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Brault, Williams continue rotation competition

Bucs lefty allows run, while righty remains unscored upon
Special to MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Both in competition with each other and when they pitch in games, there remains little separating left-hander Steven Brault and right-hander Trevor Williams as each vies for the Pirates' final rotation slot.

As they did Feb. 25 against the Orioles, Brault started and Williams followed on Thursday in an 11-1 win over the Tigers. Both pitched a scoreless inning against Baltimore and two innings against Detroit.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Both in competition with each other and when they pitch in games, there remains little separating left-hander Steven Brault and right-hander Trevor Williams as each vies for the Pirates' final rotation slot.

As they did Feb. 25 against the Orioles, Brault started and Williams followed on Thursday in an 11-1 win over the Tigers. Both pitched a scoreless inning against Baltimore and two innings against Detroit.

But Brault, the Pirates' No. 10 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, allowed his first earned run this spring, whereas Williams has not allowed a run in two outings.

"We're going to look for the guys that we believe can be efficient with their pitches, make quality pitches consistently, work down in the zone, work both halves of the plate and spin the ball behind in counts," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Brault gave up a pair of hard singles to Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera in the first, but Adam Frazier started an around-the-horn double play off the bat of Victor Martinez to help keep the Tigers from scoring. Justin Upton led off the second with a high fly ball on a 1-2 hanging curve that cleared the left-field fence by about 20 feet for the only run against Brault.

Video: Top Prospects: Steven Brault, LHP, Pirates

"I like facing guys like that, because those are the guys you want to get out, and I want to know that I can get those guys out, the best guys that are in the game," Brault said. "It was cool to face them. On the home run I gave up to Upton, he took a good swing on a pitch I left a little bit up; it happens."

Of the 26 pitches Brault threw, 19 were strikes. But he did not think throwing too many strikes was an issue.

"For me, going forward, if I could throw 26 out of 26, that's what I want to do," he said. "I want to be just attacking guys, getting ahead. I think I did the best I could at that today."

Williams also allowed hard contact in his first inning, and like Brault, an important defensive play prevented Detroit from scoring. After Martinez doubled to deep left-center field with two outs, Eury Perez dived to snag a low liner off Cabrera's bat to end the third.

In the fourth inning, Williams induced two groundouts and then struck out Alex Avila for a spotless frame. Although he and Brault have each allowed three hits and no walks in three innings, Williams has the strikeout edge at this point with three to Brault's one.

"I didn't get any strikeouts today, but who cares?" Brault said. "I've got a good defense back there who's doing great work, so let [batters] hit it to them, double plays galore."

Hurdle held a similar stance, noting the team looks at several means of efficiently getting outs. He also said having a lefty in his rotation would be nice but not essential.

"We had four lefties in the rotation last year," Hurdle said. "We want people that can make pitches, give us good innings. We got some young pitchers that are left-handed ... in that mix; we got some guys that are right-handed, so we'll have to see how it plays out."

Both would pitch again Tuesday against the Braves in Bradenton if Hurdle maintains his plan to have both in this rotation-like pattern of pitching every fifth game.

"There may be some separation coming up," Hurdle said. "When they get more innings, they're not going to be able to pitch back to back."

Zak Kerr is a contributor to MLB.com.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Steven Brault, Trevor Williams