BRADENTON, Fla. — Good morning from Pirate City, where 36 (give or take) players are gathered for a week-long, voluntary minicamp. A handful of veterans – Jose Tabata, Andrew McCutchen, Charlie Morton, Jared Hughes, Clint Barmes, Michael McKenry and Alex Presley — are slated to attend, along with some non-roster invitees, guys on the 40-man roster and prospects Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. (As of 8:30 this morning, McCutchen and McKenry were the only ones who had not yet arrived.) Manager Clint Hurdle also is on hand. Players will work out in the cages and on the fields from 9 a.m. to noon daily. There also are some informal get-to-know-you gatherings set: a golf outing this afternoon, a BCS game viewing party tonight, fishing on Tuesday and a USF hoops game Wednesday.
»»» Update 9:30 a.m. McCutchen has checked in and is taking hacks with the position players in the indoor batting cages.
»»» Morton has been rehabbing here since having Tommy John surgery last summer. He’s throwing long-toss — a progression from 60 to 90 to 120 feet, about 75 total throws per day — and last week started throwing on back-to-back days with an off day in between. Morton said he is on track to start throwing off the mound in late January or early February. Morton grinned when I asked if he expects to pitch in a major league game this summer? “Absolutely. One-hundred percent yes,” he said.
»»» Minicamp is especially valuable for newcomers such as Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus Jr., who arrived last month in the Joel Hanrahan trade. “The first thing I’ve got to do is learn my way around this building,” Sands said. De Jesus played winter ball in Puerto Rico, but his winter season came to an early end last week. DeJesus and his Manati teammates were suspended after refusing to play in a game because, they said, the team was behind on its salary payments. Ineligible for the playoffs, DeJesus instead came to Bradenton begin to fit in with his new mates. DeJesus won the Puerto Rican Winter League batting title with a .364 average.