DUNEDIN, Fla. (KDKA) — If the Pirates have any chance of being respectable in 2011, the starting rotation needs to perform above expectation. Through seven games this spring, the starters have done that.

This afternoon, Charlie Morton and Brad Lincoln turned in strong outings as the Pirates beat Toronto, 4-1.

Those two righties are in a battle for the fifth spot in the Pirates rotation.

Morton started the game and pitched three innings, allowing one run, two hits and struck out one batter. Lincoln, who once was considered the team’s top pitching prospect, pitched three perfect innings (0 hits and 0 runs).

Morton and Lincoln have the edge over lefthander Scott Olsen, who’s yet to pitch this spring because of a hamstring injury. Both pitchers have identical stats through two spring training games (5 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits).

Offensively, 3B Pedro Alvarez led the Pirates with a two-run triple in the sixth inning. The Pirates third baseman is batting .357 this spring collecting three doubles, four RBI’s and has a slugging percentage of .714.

On Friday, the Pirates take on the Philadelphia Phillies. RHP Kevin Correia is scheduled to start and will be followed by Brian Burres, Fernando Nieve, Bryan Morris, Kyle McPherson and Daniel Moskos.

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