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Final spring thoughts

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TAMPA — As I drove to Tampa Airport this morning, I was reminded of a scene from a couple of days ago on the same stretch of highway.

The Pirates had played the New York Yankees that afternoon at the freshly renamed Steinbrenner Field (where the only thing larger than the payroll is the ego). I was riding back to Bradenton with another reporter and we heard sirens as we waited at a red light. Suddenly, a police cruiser screeched to a stop in the middle of the intersection. An officer jumped out, and began to frantically wave traffic out of the way so whatever official vehicles were behind us could pass through the red light.

It was a caravan of police cars and three tour buses — the Yankees were en route to the airport, to fly to Miami for exhibition games against the Marlins.

For this, all the traffic at a busy intersection in downtown Tampa was ground to a halt. So the Yankees could pass without having to wait through a red light like the rest of us.

Unbelieveble.

At any rate, I am relieved and excited to finally blow out of Bradenton and put another loooooong spring training behind me. The only downside: The weather looks brutal for the first two weeks of the season — rain in Atlanta, snow in Pittsburgh.

The final few roster cuts made the Pirates seemed like no-brainers to me. I can understand Sean Burnett’s fury over his demotion, but Evan Meek is younger, healthier and, frankly, a better prospect. Remember, Burnett put up great numbers last spring, was among the final cuts, then wound up wounded again at Triple-A.

Doug Mientkiewicz and Chris Gomez will be more valuable, I think, for the attitude they bring than for whatever they do with their bats and gloves.

This is not a championship roster … yet. It won’t be for years, most likely. But it doesn’t seem to be a stagnant roster anymore. The new management group has realized the past seven or eight drafts yielded precious little talent. Burnett, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington are great guys, but their time as bona fide prospects is over.

The roster purging has only begun. It ought to be an interesting summer.
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