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Jack’s back!

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BRADENTON, Fla. — It feels like spring training, now that Jack Wilson has checked into Pirate City.

Wilson was at his locker in the far corner of the clubhouse at 7:30 this morning, with a bat in his hand, dressed and ready to go. I asked him if the first full-squad workout is the best day of the year.

“In one way it’s tough, because it means the offseason is over and you enjoy the offseason,” Wilson said. “But getting back here, getting your (game) pants on again, it’s always a thrill. It’s little things that get you back in the spirit of things. I’m excited.”

Wilson talked a bit about whether this will be his final spring with the Pirates, but you’ll have to wait until Wednesday’s Trib hits the newsstands (or pops up here online) to read about that. He had a few other observations:

• He’s healthy. The calf injury is ancient history. The fractured finger healed nicely. Both he and second baseman Freddy Sanchez are pretty much full-go.

• He was genuinely happy to hear Nate McLouth had signed a multi-year contract. “That’s awesome,” Wilson said. “I think it’s important that we get these guys, especially Paul (Maholm), Ryan (Doumit) and Nate. Those are young, upcoming players. It’s good to get them locked down early and give them some financial comfort, so they can just go out and concentrate on being good baseball players.”

• He had been in regular contact with McLouth over the past week or so, giving lessons in Arbitration 101. Wilson took the Pirates to a hearing in 2004 and won. Looking back, he said listening to management argue against you can be an ego-buster..

“It’s pretty nasty,” Wilson said. “I had a hard time with it afterwords. It’s hard, being a younger guy when you go through it. You take it personally because it is personal.

“But, I’m glad I went through it so I could help Nate. I told him, Yeah, it sucked. But at least something positive came out of it. But it’s great he doesn’t have to go through it.”

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