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Pitching excites Pirates in early spring

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Clint Barmes had a spotlight moment on Sunday, when he hit a two-run homer to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning against the Braves and started the Bucs to a 9-2 victory, but that was not the highlight of the shortstop's day.

Nor was it his sharp opposite-field single in the third on an off-speed pitch, although Barmes did consider that a better sign of offensive health.

Nope. Barmes got the biggest kick out of watching James McDonald, Jonathan Sanchez and Jason Grilli team up to blank Atlanta on one hit during his five innings on the field. The effort of those three, and of the four who followed, continued Pittsburgh's strong pitching in the early stages of preseason play.

"That's what has been really exciting," Barmes said. "Pitching and defense win games, without doubt, and to see the staff -- the good, young arms -- [it's been] everything I heard. I have not seen every guy, but the guys I've been able to watch, it's been exciting. It's good to have a lot of strong, young arms. And we also have guys who know now to pitch. That's huge."

And when it comes to making some quick noise with his bat after a trying 2012 season, Barmes remains more interested in the team's results.

"I don't worry about what anybody thinks," Barmes said. "My goal ever since I've been playing this game is contributing to winning every game every time I walk on the field. That's all that matters at this point, anyway."