceded that the pitching line, February or not, mattered.
Coming off his precipitous second half of the 2013 season, crooked numbers in his first appearance of 2014 may have goaded alarmists. Instead, Locke turned the page, and turned away the Yankees, in Pittsburgh's 8-2 win.
"It's better to have good ones than bad ones, whether or not that's your focus," Locke said after his first competitive outing since Sept. 22.
Yes, counting their playoff run, the Pirates did not play their final game until Oct. 9. But the plug was pulled earlier on Locke, to give him an early start in making a physical and mental recovery from that 7.08 ERA in August-September.
"To get in that environment again, just to see someone with a different uniform digging his spikes in the dirt ... for me that was a big bonus, it's fun to compete," Locke said. "And to play in a place [George M. Steinbrenner Field] like this, sure -- it's the Yankees, no matter how you slice it."
Locke sliced them up nicely. One strikeout, one fly to shallow center and five grounders, including a topped ball to second by Brett Gardner that went for the infield single that was the only hit off him.
One of the groundouts he induced was by Derek Jeter.
"I don't care if it's Whiffle ball, it's cool. That's someone I idolized as a kid," said Locke, the New England native and Red Sox fan. "He was the only Yankee I gave a pass to. It was very special to take the field with him."
Polanco shows some power after adding weight
TAMPA, Fla. -- In Gregory Polanco's crowded tool chest, power is not the most obvious asset. Yet.
Polanco's plate coverage, fielding range and basepath speed are among the things that jump out at you. The gap-power has already been on display, but not the over-the-fence power. A career total of 34 homers in 1,495 Minor League at-bats doesn't shout "corner outfielder," a power position the Pirates have in mind for Polanco.
So he dedicated his offseason to doing something about it.
"During the winter, I worked on getting a little more power, to feel better. I put on eight pounds," Polanco, who's ranked by MLB.com as the No. 13 prospect in baseball, said.
He felt even better after giving an example of the added power in Thursday's Grapefruit League game here against the Yankees: Polanco pulled a 1-1 breaking pitch from David Phelps in the first inning for a home run, his first hit of the spring and the Bucs' first run of their 8-2 victory over the Bronx Bombers.
"I want to improve my hitting," Polanco said of his spring-long focus.
Thursday's start was Polanco's first, and he got to make it in center field, with Andrew McCutchen sitting out the trip. Polanco knows he can't count on making many starts there, but the familiarity with the surroundings helped him relax.
"It felt natural," he said. "I played center field every day in [the Dominican Winter League]."
• Chris McGuiness (4-for-4 this spring after another 2-for-2 on Thursday) and Andrew Lambo (nifty footwork around the bag on several plays in Thursday's game) have gotten their competition for a left-handed-hitting backup first baseman off to a good start.
"They're both making good contact and handling themselves around the base well," said manager Clint Hurdle. "You like to see everybody get after it in a good way."
• Charlie Morton erased a game-opening walk of Gardner by getting Jeter to hit into a double play, and he went on to keep the Yankees hitless for two innings.
Morton called the Spring Training start "a hint of normalcy" after recovering from hip surgery in 2012 and being limited to rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last spring.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.