All posts by Rob Biertempfel

#Pirates A.M. — Hurdle: “Mission accomplished”

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By Rob Biertempfel

LECOMsignBRADENTON, Fla. — After yesterday’s Grapefruit League finale agains the Phillies, manger Clint Hurdle was asked if he’s happy with the foundation that was laid during spring training. As usual, Hurdle was prepared with an answer:

“I think we identified our areas of needed improvement over the winter. We spelled it out for the team moving in and attacked (those areas). The work done was clean, efficient, aggressive. Not only are we building baseball players, we’re building strength. We built team cohesion.

“We solidified the (pitching) staff early enough in roles to build backwards in opportunities. We’ll fill the fifth spot sooner than later. The bullpen is starting to come together. Defensively, I think we took big strides forward. Offensively, some solid components are in play.

“We did the best we could with the men that we had at the time. And I believe these guys have worked very hard together. I would say mission accomplished here and let’s move on.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

A couple of hours after Drew Hutchison was cut, Trevor Williams made his case for the starting rotation.

Jared Hughes got a little emotional after being released

Notebook … In which Polanco has a glitch, Cole serves up some dingers and Stewie stays behind

>>> Friday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Jameson Taillon. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. RHP Marcus Stroman. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Chad Kuhl. Also pitching for Pirates: RH Tyler Glasnow.

Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. LHP Francisco Liriano. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Sunday: Off. The Pirates will work out at 3 p.m. at Fenway Park. Also: RHP Ivan Nova will pitch in a minor league (extended spring training) game at Pirate City.

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 2:05 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Gerrit Cole (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. RHP Rick Porcello (2017 debut).

>>> Tuesday: Off

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Jameson Tailon (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. LHP Chris Sale (2017 debut).

>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 1:35 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Josh Kuhl (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (2017 debut).

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — Sweet start, sour finish for Hutchison

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

Hutchison3BRADENTON, Fla. — You can look at Drew Hutchison’s linescores this spring and draw a bright, wide line of demarcation between the good and the bad. His first three outings: nine innings, six hits, two earned runs, three walks, nine strikeouts. His past three outings: 10 2/3 innings, 27 hits, 21 earned runs, six walks, nine strikeouts.

His first two outings came out of the bullpen — which is when, especially early in spring training, a pitcher faces backups and minor leaguers. Over the last two weeks of camp, starting position players tend stay in the games longer and are more in tune at the plate. “It’s (a different) level of competition,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sometimes, strength of lineup comes into play. However, he was throwing better strikes earlier (this spring) than they have been lately.”

“It’s extremely frustrating to have an opportunity and not perform to the level that you expect,” Hutchison said. “I thought I did a good job last time (against Boston) bouncing back and I did that again tonight. You don’t need to put yourself in a situation where you have to bounce back and make pitches to get out of an inning.”

UPDATE 11:44 A.M — Less than an hour ago, Hutchison was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.  “We’ve seen some flashes of the guy we thought we were getting when we traded for him (in August), with the crispness of the fastball … the sharpness of the breaking ball and a very effective changeup,” GM Neal Huntington said. “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen too much of the fastball catching too much of the plate and pitches not being sharp.”

Glasnow is scheduled to pitch on Saturday against the Blue Jays in Montreal. Huntington said whichever pitcher is not chosen for the rotation job might open the season in the Pirates’ bullpen.

>>> Gregory Polanco, who continues to rest a sore left shoulder, has not played since Thursday, which was his only Grapefruit League appearance since returning from the WBC. The Pirates, as usual, have not said specifically what’s wrong with Polanco other than he is battling “discomfort” in his shoulder. Huntington cautioned that “injured” might be too strong a word to describe Polanco’s status: “He’s feeling better. We’ve still got some time there and we remain optimistic that things will come together. We’re just trying to be cautious and want to get guys out of the gate as healthy as possible. It’s been a long spring, there’s no question, but we’re still optimistic that he’ll be a go (for opening day).”

UPDATE 11:45 a.m. -- Polanco will NOT go with the team to Montreal due to what Huntington says is “a technical glitch” with his passport. For most of the players, applying for visas to enter Canada was a routine process. However, those who played in the World Baseball Classic are hampered by a compressed timeframe to finish the process. “It’s more challenging because of timing, because of paperwork and because of all of their passports being with them,” Huntington. “Gregory’s visa is fine — this is not a Jung Ho Kang situation — but there has been a technical glitch.” Huntington said the situation should be cleared up soon and will not affect Polanco’s ability to play in the three-game, regular-season series against the Blue Jays in August. Even before the passport problem, the Pirates were planning for Polanco to remain in extended spring training to test his shoulder. “We feel we’re better off controlling his environment,” Huntington said.

>>> UPDATE 11:46 a.m. – Chris Stewart (groin) will stay in extended spring to play in a couple of minor league games. He is expected to join the Pirates on Sunday in Boston.

>>> UPDATED 2:02 P.M. –  Farewell, Jared Hughes. No more sprints in from the bullpen, no more Instagram photos from ballparks across this great land of ours.

HughesAfter he cleared outright waivers, the Pirates put Hughes on unconditional release waivers, ending his six-year career with the team. “This is a super-sad day for me and my family,” Hughes said. “I love Pittsburgh, I love my teammates and the fans. It will always be family to me here.”

Hughes appeared in 11 Grapefruit League games (9 1/3 innings) and put up an 11.57 ERA and a 2.14 WHIP. Last season, Hughes pitched in 67 games and had a 3.03 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. He missed the first month of the season recovering from an strained lat. “They told me they’re going in a different direction with the bullpen this year,” Hughe said.

Hughes was set to make $2.825 million this year and has one year of arbitration eligibility left. He also has one minor league option remaining. “I was overcome with emotion when they told me,” Hughes said. “It’s tough. But I’ve got to channel my emotions and use that as motivation.”

>>> Today is the final game in Florida. The equipment truck will roll north to Pittsburgh tonight, while the players and coaches catch a chartered jet to Montreal for two scrimmages against the Blue Jays. The pitching matchups are pretty sweet — Jameson Taillon v. Marcus Stroman, Chad Kuhl v. old friend Francisco Liriano (who’s had a really good spring up in Dunedin) — and crowds of 45,000 per game are expected.

>>> The Pirates will work out at 3 p.m. Sunday at Fenway Park.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Notebook … In which Steven Brault was sent to Indy, which left three men standing for final rotation spot.

Rule 5 pickup Tyler Webb is on the bubble for a spot on the opening day roster.

Red Sox 9, Pirates 2. Another brutal outing by Hutchison

>>> Wednesday’s game: Phillies (split squad) at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root.

Phillies: Andrew Pullin DH, Andres Blanco 4, Howie Kendrick 7, Maikel Franco 5, Tommy Joseph 3, Aaron Altherr 8, Cameron Rupp 2, Pedro Florimon 6, Cameron Perkins 9. RHP Luis Garcia. Also pitching for Phillies: TBA.

Pirates: Alen Hanson 7, Phil Gosselin 4, Josh Bell 3, David Freese 5, Jordy Mercer 6, Danny Ortiz 8, Jacob Stallings 2, Casey Hughston 9, RHP Gerrit Cole 1. Also pitching for Pirates: RH Trevor Williams, RH A.J. Schugel. RH Jared Hughes.

>>> Thursday: Off day

>>> Friday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Jameson Taillon. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA. Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. RHP Marcus Stroman. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Chad Kuhl. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA. Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. LHP Francisco Liriano. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Sunday: Off day. Also: RHP Ivan Nova will pitch in a minor league (extended spring training) game at Pirate City.

OpeningDay2017

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 2:05 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Gerrit Cole (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. RHP Rick Porcello (2017 debut).

>>> Tuesday: Off

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Jameson Tailon (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. LHP Chris Sale (2017 debut).

>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 1:35 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Josh Kuhl (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (2017 debut).

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. (in the P.M.) — Whither Webb?

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photos by Christopher Horner

TylerWebbBRADENTON, Fla. — Tyler Webb was plucked off the New York Yankees’ Tripe-A roster in the Rule 5 draft on the last day of the winter meetings. If the Pirates want to keep the left-hander, he must spend the entire season on their active roster.

On Monday, Webb tossed three innings against the Minnesota Twins. He gave up one hit and struck out four, including an impressive whiff of slugger Miguel Sano. “Our guys who do our analytic work liked him (before the Rule 5 draft),” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Tonight, he got the attention of some people who maybe thought he was just here on a whim. He did some pitching tonight.” Webb has made seven outings (12 innings) this spring and has put up a 3.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts and one walk.

Rule 5 pickups often are buried deep in bullpens, used for mopup duty or against light-hitting lineups. What will be Hurdle’s level of trust during the season, if the Pirates opt to keep Webb?

“We’ll wait and see,” Hurdle said. “I love the way he’s shown up and competed for a guy who has no major league experience. (Monday) was the best stuff we’ve seen from him all spring and the longest look we’ve had of him, as well. Good downhill angle to the fastball, and it had finish and location. He spiked a few breaking balls early, but he also threw it (well). He’s been fun to watch grow and develop. Sometimes, just (having) a new chalkboard to write on can help you with some things.”

Watson>>> Speaking of the bullpen, here’s a trivia question: Six of the seven members of last year’s opening day rotation are no longer with the Pirates. Who are they?

Answer: Kyle Lobstein, Ryan Vogelsong, Corey Luebke, Neftali Feliz, Arquimedes Caminero and Mark Melancon.

Jared Hughes began the season on the DL. Juan Nicasio was in the rotation. The only holdover this year? Tony Watson.

>>> Adam Frazier is in the lineup again tonight v. the Red Sox. He’s at a different position (he’ll start tonight in left field after playing second base last night) but he’s still batting leadoffs. You can expect to see a lot more of that during the regular season. “I think we’ll definitely have him up top when we have him in the lineup,” Hurdle said. “He’s done pretty well with it.”

>>> UPDATE 1:03 p.m. – RHP Josh Lindblom has been reassigned to minor league camp. He’ll open the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he’ll most likely be stretched out as a starter (depending upon what happens at the big league level).

>>> UPDATE 4:25 p.m. – LHP Steven Brault was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, which sets up the Pirates to have a starting rotation consisting of five right-handed pitchers.

INF Gift Ngoepe also was sent to Indy.  Lindblom and INF Jason Rogers were reassigned to minor league camp. There are 33 players left in big league camp.

With Brault out of the picture, righties Tyler Glasnow, Drew Hutchison and Trevor Williams remain in the hunt for the rotation job. Going into tonight’s game against the Red Sox, I thought Hutchison was the likely frontrunner. After he gave up six runs in the first inning, I’m not so sure anymore.

Brault made six Grapefruit League outings (two starts) and put up a 3.45 ERA. He was scored upon in each of his past two appearances, allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies on March 18 and one run on four hits in four innings on Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. “We’ve got some ideas of where we’re going, but Steven was not one of those guys,” GM Neal Huntington said. “I also would not read into this that he’s fourth of four. We wanted to get him stretched out (at Indy).”

Ngoepe hit .429  with five RBI in 21 games. He’s considered the best defensive infielder in the system, but needs time to polish his offense after batting .217 last year at Indy. Rogers missed two weeks due to an ankle injury. He hit .389 in 11 games. Lindblom pitched in six games (three starts) and posted a 4.22 ERA.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Austin Meadows, who yesterday was sent to the minors, is learning to pick himself up during hard times.

Notebook … in which Harrison goes to third, Stewie goes to work and Kuhl goes to Pirate City. (Don’t fret. It was only for one day.)

Pirates 4, Twins 1. Nova goes four, and he says that’s enough.

>>> Tuesday’s game: Red Sox at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Red Sox: Brock Holt 5, Andrew Benintendi 7, Mookie Betts 9, Chris Young DH, Jackie Bradley Jr. 8, Josh Rutledge 3, Marco Hernandez 6, Christian Vazquez 2, Heiker Meseses 4. RHP Stephen Wright. Also pitching for Red Sox: LH Robbie Ross, RH Matt Barnes, RH Joe Kelly, HR Austin Maddox, RH Chandler Shepherd, RH Ben Taylor, LH Edgar Olmos.

Pirates: Adam Frazier 7, Josh Harrison 5, Andrew McCutchen 8, Starling Marte 8, John Jaso 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Bell DH, Phil Gosselin 6, Alen Hanson 4. Drew Hutchison RHP. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Tony Watson, RH Daniel Hudson, LH Antonio Bastardo.

>>> Wednesday’s game: Phillies (split squad) at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Phillies: Lineup TBA. RHP Luis Garcia. Also pitching for Phillies: TBA. Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Gerrit Cole. Also pitching for Pirates: RH Trevor Williams, RH A.J. Schugel. RH Jared Hughes.

>>> Thursday: Off day

>>> Friday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA. Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. RHP Marcus Stroman. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Chad Kuhl. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA. Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. LHP Francisco Liriano. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Sunday: Off day. Also: RHP Ivan Nova will pitch in a minor league (extended spring training) game at Pirate City.

OpeningDay2017>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 2:05 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Gerrit Cole (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. RHP Rick Porcello (2017 debut).

>>> Tuesday: Off

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Jameson Tailon (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. LHP Chris Sale (2017 debut).

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates P.M. — And the fifth starter is …

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

BRADENTON, Fla. — Pirates A.M. is on a two-day hiatus because the club plays at 6:05 p.m. today and Tuesday. Here’s what I gleaned from looking  at the lineup card, scanning  the clubhouse and mulling GM Neal Huntington‘s recent presser … 

HuntingtonST2017>>> Yesterday, Huntington said management has “a pretty good feel for where we’d like to go” with the final open starter’s job. He did not divulge any details, but it’s worth nothing that Ivan Nova (who technically is in the No. 4 spot) will pitch today and Drew Hutchison is scheduled to pitch tomorrow. Does that mean Hutchison has gotten the gig? Not necessarily, but … well, it kind of looks that way, huh?

>>> Austin Meadows, whose locker is empty, was the only player who was cut from big league camp today.

>>> Manager Clint Hurdle indicated earlier in camp that Josh Harrison could reprise his super-utility role this year. That explains today’s lineup v the Twins, in which Adam Frazier is playing second base and batting leadoff, Harrison is at third and David Freese is at first base.

>>> Gregory Polanco (sore shoulder) remains out of action.

>>> Quickie Twitter poll results:

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Older, wiser Taillon ready to take next step.

Columnist Kevin Gorman believes the Pirates ought to part ways now with embattled 3B Jung Ho Kang

Notebook … in which the GM discusses the rotation, the roster and the Rule 5 guy.

>>> Monday’s game: Twins at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Twins: J.B. Shuck 8, Danny Santana 9, Ben Paulsen 7, Miguel Sano DH, Jason Castro 2, Byung Ho Park 3, Eduardo Escobar 6, Tommy Field 5, Bengie Gonzalez 4. RHP Phil Hughes. Also pitching for Twins: LH Buddy Boshers, RH Michael Tonkin, RH J.T. Chargois.

Pirates: Adam Frazier 4, Josh Harrison 5, Andrew McCutchen 9, Starling Marte 8, David Freese 3, Jordy Mercer 6, Alen Hanson 7, Jacob Stallings 2, RHP Ivan Nova 1. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Felipe Rivero, LH Tyler Webb. Also: RHP Chad Kuhl (100 pitches) and LHP Antonio Bastardo (one inning/15 pitches) will pitch in a minor league game a 1 p.m. at Pirate City.

>>> Tuesday’s game: Red Sox at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Red Sox: Lineup TBA. RHP Stephen Wright. Also pitching for Red Sox: TBA. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Drew Hutchison RHP. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Tony Watson, RH Daniel Hudson, LH Antonio Bastardo.

>>> Wednesday’s game: Phillies (split squad) at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Phillies: Lineup TBA. RHP Luis Garcia. Also pitching for Phillies: TBA.: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

>>> Thursday: Off.

>>> Friday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA. Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. RHP Marcus Stroman. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates vs. Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Chad Kuhl. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA. Blue Jays: Lineup TBA. LHP Francisco Liriano. Also pitching for Blue Jays: TBA.

>>> Sunday: Off day. Also: RHP Ivan Nova will pitch in a minor league (extended spring training) game at Pirate City.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — Righty works to stay Kuhl under fire

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By Rob Biertempfel

KuhlTagCLEARWATER, Fla. — A year ago, Chad Kuhl was one of the new guys in the clubhouse, a rookie trying to fit in. “This spring has been a ton different, just from knowing everybody and knowing my place in the locker room and the expectations,” Kuhl said. “I’m definitely a lot more comfortable, just going about my day and doing the things I need to accomplish.”

The Pirates have not yet officially said Kuhl is in the rotation, but GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle have referred to four specific guys — Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Hutchison and Steven Brault — competing for the final starter’s job. So, essentially, Kuhl is in.

After a solid rookie season, what does Kuhl have planned for an encore in 2017? “Go out and do the same things I’ve been doing,” he said. “I think I’ve progressed, even from last year into this year. The encore is to go a full season, a full, strong, healthy season.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Kuhl says, “I think people have kind of figured out that I’m a little fiery when I pitch.”

Notebook … in which Glasnow learns, Polanco sits and Stewie hopes

Pirates 5, Tigers 4: Late home runs power comeback win.

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Phillies, 1:05 p.m., Spectrum Field, Clearwater. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: Jordy Mercer 6, Josh Bell 3, David Freese 5, John Jaso 9, Jose Osuna 7, Austin Meadows 8, Gift Ngoepe 4, Jackson Williams 2, RHP Josh Lindblom 1. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Wade LeBlanc, RH A.J, Schugel, RH Jared Hughes. Also: RHP Jameson Taillon will throw 100 pitches in a minor league game at 1 p..m. at Pirate City.

UPDATE 8:01 a.m. — Francisco Cervelli was a healthy scratch from the lineup this morning.

Phillies. Jesmuel Valentin 4, Howie Kendrick 7, Odubel Herrera 8, Maikel Franco 5, Michael Saunders 9, Daniel Nava 3, Andrew Knapp 2, Freddy Galvis 6, RHP Clay Buchholz. Also pitching for Phillies: RH Hector Neris, RH Luis Garcia, RH Joaquin Benoit

>>> Monday’s game: Twins at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Twins: Lineup TBA. RHP Phil Hughes. Also pitching for Twins: LH Buddy Boshers, RH Michael Tonkin, RH J.T. Chargois. Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Ivan Nova. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Felipe Rivero, LH Tyler Webb Also: RHP Chad Kuhl (100 pitches) and  LHP Antonio Bastardo (one inning/15 pitches) will pitch in a minor league game at 1 p.m. at Pirate City.

>>> Tuesday’s game: Red Sox at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Red Sox: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Red Sox: TBA. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

>>> Wednesday’s game: Phillies (split squad) at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Phillies: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Phillies: TBA. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

>>> Thursday: Off day

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — They’re (not quite) baaaack!

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

DreamOutfieldUPDATED 10:53 a.m. – BRADENTON, Fla. —  For just the third time this spring, the entire Dream Outfield — Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco — will be in the lineup on Saturday.  ….  Most of the Dream Outfield will be in the lineup today. LF Gregory Polanco was scratched a few minutes ago to do what what club is calling left shoulder discomfort.

UPDATE 12:12 p.m. – Reporters were waiting for Polanco to exit an outfielders meeting, but he cut down a hallway without speaking. No further word on when/how he was injured. I did not see him on the field at the end of batting practice.  I was not out there for the start of BP, so I can’t say for sure he was on the field then.

RF Andrew McCuchen and CF Starling Marte will start against the Tigers. The World Baseball Classic split up the trio and kept them out of Pirates camp for a couple of weeks.

“I was excited … just to say, man, we got our whole starting outfield starting in the WBC,” McCutchen said. “I think that was pretty cool. I don’t think there was any (other MLB team) where you have three (starters) in the outfield in the WBC. That was really cool. You get a sense of pride to see us out there performing and doing well.


McCutchen and Harrison appreciated the chance to play for manager Jim Leyland on Team USA.

McCutchen said he joined Team USA already aware of Leyland’s success in the majors, including his time as the Pirates’ manager. “It was awesome to be managed by him. He let me go out there and do my thing. All he wanted from us was just wanting to win the game. Whatever it takes, whatever we’ve got to do to prepare, whatever we’ve got to do to get ready, you go and get ready and go out there and play hard. It was huge to hear the things that he had to say to us. Some stuff stuck. It was cool for him to manage us.”

Harrison was struck by Leyland’s pregame demeanor. “I like Jim a lot. Old-school guy. He’s not a guy who gave a rah-rah speech; it was just, ‘Hey, go play. If I need to motivate you, you’re in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing.’ That was something I like to hear. We don’t need any extra motivation. We play this game because we love it.”

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t expect the time missed in camp will affect his three outfielders, who have switched spots this year. “I don’t have any concerns about that,” Hurdle said. “There are some nuances they’ll be able to work on. It’s out of hands. There was nothing we could do about (the WBC), so there was no reason to stress about it. Now, we’ve got them back. We’ll get them plugged in together as often as we can and go from there.”

>>> UPDATE 11:39 a.m. – Chris Stewart had an MRI last night after tweaking his left groin while running to first base in the seventh inning. Doctors have advised treatment and his status is day to day.  “It’s been than expected,” Stewart said. “I didn’t feel too bad yesterday. I definitely felt a grab as I was running to first base and must have shut it down early enough to not do any more damage.”  It’s uncertain if Stewart will be ready for opening day.

SunriseWawa2017

>>> Here’s a shot of a pretty sunrise over WaWa this morning to look at as you ponder my  links:

Jung Ho Kang remains in work visa limbo, creating at least the possibility he will not play for the Pirates this season

Notebook … in which Cutch and J-Hay return, Trevor Williams looks sharp and Stewie feels some discomfort.

Pirates 4, Rays 0: A demo of really poor defense by the Rays.

>>> Saturday’s game: Tigers at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root

Tigers: Andrew Romine 8, Tyler Collins 9, Mikie Mahtook 7, Alex Avila 3, James McCann 2, Dominic Ficociello 5, JaCoby Jones DH, Dixon Machado 6, Brendan Ryan 4. RHP Anibal Sanchez. Also pitching for Tigers: LH Daniel Stumpf, RH Mark Lowe, LH Kyle Ryan.

Pirates (updated roster): Adam Frazier 6, Josh Harrison 4, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco Jose Osuna 7, Starling Marte 8, Francisco Cervelli 2, John Jaso 3, Phil Gosselin 5, RHP Tyler Glasnow 1. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Steven Brault, RH Jared Hughes.

>>> RHP Juan Nicasio, LHP Tony Watson and RHP Daniel Hudson each are scheduled to work one inning (15 pitches) today in a minor league game at Pirate City.

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Phillies, 1:05 p.m., Spectrum Field, Clearwater. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Josh Lindblom. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Wade LeBlanc, RH A.J, Schugel, RH Jared Hughes. Phillies. Lineup TBA. RHP Clay Buchholz. Also pitching for Phillies: RH Hector Neris, RH Luis Garcia, RH Joaquin Benoit

>>> Monday’s game: Twins at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Twins: Lineup TBA. RHP Phil Hughes. Also pitching for Twins: LH Buddy Boshers, RH Michael Tonkin, RH J.T. Chargois. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

>>> Tuesday’s game: Red Sox at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM. Red Sox: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Red Sox: TBA. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

>>> Wednesday’s game: Phillies (split squad) at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Phillies: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Phillies: TBA. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — Cutch, J-Hay return. Kang? Well …

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By Rob Biertempfel

CutchMedalBRADENTON, Fla. — Andrew McCutchen came back from the World Baseball Classic with a gold medal … and a case of laryngitis. “I’m a little hoarse,” McCutchen said. “It was a heck of a lot of fun. So much that I lost my voice.” 

Josh Harrison also was in the clubhouse this morning. Like McCutchen, Harrison wore his gold medal from the tournament. “It was exciting. My first time in international play. Just the environment with the crowds was something. We’re used to noise, but not with a band playing the whole time. I liked it. It was an experience I won’t forget.”

Kang head shot>>> UPDATE 10:09 a.m. — According to Korean media reports, Jung Ho Kang application for a work visa was denied, which jeopardizes his chances of playing for the Pirates this season.

On March 3, Kang was convicted for driving under the influence in a Dec. 2 incident near Seoul and received a eight-month jail term. Although Kang’s prison sentence was suspended, it hampers his chances of being approved for a work visa.

Naver Sports reported on Friday morning that Kang’s visa request was not approved.

Kang has appealed his sentence in hopes of receiving a lighter penalty that could aid his chances of getting a work visa. A decision is expected within the next few weeks, according to The Korea Times.

The Pirates did not immediately respond to a request for a statement on Kang’s status. Manager Clint Hurdle was asked about Kang during an interview with MLB Network Radio. “Your information is about the same as what I’ve got,” Hurdle said. “We are staying in contact with Jung Ho and in contract with his interpreter. We’re focusing on the men we have here. That’s the best I can tell you. We’d love to have him back (but) we don’t have him back. We’re going to adapt and continue to pull … (and see) if this can come to some type of conclusion that’s profitable for both sides down the road.”

This was Kang’s third DUI conviction in South Korea. He also was under investigation by Chicago police for an alleged sexual assault incident last June.

Kang signed a four-year, $11 million contract with the Pirates in January 2015. Because he is under contract, Kang cannot play for another team in South Korea without permission from the Pirates.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Opening day bench, backup situation at shortstop coming into focus.

Notebook … in which Marte plays through pain, Hutchison absorbs some hits, and the GM offers some thoughts.

Red Sox 10, Pirates 7 … Marte hit a slam. As for the pitching, avert your eyes. 

>>> Friday’s game: Rays at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root.

Rays: Logan Morrison 3, Daniel Robertson 6, Chris Dickerson 7, Brad Miller 4, Curt Casali 2, Mallex Smith 8, Michael McKenry DH, Shane Peterson 9, Alec Sole 5 RHP Erasmo Ramirez. Also pitching for Rays: RH Diego Moreno, RH Danny Farquhar, RH Ryan Garton, RH Neil Wagner.

Pirates: Adam Frazier 7, Jordy Mercer 6, John Jaso 9, David Freese 5, Josh Bell 3, Phil Gosselin 4, Austin Meadows 8, Chris Stewart 2, RHP Trevor Williams 1. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Tony Watson, RH Daniel Hudson, LH Felipe Rivero, RH Juan Nicaso

>>> Saturday’s game: Tigers at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Tigers: Lineup TBA. RHP Anibal Sanchez. Also pitching for Tigers: LH Daniel Stumpf, RH Mark Lowe, LH Kyle Ryan Pirates: TBA. RHP Tyler Glasnow. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Steven Brault, RH Jared Hughes

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Phillies, 1:05 p.m., Spectrum Field, Clearwater. Radio: 93.7 FM. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA. Phillies. Lineup TBA. RHP Clay Buchholz. Also pitching for Phillies: RH Hector Neris, RH Luis Garcia, RH Joaquin Benoit

>>> Monday’s game: Twins at Pirates, 6:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM Twins: Lineup TBA. RHP Phil Hughes. Also pitching for Twins: LH Buddy Boshers, RH Michael Tonkin, RH J.T. Chargois. Pirates: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — Reading tea leaves

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Story: Rob Biertempfel/Photos: Christopher Horner

Cole12sept14BRADENTON, Fla. — Keep an eye on the pitching assignments and performances the next few days. There will be signals — some being only small and some will end up as false flags — about the shape of the opening day rotation. Drew Hutchison starts today v the Red Sox. Tomorrow, Gerrit Cole will throw up to 100 pitches in a minor league game at Pirate City and Trevor Williams will start v the Rays at BFKMF.

>>> The Pirates made nine cuts this morning: Elias Diaz and Max Moroff were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Brandon Cumpton, Eury Perez, Dan Runzler, Jason Stoffel, Edgar Santana, Eric Wood and Joey Terdoslavich were reassigned to minor league camp.

>>> UPDATE 12:12 p.m. -- Cumpton will begin the season in extended spring training before going to Indy, according to head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk. Cumpton is coming back from  surgeries on his elbow and shoulder. “He’s still on the mound progression, so he’s in a good spot,” Tomczyk said. “He’s responded well to the bullpens, both with his shoulder and his elbow. Once the mound progression ceases, we’ll go to live BP and then into games. Not looking too far ahead, I don’t see him getting out at the beginning of the season, but the goal is to get him out at some point this season.”

>>> UPDATE 12:16 p.m. — Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison are flying back to Florida today after playing for Team USA in the WBC.  They’ll probably check into camp on Friday, but might not play in games right away.  McCutchen got 21 at-bats over six games. Harrison went 0 for 5 in two games. “They’ll come in at, I would imagine, very different timeframes, in terms of where they go,” GM Neal Huntington said. “There’s been some conversation about Josh getting a ton of at-bats at Pirate City right away, or does he want to get out and see major league-speed games? We’ll work through that with them.”

>>> Jung Ho Kang still does not have a work visa. When is it safe to assume we’re at the point where there’s no way Kang could be ready for opening day? “We’re pretty much there,” Huntington said.

>>> You want links? I’ve got … um, one link for ya:

“It could be one look, one smile, whatever. For me, that’s what I want. It means everything is going the right way.”

>>> Gregory Polanco was named to the All-World Baseball Classic team. He batted 11 for 19 (.579) in the tourney.

>>> The Pirates’ .296 team batting average is tops in the Grapefruit League and third among big league teams behind the Brewers (.303) and Mariners (.299).

>>> Alen Hanson has 14 hits in his past 32 at-bats.

>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers. Webcast: pirates.com

Pirates: Jordy Mercer 6, Starling Marte 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jose Osuna 9, Josh Bell 3, Allen Hanson 4, RHP Drew Hutchison 1. Also pitching for Pirates: LH Ty Webb, RH Jared Hughes

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia 4, Andrew Benintendi 7, Mookie Betts 9, Hanley Ramirez DH, Mitch Moreland 3, Xander Bogarts 6, Jackie Bradley Jr. 8, Pablo Sandoval 5, Blake Swihart 2.  RHP Steven Wright. Also pitching for Red Sox: RH Craig Kimbrel, LH Robbie Ross Jr., RH Heath Hembree, LH Robby Scott, RH Noe Ramirez, LH Edgar Olmos

>>> Friday’s game: Rays at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Rays: Lineup TBA. RHP Diego Moreno. Also pitching for Rays: RH Danny Farquhar, RH Ryan Garton, RH Neil Wagner, RH Erasmo Ramirez. Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA

>>> Saturday’s game: Tigers at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Tigers: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Tigers: TBA. Pirates: TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — Osuna or later, he’ll be in majors

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Story: Rob Biertempfel/Photos: Christopher Horner

OsunaOFBRADENTON, Fla. — Every year, it seems, there’s a guy who’s on the fringes of the battle for an opening day roster spot who becomes a cause celebre by putting up big numbers in spring training. Caution: Michael Morse hit .389 last spring. Tony Sanchez knocked four homers in 2015. Matt Hague batted .364 in 2013 and .400 in 2012. In 2007, my first year as the full-time guy on this beat, Ronny Paulino mashed four homers and hit .481 with a 1.315 OPS.

Jose Osuna is a legit prospect — maybe not a top 10 guy, but someone who you could someday expect to see in the majors. Over 16 games this spring, he is batting .436 — the second-best average in the majors — with five homers and 14 RBI. Is that enough to earn a bench job on opening day?

“I think I have a chance,” Osuna said before yesterday’s game. “I think I can do a better job. If I play good at each position, I have a better chance of playing in the big leagues. But if I don’t make it, I’ll go to Triple-A, work hard and wait for the opportunity.”

Osuna admits his weakness is defense. He is a decent defender at first base. During winter ball in Venezuela, he played exclusively at third. “I have to get work in,” Osuna said. “Sometimes, it’s hard for me because my (natural) position is first. I can play third, too. I was the first two weeks of the spring taking (ground balls) just at third. Last week, I worked there two times (on backfields).”

He’s also getting some time this spring in left field. Yesterday, he got turned around on a ball, which landed a foot or so behind him. Yes, there is a lot of work for him to do, but keep in mind the wind at BFKMF often is treacherous.

So where does this leave him? Osuna, 24, and a right-handed hitter. He’s stolen 41 bases in the minors, but 18 of them came in 2013 at High-A Bradenton. Last season, he played 70 games at Double-A Altoona and 63 at Triple-A Indianapolis. My educated guess is he opens this season back at Indy. Yinz appear to agree.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte are back from the WBC. Both will be in the lineup tomorrow.

Notebook … in which John Jaso gets some “me time” (but no action) at third base and Adam Frazier keeps slugging.

Pirates 5, Rays 4. Pirates get slide-off win and improve to 4-0 v. Rays this spring

>>> Wednesday: Off day.

>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers. Webcast: pirates.com

Pirates: Jordy Mercer 6, Starling Marte 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jose Osuna 9, Josh Bell 3, Alen Hanson 4, RHP Drew Hutchison 1. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA

Red Sox: Lineup TBA. RHP Steven Wright. Also pitching for Red Sox: RH Craig Kimbrel, LH Robbie Ross Jr., RH Heath Hembree, LH Robby Scott, RH Noe Ramirez, LH Edgar Olmos

>>> Friday’s game: Rays at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Rays: Lineup TBA. RHP Diego Moreno. Also pitching for Rays: RH Danny Farquhar, RH Ryan Garton, RH Neil Wagner, RH Erasmo Ramirez Pirates: TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA.

>>> Saturday’s game: Tigers at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Tigers: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Tigers: TBA. Pirates: TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Pirates A.M. — Bored in RF? Try the hot corner

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photos by Christopher Horner

JasoST2017BRADENTON, Fla. — John Jaso will make his debut at third base today against the Rays. He’ll probably enjoy that spot more than right field. “It’s a little more boring out there (in the outfield), I’ll say that,” Jaso said. “It’s kind of cool being close to the action at first base. Catcher was never a boring position. You just keep your head in the game. This game is all about taking your focus away, then concentrating it little bits at a time.”

>>> The players held a team-building exercise this morning on the backfield at LECOM Park. It was a paintball-style game where teams had to advance on an obstacle course that featured screens, a inflatable yellow duck and a giant pink flamingo. Players also used some sort of giant Patrick (from SpongeBob) thing for cover.

>>> Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte are back in camp today after playing in the WBC.

>>> Adam Frazier leads the Grapefruit League with a .450 batting average and 18 hits. He’s reached base safely in eight straight games and has produced 15 hits in his past 26 at-bats. “I feel like I’m putting some good swings on some balls and not really chasing a lot of pitches,” Frazier said. “If you can stay within the zone and make the pitcher come into that zone, it helps. Hopefully, I can stay in this spot. That’s what it’s all about. I feel good and hope I can continue it.”

After going 3 for 4 yesterday, Frazier is in the lineup again today. It’s his 13th time in the leadoff spot. He’s batted in that spot throughout his career and likes the challenge. “I just want to be a tough out,” Frazier said. “If a guy gives you one early, then take it. The situation of the game dictates that. Sometimes, I like going for that first pitch. If you do it too much, it starts becoming a habit and that might change things. Just keep it simple and whatever happens, happens.”

>>> RHP Chad Kuhl will be on the mound today for the big grudge match against the Rays. Although the Pirates have not yet come out and said it, Kuhl has clinched the No. 4 spot in the rotation. “We love the energy and athleticism on the mound,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “His changeup plays. He had sequences when his breaking ball played extremely well. The comfort level he comes in with now is extremely different. He’s pitched in Dodger Stadium. He’s pitched against (Clayton) Kershaw in a Sunday night ESPN game. Those are things that are real and are going to add to his overall baseball IQ.”

>>> RHP Ivan Nova will pitch today in a minor league game at Pirate City. He’s set for 100 pitches.

>>> In case you missed yesterday’s Twitter poll question …

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Ray Searage has a simple pitching philosophy: “It’s all about being the aggressor. It’s about pounding the zone, even when you’re ahead.”

Notebook … In which Osuna keeps slugging, Taillon hangs tough and a few fellas leave for minor league camp.

Pirates 5, Rays 4 … The Pirates won the game, but Kevin Kiermaier was the day’s biggest winner.

Here’s some good info from my friend Marc Topkin about Kiermairer’s new contract

>>> Tuesday’s game: Rays at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Rays: Mallex Smith 8, Rickie Weeks DH, Steven Souza 9, Casey Gillaspie 3, Jake Bauers 7, Nick Franklin 4, Curt Casali 2, Daniel Robertson 6, Patrick Leonard 5. RHP Alex Cobb. Also pitching for Rays: RH Erasmo Ramirez, RH Jaime Schultz

Pirates: Adam Frazier 6, Phil Gosselin 3, John Jaso 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jose Osuna 7, Danny Ortiz 8, Eric Wood 9, Max Moroff 4, RHP Chad Kuh 1l. Also pitching for Pirates: RH A.J. Schugel, RH Josh Lindblom, LH Dan Runzler.

>>> Wednesday: Off day.

>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers. Webcast: pirates.com Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Drew Hutchison. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA Red Sox: Lineup TBA. RHP Steven Wright. Also pitching for Red Sox: RH Craig Kimbrel, LH Robbie Ross Jr., RH Heath Hembree, LH Robby Scott, RH Noe Ramirez, LH Edgar Olmos

>>> Friday’s game: Rays at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Rays: Lineup TBA. RHP Diego Moreno. Also pitching for Rays: RH Danny Farquhar, RH Ryan Garton, RH Neil Wagner, RH Erasmo Ramirez Pirates: TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA

Moreno’s name might ring a bell. He was one of the two minor leaguers the Pirates traded to the Yankees in 2012 for RHP A.J. Burnett. Moreno signed with the Rays over the winter as a minor league free agent.

>>> Saturday’s game: Tigers at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Tigers: Lineup TBA. Also pitching for Tigers: TBA. Pirates: TBA. Also pitching for Pirates: TBA

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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