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Pirates A.M. — Union meeting

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By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — After his closed-door meeting this morning with all the players on the Pirates’ 40-man roster, MLBPA union chief Tony Clark took questions from reporterrs for about 15 minutes. Some highlights:

>>> Is the union monitoring Jung Ho Kang DUI case in South Korea?  “It’s a constant level of engagement. International challenges make it a little more difficult to track everything that’s going on. He is a member of our association and, as such, he has rights and processes that are part of the conversation and the investigation and the backdrop of whatever all the issues may be. So, we’re going to stay engaged. It is our duty to support guys as they go through challenges, on or off the field, particularly when they are connected to a negotiated protocol or program that is in place. This is no different. As with every player, sure, we engage MLB. We work through the due process. That’s no different here.”

>>> This is Kang’s third DUI case, but his first since joining the Pirates. Will that factor in whatever punishment, if any, he gets from the team and/or MLB? “We’ll have to see. Appreciating an individual’s past along with the circumstances that are in the present, may or may not lend itself to an end-game discussion with respect to discipline or lack thereof. I won’t sit here and tell you that what someone does in the past is insignificant. But how it manifests itself moving forward against what may have just happened is always going to be a topic of conversation.

>>> Are most players opposed to a pitch clock?  “That has been the case. There are sensitivities with respect to anything that is counting down or counting up in the outfield, because it hadn’t historically been a part of the game. The conversation that lent itself to the between-inning breaks, what we got back was, ‘Not a big fan of a clock or a timer on the field somewhere.’ But the reference point may actually have value between innings, meaning you don’t know when the commercial is coming back or really how to pace yourself so that when the lights do come back and everyone is on I’m ready to go and I’ve got my eight warmup pitches in and now I’m sitting and waiting. That’s not in anyone’s best interest either. We ended up getting to common ground there because the reference point had some value for the guys. The between-pitch element, obviously we engaged our major league guys and even engaged guys in the minor leagues that may have experienced it on some levels. Sometimes it’s a 40-man guy or somebody down on rehab, and other times it may be a non-40-man guy, and we ask questions of those guys too. The feedback we get is how we land where we land at this point. That’s a tough one for us to appreciate particularly once you get to the big league level and all the things that are on the line and are part of the big league conversation. That may not be a huge part of the conversation in the minor leagues. No, guys have been pretty uniform in their commentary related to that one issue.”

>>> Does the pace of the game need to be sped up? “I think there are a lot of moving pieces that are a part of the conversation. I think most can appreciate trying to find little tweaks and adjustments that may save some time. Guys have been willing to have that conversation, and we have had that conversation. But you’re also speaking to a group that from the time they were knee-high to a table committed themselves to the game. There’s a love and a passion and a history that is involved in the conversation that suggests, ‘I want to play the same game my heroes played,’ while understanding we’re in a different climate and at a different time. You’re wanting to make sure you maintain that as much as possible. A lot of our guys have been connected to the game so long that they are very sensitive to significant changes.”

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>>> Many readers have asked why the Pirates did not compromise with the McKechnie family when renaming the Ballpark Formerly Known as McKenchnie Field (BFKMF) … perhaps, McKechnie Field at LECOM Park? “Why not use a dual name? That would have been fine with me,” said Carol Montgomery, who is Bill McKechnie’s last surviving child. “They could even have put the (LECOM) part first, if they wanted.” Then again, think back to when some folks suggested the name “Clemente Field at PNC Park.” Remember how well that went over?

>>> It’s the final day at Pirate City before camp moves to BFKMF. Short workout schedule, too, so everyone can get out to the Pirates Charities golf tournament.

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. — Kang admits guilt, awaits verdict

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By Rob Biertempfel

Kang head shotBRADENTON, Fla. — Jung Ho Kang could be fined 15 million won ($13,117) by a South Korean court after admitting to charges of driving under the influence, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Kang today appeared in Seoul Central District Court, which will hold a verdict hearing on March 3. “I deeply regret what I have done,” Kang said, per Yonhap. “If I can get one last chance, I will become an exemplary player to earn respect from everyone.”

Kang, 29, was charged with DUI after a Dec. 3 incident near Seoul. It is his third druink-driving arrest, which led to the automatic revocation of his driver’s license.

The Pirates did not immediately comment on Kang’s court appearance.

>>> Florida is enduring an all-day rain, so the Pirates likely will be limited to indoor work today.

>>> R.I.P, the four-pitch intentional walk. Commish Manfred said pitchers will no longer have to go through the motions of issuing pitches to purposely put a runner on base. Steven Brault told me a funny story about his experience with an intentional walk gone wrong, which I’ll pass along later.

>>> UPDATE 9:09 A.M. – All workouts have been moved indoors and will wrap up by 11:30 a.m. If you were planning to come to Pirate City today, don’t bother.

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. — Financial flexibility? Um, maybe.

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GTR-BucsAM-022117By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — During our sit-down with chairman Bob Nutting yesterday, I asked he has given GM Neal Huntington the … (wait for it) … financial flexibility to add players/payroll later this season if necessary or if fans can expect to see another salary dump a la the Francisco Liriano trade. You might recall Huntington said last year that adding David Freese late in spring training ate into their late-season acquisition budget. Dealing Liriano freed up $6.5 million last year and another $6.5 million this year.

Nutting’s reply: “We’re just getting started off in spring training. We need to always have the flexibility to be opportunistic. Whether that’s opportunistic to go out and get talent in a trade, or whether it’s opportunistic to be able to supplement. We’ve done both. We have the flexibility to do either. But it would be far too early to decide where might that play out. Injuries will play into that. Team performance will play into that. I just don’t know.”

>>> Jung Ho Kang’s DUI trial in South Korea is set to begin at 2 a.m. EST on Wednesday, so his situation likely will come into better focus within 24 hours.

SelfPromotion1>>> Full workout today, including live batting practice at 11:30 a.m. — which, not coincidentally, is when I will take my first stab at doing a Facebook Live stream. Field 1: Cole, Nova, Watson, Hudson will face Cutch, Freese and Marte. Field 2: Taillon, Glasnow, Rivero and Bastardo vs. Hanson, Polanco and Jaso. Field 3: Kuhl, Hughes and Hutchison vs. Mercer, Bell and Hanson. Field 4: Brault, Nicasio, LeBlanc and Schugel vs. Perez, Gosselin and Frazier.

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. – Nutting on Cutch, Kang and the will to win

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By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Owner Bob Nutting held his annual closed-door meeting with the players this morning. Later, he took questions from reporters for about a half hour.

NuttingST2016.jpegSome highlights:

Thoughts about the team: “I think we have a really solid core that is maturing and pulling together, so I’m enthusiastic about being able to supplement, both with internal talent coming up through the system as well as a few external. I think overall we have a group that can jell together and be a very good baseball team.”

On whether Andrew McCutchen could end his career with the Pirates: “What is simple, what is clear and what is true is he is a remarkable person. I thought his piece in the Players’ Tribune was really well done. It didn’t surprise me that it was well done, given the tremendous character and inner strength that Andrew has. He’s been tremendous on the field and off the field. I appreciate him. I could spend the rest of the morning saying nice things and wonderful anecdotes about Andrew. If there were a way to keep him, clearly it would be wonderful to see him in a Pirates uniform. He loves Pittsburgh and Maria loves Pittsburgh, and we love Andrew.

On whether manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington will get contract extensions beyond 2017: “Neal and Clint are both really strong, really good. I love working with them. I’m very comfortable with them. I think they’re very comfortable with us and the organization. The contact extension is not something that’s top-of-mind for me. It’s not an issue at this point. But they are tremendous talents.”

On whether last season’s poor finish indicates ownership lacks the will to do whatever it takes to build a winner: “I really think that there are two different issues. We ended up with the season we did (in 2016) because the team and organization underperformed the level of talent that we had. I don’t think it was nearly so much that we didn’t have sufficient talent to make the run. We had some very good players who did not perform up to the expectations that we had. I really think it’s far more execution than what we put together.”

On Jung Ho Kang’s third DUI incident in South Korea: “We are absolutely disappointed that he has put himself and the organization in this circumstance. As importantly, he is disappointed and embarrassed that he has put the team in this place as well. What I hope is that as he works through his challenges in (South) Korea, and he comes back and is able to join the team, that the development system we’ve put in place — the character development, developing players as whole people, whether it’s Pirates Charities, leadership programs, taking accountability — we have been committed for a decade to making our organization about more than just the swings. We’re trying to develop character. We’re trying to develop community commitment. I think, frankly, we’ll be well positioned to help Jung Ho get back on his feet, get himself re-established, be in a community that will support him, and at the same time we will hold high level of expectation and demands on him. Prefer not to be here, but look forward to getting him back.

>>> UPDATE 12:06 p.m. – Francisco Cervelli said he’s feeling pain in the bottom of his right foot, which is why he’s not been on the fields yesterday and today. “I don’t know what I did,” Cervelli said. “There was some pain, so I came inside yesterday and Todd (Tomczyk, head athletic trainer) said, ‘It’s too early for this.’ ” Cervelli said he plans to work out on the fields on Tuesday.

Cervelli said there is no blister, just pain and discomfort. Previously, he wore two kinds of inserts in his shoes — a support insert in his left shoe and a basic cushy insert in the right. Now, he’ll switch to a more therapeutic insert for his right foot.

>>> Alen Hanson took ground balls exclusively at third base today, working with David Freese. … Josh Bell fielded grounders on the Mazeroski half-field behind Field 1.

>>> Today’s workout will be short. No bullpens, no live batting practice. Most of the players probably will be off the fields by 12:30 p.m. Some of them will attend a Miracle Field even at 4 p.m. today.

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. — WBC won’t change camp routine

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By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Manager Clint Hurdle will not alter the camp routine for players who will soon depart for the World Baseball Classic.

“We’re going to run our program,” Hurdle said. “If they feel they need something extra, we’ll work with them on it. So far, they all want to go though the regular workouts. Some of them got in work before they got here. So, I think we’re in a good place.”

IMG_4525>>> It’s photo day, which means the players spend about two hours this morning going from station to station around Pirate City, dressed in their regular season game uniforms. The players pose for mugshots — “Should I smile or look serious this year?” Jared Hughes wondered aloud — and faked “action” shots of them in mid-swing or delivering a pitch. There’s a breakfast station set up in the walkway outside the clubhouse, which is a break from the normal routine.

>>> There will be the usual workout today, including more live batting practice at 11:30 a.m.

Field 1: Josh Lindblom, Pat Light, Clay Holmes, Cody Dickson

Field 2: Dan Runzler, Dovydas Neverauskas, Nick Kingham (one inning)

Field 3: Trevor Williams, Angel Sanchez, Edgar Santana, Brandom Cumpton

Field 4: Tyler Eppler, Jared Lakind, Casey Sadler

>>> UPDATE 11:55 a.m. – Catcher Francisco Cervelli was removed from today’s workout discomfort3due to what the team describes as right foot discomfort. Pitcher Jason Stoffel, who has missed both of his bullpen sessions, is out with right shoulder discomfort. Both players are listed as day to 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. — Live BP today

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By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — The first round of live batting practice will be held at 11:30 this morning on all four fields at Pirate City. Pitchers will throw around 18 pitches per inning and no more than 40 total. Fifteen the 16 pitchers will throw two innings; Gerrit Cole will throw one.

Field 1: Cole, Jared Hughes, Juan Nicasio, A.J. Schugel

Field 2: Ivan Nova, Felipe Rivero, Steven Brault, Drew Hutchison

Field 3: Jameson Taillon, Antonio Bastardo, Wade LeBlanc, Tyler Glasnow

Field 4: Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson, Chad Kuhl, Tyler Webb

This will be a long workout today. After the live BP, batters also will take a round of coach-pitch BP. The day should wrap up around 1 p.m.

>>> The annual “Pirates pep rally” is at 5 tonight in downtown Bradenton.

>>> Workouts have started a half-hour later than usual the past few days due to an evaluation process by the strength and conditioning staff. “We’re getting measurements in different areas — flexibility, stretching, core, muscle mass,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

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. — McCutchen’s uneasy start to spring training

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By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Wearing a grey hoodie and black cap, Andrew McCutchen met with reporters for about 15 minutes this morning after arriving at Pirate City. McCutchen had a turbulent offseason — he was the subject of trade talks, particularly during the winter meetings in December, then lost his job in center field.

McCutchen answered every question without hesitation, but his trademark smile never flashed during the interview. Some of his thoughts:

>>> On his emotions heading into camp: “Pretty motivated, ready to go. I worked hard this offseason. Just ready to show up and do what I’ve got to do.”

>>> On moving to right field: “There was at one point, it was my call – when I was ready to go to right, it was on me. (Now,) it was more, ‘This is something you have to do.’ It wasn’t an ask. It was more of a say that I have to move there and it’s for the betterment of the team. That’s one of the first times where that’s something I wanted to go against. It wasn’t something I was ready for or something I wanted to do. But as I’m saying that, I’m talking about myself. I had to not be as selfish and just accept that’s what I have to do and move over to right.”

>>> On coming to terms with the position change: “It didn’t take too long. Once I got over the fact I had to move, the more I started to try to look at it and get some positivity out of it. That’s one way to look at it. Playing in a position, a spot of a guy I idolized, (Roberto) Clemente. He set the standard for someone to be like. I would love to be half that guy. It’s an honor to be out there playing that position. To be able to have won a Roberto Clemente Award, that’s awesome. To be playing out there and following in his footsteps is an honor for me.”

>>> On getting started with spring training: “I’m looking forward to seeing everybody, my teammates. I really haven’t spoken to too many people yet. I’m looking forward to being back. Looking forward to just getting out on the field and playing. I know you’re all sick of hearing about everything that’s happened and I am too. I’m ready to get my feet out there. Ready to show that this is just the beginning of some good stuff. I’m looking forward to spring training and putting a bat in my hand again.”

In other news from this morning at Pirate City … The Pirates had a full-squad meeting at 9 a.m. today and will head to the fields around 10 a.m. Highlights include bullpens for the C and D groups, along with full infield practice and batting practice. … As promised, Ivan Nova showed up today with a fresh dye job. Nova’s hair is now (mostly) yellow.

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. — Busiest time of year for catchers

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By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — During the season, a catcher has to worry about handling a dozen or pitchers. He has to know each guy’s strengths and weaknesses and must be able to quickly decipher whether that pitcher is in a groove or out of sync.

During spring training, the challenge is greater. The Pirates have 32 pitchers in camp — big leaguers and prospects, veterans and kids — and each catcher will work with most, if not all, of them. There’s a lot to learn.

PTR-Stallings03-032816“We need to get to know the pitchers,” catcher Jacob Stallings said. “For me, I need to get to know big league guys and Triple-A guys. The (coaching) staff does a good job of making sure we catch each guy at least one time in bullpen sessions.”

There’s a catcher’s meeting with pitching coach Ray Searage scheduled for today, where each pitcher’s traits and arsenal will be discussed.

“We do a lot of stuff to make sure the transition is as easy as possible.,” Stallings said.

>>> Andrew McCutchen is among the position players who will be in camp today. He and Josh Harrison are among the group scheduled for noon physicals.

>>> Tony Watson’s arbitration case was heard Wednesday and the outcome is expected to be announced today. Watson filed for $6 million and the Pirates offered $5.6 million. The board must choose one figure or the other.

>>> The A and B groups will throw bullpens today. Group B (which includes Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault) will go at 11 a.m. Group A (which includes Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon) will go at 11:20 a.m.

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.Josh Bell picked up a bat, looked at catcher Elias Diaz and smiled. “Time for me to go make that noise,” Bell said.

That noise was the sound of Bell making contact with baseballs in the indoor batting cages. He was cleared to begin taking swings with a tee, another step forward in his recovery from offseason knee surgery.

WatsonUPDATE 11:30 a.m. — Relief pitcher Tony Watson lost his arbitration case and will make $5.6 million this season. Watson had filed for $6 million.

That’s still a 62 percent raise for Watson, who last year made $3.45 million and inherited the closer’s role in late July when Mark Melancon was traded.

Watson was the only Pirate to go to a hearing this year. The case was heard on Wednesday by arbitrators Gil Vernon, Jeanne Wood and Steven Wolf.

Watson, 31, last season converted 15 of 20 save chances and posted a 3.06 ERA over 70 outings. The left-hander will be a free agent after this season.

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. – Jaso at 3B? Not so much.

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By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Some folks have asked if John Jaso will be an option to play third base if Jung Ho Kang ends up missing a significant chunk of time. You may recall Jaso said at the end of last year that he’d like to try to learn how to play third base before the start of the 2017 season.

Here’s a nugget I got from GM Neal Huntington during minicamp in January (which was about a month after Kang was arrested for DUI) when I asked about Jaso’s role: “There was conversation about third base, but it’s probably going to be more first base and outfield. As we do with a lot of our guys coming through the system, we’re not creating utility players, we’re creating avenues to make a major league team and help a major league team. John’s open to doing that.”

>>> Wednesday’s lineup for bullpen sessions is not as sexy as yesterday’s, when the top bullpen and rotation candidates toed the rubber:

Group C (11:05 a.m.) — Josh Lindblom, Dan Runzler, Trevor Williams, Pat Light, Jason Stoffel, Edgar Santana and Nick Kingham.

Group D (11:25 a.m.) — Clay Holmes, Dovydas Neverauskas, Brandon Cumpton, Jared Lakind, Cody Dickson, Tyler Eppler, Casey Sadler and Angel Sanchez.

PolancoAirport>>> Thursday is the deadline for position players to report, and a few (perhaps all) will check in today. Gregory Polanco is on his way, according to his Instagram account. Andrew McCutchen was spotted last night dining in St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota, just a half-hour down the road.

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. — The Candyman is in camp

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CandyHurdleBy Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — John Candelaria and Rennie Stennett are newcomers this year among the crew of former Pirates players who serve as special instructors during big league spring training camp.

Candelaria, 63, pitched 19 seasons in the majors. He amassed 124 wins with the Pirates from 1975 (his rookie season) to 1985 (when he was traded to the Angels). He spent his final five seasons working mostly as a reliever, including a 24-outing stint with the Pirates in 1993 (his final season).

Candelaria is scheduled to help pitching coach Ray Searage evaluate bullpens this morning. All the big guns — including Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Tony Watson and Felipe Rivero — will throw.

Stennett, 65, played for the Pirates from 1971 (rookie year) to 1979. He spent his final two seasons with the Giants.

The other special instructors this year are Bill Mazeroski, Bill Virdon, Kent Tekulve, Mike LaValliere, Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen and Omar Moreno.

>>> The trade that brought Phil Gosselin to the Pirates also brought him closer to home. Gosselin grew up in Malvern, about a half-hour outside of Philadelphia.

“It’s across the state, but still a lot closer than Arizona,” Gosselin said. “I grew up a Phillies fan … and the Flyers.”

Uh oh. Will Gosselin be OK with donning a black-and-gold jersey if manager Clint Hurdle schedules another Penguins-themed road trip?

“I might have to, but my buddies back home might not be happy with me,” Gosselin said with a laugh.

A four-year veteran, Gosselin said the management hasn’t yet given him a specific plan for his role if he makes the team. He can play second, third, short, first and left field.

“I’m open to playing anywhere,” Gosselin said. “I kind of like that role, bouncing around. It’s fun. It’s something different every day, so I’m ready for whatever they throw at me. I’m excited for the opportunity here. It seems like a great organization.”

>>> UPDATE 10:46 a.m. — Third baseman Jung Ho Kang will miss the start of spring training camp due to his trial for driving under the influence in South Korea, team president Frank Coonelly confirmed on Tuesday.

Pitchers and catchers held their first workout on Tuesday morning. The first full-squad workout is set for Friday.

Kang faces charges after a DUI incident on Dec. 2 near Seoul. His trail is set for Feb. 22.

“It is not known how long the trial will last or when any sentencing phase that might be necessary would be scheduled,” Coonelly said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to do whatever we can to assist he and his representatives in their efforts to resolve all necessary matters so that Jung Ho will be able to travel to the United States to prepare for and to play in the 2017 season, but his reporting date remains undetermined.”

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

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