Category Archives: Uncategorized

Breaking: Starling Marte suspended for PED violation

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

marte2ST. LOUIS — Pirates center fielder Starling Marte on Tuesday was suspended for 80 games after he tested positive for tested positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing anabolic steroid. The suspension is without pay and is effective immediately. He also is not eligible to participate in the postseason.

When you make a mistake, you’ve got to pay for it,” outfielder Andrew McCutchen said. “He has some things that he’s going to have to battle. He has our support. Guys make mistakes, but the last thing I need to be doing is distancing myself from him. I’m just trying to be a good friend before I am a teammate and let him know that through it all I’m here for him.”

The Pirates called up first baseman/outfielder Jose Osuna from Triple-A Indianapolis. McCutchen, who moved to right field at the start of this season, will replace Marte as the everyday center fielder.

Marte has known for at least several days that he flunked the drug test administered during spring training. General manager Neal Huntington said Marte had exhausted the appeal process.

During his suspension, Marte is allowed to work out at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., and the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic. He also may participate in extended spring training. For the last 15 days of his suspension, Marte will be sent on a rehab assignment with a minor league affiliate.

Marte met privately with his teammates before Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He left Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters, although he did issue a statement via an email from the Players’ Association.

“I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job,” Marte said. “In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general. Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much.

“With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you.”

Nandrolone is used medically to treat anemia caused by kidney problems. Effects include muscle growth and increased red blood cell production, but it also may cause tumors or bloody cysts in the liver and spleen.

Over six seasons in the majors, Marte, 28, has a .288 batting average and a .789 OPS. This year, he is batting .241 with a .659 OPS, two home runs and stolen two bases.

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

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Game 14: Hurdle makes the right call

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

HurdleSmileST. LOUIS — The Pirates were down by one run in the seventh inning when Ivan Nova’s turn in the batting order came around. With two outs and nobody on, it was an easy call for manager Clint Hurdle to let Nova bat instead of using Gregory Polanco as a pinch-hitter.

“It’s a baseball call when your starting pitcher has thrown 52 pitches,” Hurdle said. “If I bring in (Polanco) there’s a chance (reliever Brett) Cecil is going to match up left on left, and that’s not a good way for me to bow out to Nova. He’s been a guy who’s taken care of us, so I wanted to give him an opportunity to pitch and (also) try to get a better matchup (later) for Polanco.”

Nova appreciated Hurdle’s gesture. “That was a huge thing he did for me, the confidence,” Nova said. “You understand the situation. Personally, I don’t want to come out of the game. But, if the situation means we have to use a pinch-hitter, that’s fine. He gave me the confidence to go back out and I give him thanks for that.”

It all ended up working out well … sort of. Nova tossed a gem, allowing just two runs in eight innings and tossing just 78 pitches. Polanco pinch-hit in the ninth and smacked an RBI double off closer Seung Hwan Oh. However, the Pirates lost to the Cardinals, 2-1.

>>> Earlier today, I chatted with Buster Olney about Andrew McCutchen’s bounceback potential, Gerrit Cole‘s ace potential and Jung Ho Kang‘s coming to America potential:

>>> Root Sports will televise Game 4 of the Penguins-Blue Jackets playoff series tonight. MLB Network will broadcast the Pirates game in the Pittsburgh market.

>>> Did you know that Nova has thrown more complete games (four) since Aug. 23, 2016 than any other big league pitcher who is not named Chris Sale?  Or that Nova’s four complete games in that span are more than any single Pirates pitcher since 2009? Or that — and this one blew me away — since joining the Pirates on Aug. 1, 2016, Nova has tossed more compete games (four) than he has issued walks (three)?

>>> From the … inquisitive? warped? industrious? … mind of team PR guru Jim Trdinich comes this nugget: So far this season, the Pirates are 0-7 against teams whose uniforms predominantly feature the color Red (Red Sox, Reds, Cardinals). The Pirates are 6-0 against teams that wear blue (Braves, Cubs).

>>> I’ll just say this: everyone in the park wears red, they applaud when a batter gets the runner over, they appreciate their history (David Freese probably gets standing ovations when he stops at a gas station here) and nobody leaves to beat the traffic with one out in the ninth inning.

>>> High-A Bradenton OF Kevin Krause was named the Florida State League player of the week. A ninth-round pick in 2014, Krause hit .333 with a double, two triples, three home runs, and six RBI during the season-opening stretch.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Cardinals 2, Pirates 1:  Nova was really good. Lance Lynn was a skosh better

Notebook: In which Polanco swings, Kang gets a date, Kuhl takes a walk and Barbato arrives

>>> Tuesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Adam Frazier 9, Josh Harrison 4, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Bell 3, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38)

Cardinals: Dexter Fowler 8, Aledmys Diaz 6, Stephen Piscotty 9, Randal Grichuk 7, Yadier Molina 2, Jose Martinez 3, Greg Garcia 5, Kolten Wong 4, RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

>>> Thursday: Off

>>> Friday: Yankees at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.47) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 12.15)

>>> Saturday: Yankees at Pirates, 4:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: TBA Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (1-0, 0.90)

>>> Sunday: Yankees at Pirates, 1:35 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: TBA Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.25)

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

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Game 13: Many moving parts to lineup

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

FrazierST2017SSST. LOUIS — The lineup has a lot of moving parts, which makes manager Clint Hurdle happy. “That’s what makes our lineup and our roster very interesting and flexible,” he said. “Even during a game, we can make some switches and move people around if need be.”

Hurdle had to do a little shuffling again today, as LF Gregory Polanco will miss his third straight game with a sore right groin. Adam Frazier is in left. David Freese goes back to third (he started yesterday’s game at first), Josh Harrison is at second (he was at third yesterday) and Josh Bell is at first base.

It’s not like Hurdle pulls names and positions out of a hat. “We’ve prioritized what their best positions are, as we see them,” Hurdle said. “With each guy who plays multiple positions, there’s one position where he plays more comfortable and with more confidence than the others. It actually makes sense to us. It might not to anybody else.”

>>> UPDATE 1:55 p.m. — The Pirates acquired RHP Johnny Barbato from the Yankees for cash or a PTBNL. He was placed on the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates sill have one open roster spot.

Barbato, 24, made one outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being designed for assignment. He was on the Yankees’ opening day roster last year and made 13 relief appearances — and put a 7.62 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Over 13 innings, he struck out 15 and walked five.

After being drafted by the Padres in the sixth round in 2010, Barbato was traded to the Yankees in December 2014 for Shawn Kelley.

>>> UPDATE 3:11 p.m. –  Polanco was panting and dripping sweat after a workout a little while ago, but he had good news: he’s been cleared to play.  “We tested (the groin) outside,” Polanco said. “Nothing’s bothering me, so I’m healthy. Hopefully, I’ll be in the lineup again soon.” Polanco said he felt his groin tighten on Friday after he went first to third base on David Freese’s sixth-inning single. Polanco has reached base in six straight games.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 6, Cubs 1: A hostile crowd, bases loaded and Kris Bryant at the plate? Good times, says Jameson Taillon.

Notebook: In which Glasnow sticks around, the bullpens move and Nicasio finds redemption.

>>> Monday: Pirates at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root/ESPN. Radio: 93.7 FM

UPDATE 4:38 p.m. – The Cardinals have scratched Matt Carpenter due to a finger injury sustained last night while fielding a ground ball.

Pirates: Adam Frazier 7, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, David Freese 5, Josh Bell 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 4, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25)

Cardinals: Dexter Fowler 8, Aledmys Diaz 6, Matt Carpenter 3, Stephen Piscotty 9, Randal Grichuck 7, Jose Martinez 3, Greg Garcia 5, Eric Fryer 2, Kolten Wong 4, RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23)

Gamecast: Nova has never faced the Cardinals. …  Cardinals SS Aledmys Diaz has a career batting average of .365 during the month of April. He ranks third in the majors over the past two seasons (minimum 100 AB) behind Zack Cozart (.400) and Daniel Murphy (.385). … Lynn missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. … With 774 career strikeouts, Lynn is five shy of tying Bill Sherdel (1918-1930, 1932) for 14th on the Cardinals’ all-time list. … Lynn has pitched in 19 games (17 starts) vs. the Pirates, his most games and starts against any opponent.

>>> Tuesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38) Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

>>> Thursday: Off

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

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Game 12: Offense could use a smiley face emoji

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by The Associated Press

CutchHighFiveCHICAGO — Andrew McCutchen was sending a text when I walked up to him in the clubhouse after yesterday’s 8-7 victory against the Cubs. He said he was trying to find the right emoji to use. Which one did he settle upon? “I’d rather not say,” McCutchen said with a grin. “A lot of different ones.”

EmojiSmileIt was a big win and, as often happens at Wrigley Field, it was a signature moment for McCutchen. He fought back from an 0-2 count to smack a go-ahead, three-run, two-out home run in the seventh inning.

The Pirates are 5-6 and are still trying to find their stride. Winning the first two games of this series against the defending World Series champs is a good start. The pitching remains a bit unsettled — the bullpen has been overworked (again) and the rotation has produced in fits and starts. To get by for now, the Pirates need to produce at the plate like the did early last season. McCutchen, who’s hitting .250 with a .707 OPS, could use a jolt, too. Will yesterday’s homer be a spring board?

“I don’t know,” McCutchen said. “It gets me where I am right now. I don’t think too much into it. You’re going to have ups and downs. I’m battling right now, getting my hits here and there. It’s only a matter of time before I get real hot.”

And the rest of the team? “I don’t know if anyone’s ever looked at the track record in April for the Pirates, but it’s not always that good,” McCutchen said. “I don’t know what’s behind it. It’s April. We play in Pittsburgh. It’s kind of cold sometimes.”

On Saturday, it was 81 degrees with a 24 mph wind blowing out to center field. That’s gotta help an offense, right? “It’s a different ballgame, definitely,” McCutchen said. “We were able to throw it out there. We had some good at-bats and it paid off.”

>>> UPDATE: 11:28 a.m. — Trevor Williams gave up social media for Lent. Now that it’s Easter, he’s back on Twitter, starting with this hot take:

>>> UPDATE 12:22 p.m. – Tyler Glasnow took baby steps forward on Saturday in his five-inning outing against the Chicago Cubs. That’s enough for him to keep his spot in the starting rotation.

“He has to earn it here,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We can’t just give it to him if the results aren’t cooperating and he’s not giving us the innings we need and it’s starting to complicate things. He knows that.

“However, I’m a firm believer, as I believe everybody else is, that the greatest opportunity for growth is for him to pitch at this level and meet the challenges of the game at this level — and to understand the consequences of not being able to do the things you need to do at this level. You feel a lot more here than you do at Triple-A. There are games in the minors that nobody knows about. You don’t care. Up here, there’s a different care.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 8, Cubs 7: Cutch’s homer was the sexy part, but Glasnow’s baby steps also were important.

Notebook: In which Mercer sits (for a bit), Polanco limps and Rivero slides to the right.

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Jordy Mercer 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, David Freese 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 5, Phil Gosselin 4, Adam Frazier 7, RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 1.38)

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber 7, Kris Bryant 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, Ben Zobrist 9, Addison Russell 6, Jason Heyward 8, Willson Contreras 2, LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 1.64), Javy Baez 4

Gamecast: Lester is one of the game’s more durable starters, having strung together nine seasons of at least 30 starts and 190 innings pitched. Although he doesn’t yet have a win, Lester gave up just one earned run and struck out seven in each of his first two starts. … David Freese is 5 for 14 (.357) with an .828 OPS vs. Lester. Andrew McCutchen has a .174 career average vs. Lester, although one of his four hits was a home run. … Jordy Mercer has reached base in eight straight games and in nine of his 10 starts this season.

>>> UPDATE 11:31 a.m.Gregory Polanco (right groin discomfort) is out of the lineup for the second day in a row. “I believe he needs another day to rest,” Hurdle said during his pregame media scrum. “We’ll find out if he can be a player off the bench today. That’s the best I can give you right now.”

>>> UPDATE 11:34 a.m. — I asked Hurdle if the bullpen is where it needs to be, health-wise and stuff-wise. “Not stuff-wise. Close,” Hurdle said. “I think we’ve got some guys who are sharpening, for sure. Healthy-wise, it was big for us to get five (innings) out of Glas yesterday. That’s why we let him hit in the fourth, to let him empty his pockets with the pitches and push through the fifth. There was some growth. (Antonio) Bastardo needs work; we’ve got to sharpen him up. I thought (Juan) Nicasio was better. We’ve got to be mindful of mixing pitches and pitching to our strengths and not just to our power. I thought (Daniel) Hudson‘s secondary pitches were better yesterday. (Tony) Watson is getting sharper as we go along. I like the work (Wade) LeBlanc has been able to do and I like the work Williams is showing, even though they both got dinged. I think they’re going to provide us just what we need in support, long if needed and being able to pick up an inning from time to time. Trevor had more gas in the tank yesterday, but I’m a big believer i getting guys in (late-inning) situations who’ve been in those situations.”

Nicasio was the goat on Thursday against the Red Sox (0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB). Hurdle did not hesitate to put the righty on the mound in the seventh inning yesterday with a two-run lead. ” I wanted to give Nicasio a shot to get some redemption. I’m a big believer in that. When those guys hiccup, you get them back in there and show the belief you have in them and let their teammates rally around them.”

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25) Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23)

>>> Tuesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38) Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

>>> Thursday: Off

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

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Game 11: Rivero makes move for the better

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by The Associated Press

RiveroCubsGameCHICAGO — When Felipe Rivero’s fastball is on, it is a 100 mph, razor-edged scythe that cuts down batters. When it’s not, stuff like what happened in the eighth inning yesterday happens. “He’s got electric stuff,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There isn’t anybody who he can’t get out. Unfortunately, he dug himself a pretty big hole. It came down to still making pitches against good hitters.”

Rivero went into the inning with a two-run lead, but ratcheted up the drama level several notches by letting the Cubs load the bases. Kris Bryant walked. Anthony Rizzo was hit on the butt by a fastball. After that, Rivero moved from the center of the rubber to the third base side during his setup. That seemed to help him better harness his fastball. “It was a little tough from the beginning, with my delivery,” he said. “When I moved, that’s when it got a little bit better.”

Ben Zobrist battled Rivero through a 10-pitch at-bat. With his fastball still in doubt, Rivero tossed three straight changeups, which Zobrist fouled off. “I was trying to settle in with the changeup and get control of my fastball,” Rivero said. “When I saw he was waiting on (the changeup), that’s when I came with the fastball.” Zobrist went down swinging at a 95.3 mph four-seamer.

With two outs, Jason Heyward legged out an infield single. First baseman John Jaso stepped in front of second baseman Josh Harrison to snag the ball, but Hayward beat the toss to Rivero at the bag with a headfirst slide. Hurdle said he’d have to watch video of the play before assessing blame, but added, “It’s a play where you’d like to think you can get an out when the ball is hit that softly. We weren’t able to get one. We complicated it.”

With the bases loaded, Rivero fired a 98.7 mph fastball to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras, who hit a grounder to third baseman David Freese to snuff the threat.

>>> Harrison did his best to be a spark plug in his his first game in the leadoff spot. He went 2 for 4 — his second multi-hit game of the season — with a stolen base, although he did not score a run. In the second inning, Kyle Hendricks picked Harrison off first base after a leadoff single. In the fifth, Harrison shot a two-out single up the middle, but was stranded at second base when Starling Marte struck out.

>>> There’s still time to vote in my quickie, totally unscientific, for entertainment purposes only Twitter poll …

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 4, Cubs 2: Freese kept getting on base, Cole hung tough and the relievers came up big

Notebook: In which Glasnow tweaks his delivery, J-Hay leads off and PNC Park gets set to host the Nits and ‘Eers

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

UPDATE 11:20 A.M. — Gregory Polanco was scratched due to what the team says is right groin discomfort. His status is day to day. According to the team, Polanco noticed the discomfort during yesterday’s game, but not on any specific play. … Also, Hurdle confirmed Cervelli was sick yesterday and was seen by the training staff before the game. Hurdle offered no further details.

UPDATE 12:17 P.M. – The Pirates changed their lineup again, putting Hanson at 2B instead of LF.

Pirates: Adam Frazier 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Josh Bell 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 7, Alen Hanson 4, RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 27.00)

Cubs:  Kyle Schwarber 7, Kris Bryant 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, Ben Zobrist 9, Addison Russell 6, Jason Heyward 8, Willson Contreras 2, RHP Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.08), Javy Baez 4

Gamecast: Entering this series, Cubs leadoff batter Kyle Schwarber was averaging 4.69 pitches per plate appearance, the most among qualified NL batters and third in the majors. … Since joining the Cubs in July 2013, Arrieta is 17-9 with a 2.18 ERA in 32 day game starts at Wrigley Field. … Over his career, Arrieta is 9-3 with a 2.96 ERA vs. the Pirates. However, the Pirates have hit at a .329 clip with three home runs over their past three games against Arrieta.

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 1.38) vs. Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 1.64)

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25) vs. Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23)

>>> Tuesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38) vs. Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) vs. Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

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Game 10: McCutchen powers up

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photos by Christopher Horner

CutchAtBatCHICAGO — Around the All-Star break last year, I was scrolling through the list of Pirates all-time home run leaders and was a bit surprised to see Andrew McCutchen’s name among the top 10. I’ve always viewed McCutchen as an all-around standout rather than a pure slugger, but there he was last year, just a couple of dingers behind No. 5 Dave Parker.

I wrote a story about McCutchen’s “sneaky” power on July 18, when he was one behind the Cobra. McCutchen matched Parker nine days later. He hit nine more that season to end the year with 175 home runs. Yesterday, he got his first of 2017 — a two-run shot to left-center field in the first inning. McCutchen is the first Pirate to homer at Fenway Park against an AL team since Jimmy Sebring hit one off Cy Young in the first game of the 1903 World Series.

That home run was historic for another reason: it was No. 176 and moved McCutchen into a tie with Barry Bonds for fourth place in franchise history. McCutchen probably will go yard a few more times this season, but he almost certainly will climb no higher than fourth on the all-time list. He’ll never catch Hall-of-Famers Willie Stargell (475 home runs) and Ralph Kiner (301). Could he get even with Roberto Clemente (240)? Maybe … if McCutchen gets a few more years in Pittsburgh. That would mean a contract extension and we all know the chances of that happening are about nil.

>>> The Penguins will knock the Pirates off Root on Tuesday, but you can still watch black-and-gold baseball on TV that night. MLB Network will televise the 8:15 p.m. Pirates-Cardinals game in the Pittsburgh area. Root will carry the Penguins-Blue Jackets game at 7:30 p.m.

>>> You want links? I’ve got one for ya:

Red Sox 4, Pirates 3:  Chad Kuhl’s solid outing (6.1 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 6 strikeouts) was wasted by the bullpen.

>>> Friday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Josh Harrison 4, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, John Jaso 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 6.55)

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber 7, Kris Bryant 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, Ben Zobrist 9, Addison Russell 6, Jason Heyward 8, Miguel Montero 2, RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-0, 6.00), Javy Baez 4.

Gamecatst: Cole has twice as many victories at Wrigley Field (six) as in any other road venue. For comparison’s sake, Cole has just two road wins against all three other NL Central rivals combined. … Hendricks last season went 3-0 with an 0.47 ERA (one run in 19 innings) in three starts against the Pirates.

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 27.00)

Cubs:  RHP Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.08)

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 1.38)

Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 1.64)

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25)

Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23)

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

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Game 8: Gregory Polanco sits for the first time in ’17

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By Chris Adamski

NORTH SHORE – Facing lefthanded starters on consecutive days likely would have signaled an ideal time for a Gregory Polanco day off, regardless.

 

Taking advantage of an opportunity to rest a balky left shoulder made the decision that much easier for Clint Hurdle.

 

Gregory Polanco & Clint Hurdle
(Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review photo)

“Just to get his shoulder a break,” the Pirates manager said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re going to get another lefty (Eduardo Rodriguez on Thursday in Boston), so it’s not so much that it’s a lefthander. It’s just the day; the day we chose.”

 

Polanco has hit .400 (6 for 15) in his past four games, reaching safely in all of them. He’s a .300 hitter at PNC Park since the start of last season. He’s a .202 career hitter against lefthanders, including 2 for 18 this season.

 

Adam Frazier is going to make his sixth start of the season (second in left along with two at second, one at third and one as the designated hitter).

 

Wednesday’s game is No. 6 in a stretch of 13 consecutive days with a game and 19 of 20 in which they play. Hurdle was asked if it’s already time to start picking spots to get players a day of rest.

 

“You know, we have continued to communicate with these guys on their thoughts and work with the training staff and the recovery program that we have in place,” Hurdle said. “We will see as we go on. Because I can sit here and tell you a plan – and then we play 14 innings today. So we have a mindset of what we want to do and how we’ll do it with certain individuals, and we will see how that plays out.

 

“But I do think the guys are fresh and they are ready to play and they are looking forward to getting into some routines.”

 

 

>>> Afternoon delights

Rare in the Major Leagues these days – even for the Cubs – is playing afternoon games on four consecutive days. But after Wednesday’s game, the Pirates head to Boston for a makeup game starting at 2:05 p.m., followed by Friday-Saturday-Sunday games at Wrigley Field all with a scheduled first pitch of 2:20 p.m. ET.

 

“Four straight days games,” Hurdle said, “that will be a routine in and of itself there.”

 

Hurdle was reminded that the Pirates recently went though a stretch in which they 27 day games (out of 28 total games) over a stretch of 30 days ending March 26 – in Florida during the first month of Grapefruit League play.

 

“We did that for a while,” Hurdle said, “so that one shouldn’t be too far to pull back from.”

 

At least losing balls in the new LED lighting won’t be a concern.

“Aaah! Natural light! Get it off me! Get it off me!”

 

 

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

“It’s not going our way right now with runners on base and in scoring position. But we’re going to fix it. We’re going to get there for sure.”

Offense lets Pirates down again in rainy home loss to Reds

 

“Facing big league hitters, you can’t really conserve anything — especially when you’re trying to get big league hitters out with the stuff I have.”

Notebook: Reliever LeBlanc downplays role in Monday’s Reds game

 

The Pirates have reached the billionaires club.

Team surpasses $1 billion in worth, according to Forbes


 

>>> Wednesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: None (due to conflict with Penguins playoff game). Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds: Billy Hamilton 8, Jose Peraza 4, Joey Votto 3, Adam Duvall 7, Eugenio Suarez 5, Scott Schebler 9, Zach Cozart 6, Tucker Barnhart 2, LHP Amir Garrett (1-0, 0.00)

Pirates: Jordy Mercer 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Bell 3, Josh Harrison 4, Adam Frazier 7, RHP Ivan Nova (1-0, 0.00)

Gamecast: In seven career starts at PNC Park, Nova has twice as many victories (four) as walked batters (two). Of course, that mirrors his production with the Pirates overall (six wins, three walks) since being acquired in an Aug. 1 trade. … Garrett, a former basketball player at St. John’s University, is making his second major-league start after pitching six shutout innings in his debut last week.

 

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

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 3.60)

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 7.20)

 

>>> Friday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 6.55)

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-0, 6.00)

 

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 27.00)

Cubs: RHP John Arrieta (2-0, 2.08)

 

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 1.38)

Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 1.64)

 

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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Game 7: Josh Harrison returns, Wade LeBlanc beloved by all

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By Chris Adamski

NORTH SHORE – Josh Harrison’s absence from the lineup lasted one day.

 

Harrison was back at second base, back in the familiar (for this season) No. 7 spot in the batting order for Tuesday’s game against the Reds.

JHay
The real J-Hay will be on the field when the wildly-popular new PNC Park between-innings scoreboard segment, “Lil J-Hay” is playing. (Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review photo)

 

Harrison was struck by a pitch on his right calf in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game and did not play Monday. He finished out the inning but was in pain and was lifted the following inning. It was not expected he would be out long – and today was the proof.

 

>>> LeBlanc the hero:

Wade LeBlanc’s 5 1/3 innings of effective relief (only one baserunner, albeit it was a home run) on Monday night continued to earn praise from manager Clint Hurdle and teammates the following day because it saved the bullpen. Hurdle suggested that if LeBlanc only lasted an inning or two that a roster move or two would have been necessitated today to alleviate the taxed bullpen.

 

“I joked with the guys that I want to get through the season with seven relievers,” LeBlanc said. “So whatever I can do to make that happen, I’m game.”

 

A cynic would have termed LeBlanc’s work Monday as “mop-up duty.” LeBlanc didn’t use that term (and neither did us reporters). But talking to him, you have the feel he’s quite self-aware and comfortable in his own skin with his role at this point of his career (age 32, after 10 seasons worth of often bouncing back and forth from the minors).

 

A respectable .243 career hitter, check out LeBlanc’s one-liner when asked if he enjoyed coming up twice with the bases loaded against the Reds’ Brandon Finnegan and Michael Lorenzen on Monday:

“Not against those guys. I need to hit against me.”

 

 

 

>>> Rain, rain, go away??:

As this is initially posted coming up on close to two hours prior to the scheduled first pitch, the tarp remains on the field at PNC Park. Accuweather predicts rain will begin in Pittsburgh before 6 p.m….

Stay tuned.

 

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

“I’ve got to forget about this one and move on to the next one.”

Pirates’ Glasnow goes wild in loss to Reds

 

“It’s taken three times to find it, but I found it (Sunday). That’s the way it is sometimes.” 

Pirates notebook: Cole rediscovers slider in 2nd start

 

>>> Tuesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Reds: Billy Hamilton 8, Jose Peraza 6, Joey Votto 3, Adam Duvall 7, Eugenio Suarez 5, Scott Schebler 9, Scooter Gennett 4, Tucker Barnhart 2, RHP Rookie Davis (0-0, 12.00)

Pirates: Starling Marte 8, Josh Bell 3, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 4, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 0.00 in one start)

Gamecast: Yes, that really is his nickname. William Theron Davis was tabbed “Rookie” at birth by his father. “I’ve never answered to any other name,” Davis said. … Davis made his big league debut Thursday vs. the Phillies. He worked three innings and gave up four runs on five hits, walked two and struck out four. His catcher was Stuart Turner, who also was playing his first major league game. It was the first time in Reds history a starting pitcher and catcher made their big league debuts in the same game. … The Reds acquired Davis as part of the December 2015 trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees.

 

>>> Wednesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: None (due to conflict with Penguins playoff game). Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds: LHP Amir Garrett (1-0, 0.00)

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-0, 0.00)

 

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

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 3.60)

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 7.20)

 

>>> Friday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 6.55)

Cubs: TBA

 

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 27.00)

Cubs: LHP Amir Garrett

 

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib

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Game 6: Marte uses all his tools

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

IceBucketAfter yesterday’s dramatic win against the Braves, Gerrit Cole had some high praise for walkoff home run hero Starling Marte: “He’s probably, truly the only five-tool player I’ve ever played with.”

Power wasn’t one of those tools last season, though. Marte went deep just nine times. He hit 19 homers in 2015. It wasn’t that Marte got off to a slow start last season, either — he hit three home runs by April 26.

Manager Clint Hurdle has repeatedly said he believes there is more juice in Marte’s bat. Will it show up this summer? “I don’t know,” Marte said through translator Mike Gonzalez. “We’ll see. I don’t try to hit home runs. I just try to put the ball in play, steal a base. Sometimes, I get a good swing and the ball goes.”

>>> About four hours before tonight’s game, Alen Hanson and Phil Gosselin took grounders at third and second base. Joey Cora looked on as Hurdle swung the fungo bat. The workout enabled Josh Bell to get in more reps snagging throws at first base. Two birds, one stone.

>>> According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Reds’ 8-0 win vs. the Cardinals was their second-largest shutout in St. Louis in the last 100 years. The Reds blanked the Cards,10-0, at Busch Stadium on Aug. 28, 2013.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 6, Braves 5: Marte’s homer won it, but don’t overlook David Freese’s DP-busting slide in the ninth inning.

Notebook: In which Stewie makes his first start of the season and Glasnow awaits his turn.

>>> Monday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds (4-2): Billy Hamilton 8, Jose Peraza 6, Joey Votto 3, Adam Duvall 7, Eugenio Suarez 5, Scott Schebler 9, Zack Cozart 6, Scooter Gennett 4, Tucker Barnhart 2, LHP Brandon Finnegan (1-0, 0.00)

Pirates (3-2): Jordy Mercer 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Bell 3, Adam Frazier 5, RHP Tyler Glasnow (2017 debut)

Gamecast: Finnegan won’t turn 24 until Friday but already is in his third season in the majors. On Wednesday vs. the Phillies, he became the first Reds pitcher to throw at least seven shutout innings while allowing no more than one hit in his first start of a season since Jerry Arrigo in 1967… Three of Glasnow’s seven outings with the Pirates last season came against the Reds. At Great American Ball Park, he tossed three scoreless innings of relief Sept. 18 and one hitless inning Sept. 16. At PNC Park, he gave up two runs on five hits in three innings Sept. 11.

UPDATE: 3:59 P.M.Josh Harrison is not in the lineup today, but will be available off the bench, per Hurdle. Harrison was struck by a pitch on his right calf in the eighth inning last night. He stayed in the game for the rest of that inning and limped as he made his way around the bases to score the Pirates’ third run, then was benched in the ninth. “It tightened up dramatically (during the game), but he felt better this morning,” Hurdle said. Harrison said he was fortunate to be hit on the right (back) leg. “If it had hit me on the left leg, it would have gotten a lot more bone,” Harrison said.

UPDATE: 6:24 P.M. — Zack Cozart was scratched due to a sore wrist. The new Reds lineup is above.

>>> Tuesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds: RHP Rookie Davis (0-0, 12.00)

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 0.00)

>>> Wednesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: None (due to conflict with Penguins playoff game). Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds: LHP Amir Garrett (1-0, 0.00)

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-0, 0.00)

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

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 3.60)

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 7.20)

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

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Game 5: Cole seeks 23rd win at PNC Park

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By Rob Biertempfel

ColeAllStarThis afternoon, Gerrit Cole will make his 50th start at PNC Park. Cole ranks third with 22 wins here since the ballpark opened in 2001. He trails Paul Maholm (36 wins at PNC Park) and Zach Duke (33). At home, Cole has put up a 3.32 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.  Over 436 road starts, he has a 3.23 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. The Pirates have gone 31-18 in his previous home starts.

“His ability to recall pitches, sequences and reasons why after a game is as good as anybody I’ve come across in all the years I’ve been involved in ball,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It jumps out at you. I freshen up every starter, either every day or two days after his start, ask them for some ups and for some points they found challenging. His abiltiy to recall is second to none.”

>>> David Freese is out of the lineup for the second day in a row after taking a hopper off his collarbone on Friday. However, Hurdle said Freese is available off the bench today.

>>> The battery of Cole and Chris Stewart has been successful in the past, and they are reunited today. However, Hurdle said that ESP between the two “has nothing to do whatsoever” with why Stewart’s making his first start of the season today. “(Francisco) Cervelli has been working his way back from his foot challenges and he’s in a good place. A day game after a night game, that’s the sole reason for (Stewart’s start).”

>>> Trevor Williams is the lone member of the bullpen who hasn’t yet gotten into a game. Williams has done work on the side to stay sharp and was warming up during last night’s game.

>>> As of 11 a.m., Hurdle said it had not yet been determined whether Daniel Hudson and/or Tony Watson will be available out of the pen today after woking in back-to-back games.

>>> A win today would give the Pirates their first three-game sweep of the Braves in Pittsburgh since April 29-May 1, 1994.

Luis Heredia in 2011, checking out big league spring training camp.
Luis Heredia in 2011, checking out big league spring training camp.

>>> RHP Luis Heredia will continue to be developed as a reliever, according to farm director Larry Broadway, but has not yet been assigned to a minor league team and remains in extended spring training. Heredia was an intriguing prospect — a 16-year-old with a 92 mph fastball — when the Pirates signed him in 2010 for a $2.6 million. At the time, it was the biggest bonus the club had ever given an international amateur. Heredia has batted poor conditioning, shoulder soreness and general inconsistency/ineffectiveness with his pitches. Last season, he worked as a closer with High-A Bradenton — he was pretty good for about the first half of the year, then crashed in the second half. He’ll be a free agent after this season and almost certainly will not be back with the Pirates.

>>> UPDATE 1:52 P.M. — Some news and notes from the weekly presser with GM Neal Huntington:

Nick Kingham sprained his ankle near the end of spring training. After the ankle has healed, it will take a while for Kingham to be built up before he’s ready to join the rotation at Triple-A Indianapolis. “The challenge with Nick is that he hadn’t gotten to five innings or 90 pitches when he rolled the ankle, so there is some build-up time,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “So, it’s going to be every bit of April and maybe even some of May before we get him out and get him going.”

– David Freese will get the bulk of the playing time at third base during Jung Ho Kang’s absence. Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier also will get some time at that spot. “We feel very comfortable David can (take) a huge part of the workload over there,” Huntington said. “It’s as much about how much Clint (Hurdle) uses and feels about the matchups with Adam, Josh and David.

– The Pirates are “still working through” getting a valid passport for Gregory Polanco, Huntington said. The issue prevented Polanco from traveling to Montreal for the two preseason exhibition games agains the Toronto Blue Jays. The Pirates will play an interleague series in Toronto in mid-August. Huntington said he expects Polanco’s situation will be resolved by then.

– There have been a few shaky defensive plays with the new outfield alignment of Polanco in left, Startling Marte in center and Andrew McCutchen in right. Huntington is not concerned it’s anything that will linger. “We’re showing the typical adjustment period coming north (from spring training),” Huntington said. “We play very few night games in spring training and when we do the lights are completely different.” The outfielders also might be bothered by the LED lights on the new videoboard in right field. “The LED lights might have an impact, as they are a different look than our guys are used to,” Huntington said. “We’ve had a few challenges, but we feel these guys are going to adjust quickly.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 6, Braves 4: In which Chad Kuhl is bailed out by Gregory Polanco’s four hits and the Braves’ sloppiness

 

Notebook: Freese update and thoughts on lineup construction

>>> Sunday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves (1-4): Ender Inciarte 8, Dansby Swanson 6, Freddie Freeman 3, Adonis Garcia 5, Nick Markakis 9, Brandon Phillips 4, Tyler Flowers 2, Jace Peterson, RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Pirates (2-2): Adam Frazier 5, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, Josh Bell 3, Jordy Mercer 6, Phil Gosselin 4, Chris Stewart 2, RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 9.00 ERA)

Umpires: HP: Phil Cuzzi, 1B: Vic Carapazza, 2B: Mark Ripperger, 3B: Tom Hallion.

>>> Monday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds: LHP Brandon Finnegan (1-0, 0.00)

Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (2017 debut)

>>> Tuesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds: RHP Rookie Davis (0-0, 12.00)

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 0.00)

>>> Wednesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Reds: LHP Amir Garrett (1-0, 0.00)

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-0, 0.00)

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

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