BRADENTON, Fla. — The game against the Twins ended more than an hour ago, but the grounds crew hasn’t yet begun its usual postgame routine of raking, watering, digging and repairing.
Instead, the crew dragged out the batting cage and set it up the same way they did at 9 o’clock this morning for pregame batting practice. Pedro Alvarez, Josh Fields and Josh Rodriguez have been at work ever since.
Hitting coach Gregg Ritchie and a few other coaches are on the field to observe and critique. Special assistant Bill Virdon, who could be on his way to the early bird buffet if he wanted, instead is shagging flies in the late-afternoon sun.
And how about this — manager Clint Hurdle is on the mound, throwing.
The workout speaks to the work ethic of three players in very different situations.
Alvarez has made the team and is considered the eventual savior of the offense. This spring, he is batting .240 and has struck out 19 times in 50 at-bats.
Fields, 28, is a non-roster player who’s running third in a three-man race for the backup corner infielder job. He is batting .172. This morning, he had a closed-door meeting with Hurdle. Although it was roster cutdown day, Fields remained with the club — but some sort of message had been delivered, and received.
Rodriguez, a Rule 5 pickup, is hitting .280. He’s got potential and the Pirates would love to find a way to keep him. But it’ll be hard to hide a guy who has just 86 games’ experience at Triple-A on the big league roster all season, especially considering how well Pedro Ciriaco has played this spring. Management would prefer to slip J-Rod through waivers, work out a trade with the Indians (for whom he played in 2010) and re-assign him to Triple-A Indy.
»»» The May 21 game against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park will begin at 7:05 p.m.
»»» Before the game Monday against Minnesota, Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Kent Tekulve. Blyleven, a former Pirates pitcher, is a broadcaster for the Twins. It classy tribute to a guy who waited too long for a ticket to Cooperstown.
»»» The Pirates will hold a closed workout at 3 p.m. March 31 at Wrigley Field as a final preparation for Opening Day. How much do you want to bet it snows?
»»» Set your DVRs: MLB Network will air its “30 Clubs in 30 Days” episode about the Pirates at 11 p.m. Tuesday and at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Wednesday.