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Osuna making strong case to join Bucs' roster

Special to MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- David Freese got the start at third base Saturday, but it was his replacement, Jose Osuna, who helped lift the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

With the Bucs trailing, 3-1, in the seventh, Kevin Newman ripped a ground-rule double to cut the deficit to one. Osuna then drilled a 2-0 pitch from reliever Brandon Leibrandt over the right-center-field wall to put Pittsburgh ahead to stay.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- David Freese got the start at third base Saturday, but it was his replacement, Jose Osuna, who helped lift the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

With the Bucs trailing, 3-1, in the seventh, Kevin Newman ripped a ground-rule double to cut the deficit to one. Osuna then drilled a 2-0 pitch from reliever Brandon Leibrandt over the right-center-field wall to put Pittsburgh ahead to stay.

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The 25-year-old native of Venezuela has hit safely in four straight games, going 5-for-9 with two doubles and a home run, and his efforts are not going unnoticed. Manager Clint Hurdle talked about his approach with Osuna, and he's very pleased with what he's seen from the utility player.

"He made some plays at third base [Friday]. Comes at third base today, swings the bat, we'll see how this whole thing turns out," Hurdle said. "There's nothing set in stone. We've still got a lot of ground to cover."

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After making his Major League debut last April 18, the 25-year-old appeared in 104 games for Pittsburgh. Versatility helped him total 227 plate appearances as a rookie -- playing both corner outfield spots and first base -- before finishing with seven home runs and 30 RBIs. His K/BB rate is something that the coaching staff will likely keep an eye on. He whiffed 90 times to just 10 walks last season.

Osuna is competing with several others for a spot on the Opening Day roster. Outfielders Bryce Brentz and Jordan Luplow are in the mix. However, Luplow has just one hit in 12 at-bats, and Brentz was off to an 0-for-11 start, but has since gone 3-for-5 and has reached safely in three straight games.

Hurdle isn't sure what the roster will look like March 29. However, Osuna has certainly made an impression.

"I just love the way he's showing up and working and doing the things that he's in control of," Hurdle said.

Around the horn

Ivan Nova pitched three innings and allowed three hits, including a home run to Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp. After the game, Nova talked about his recent struggles with his curveball.

Video: PHI@PIT: Nova on pitch development, outing vs. Phils

"My last bullpen, and leaving the bullpen today, it wasn't too good," he said. "The first one I threw wasn't too good, either. So I threw one good one and repeated it, so I was excited. ... If you don't have a pitch working in the bullpen, that doesn't mean you have to stay away from it."

The Pirates starter retired the first two batters he faced before allowing back-to-back singles to Tommy Joseph and Aaron Altherr. He got out of the first inning unscathed, but he would eventually surrender the Knapp homer. Nova said the four-seam fastball to Knapp was "not a bad pitch, but I think a bad call right there. You can go with something else."

Video: PHI@PIT: Hurdle discusses Nova and Dickerson

George Kontos came in to pitch an economical fourth. He threw 14 pitches -- 11 for strikes -- while retiring the Phillies in order.

For the first time in five games, Josh Bell didn't reach base. After starting the spring 0-for-6, the first baseman is 3-for-9 over the past three games.

Up next

The Pirates travel to Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, MLB.TV) to take on the Twins. Righty Jameson Taillon is scheduled to start for the Bucs opposite righty Jose Berrios. Steven Brault, Michael Feliz, Tyler Eppler and Alex McRae are also expected to pitch for Pittsburgh.

Kris Dunn is a contributor to MLB.com.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jose Osuna