Game 4: Dashing through the snow …

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PNC Park as of 8:43 this morning. Not a postcard-pretty day for ball.
PNC Park as of 8:43 this morning. Not a postcard-pretty day for ball.

By Rob Biertempfel

I know it’s Happy Home Opener Day ’n’at, but please excuse me if I seem a bit ragged (I haven’t shaved since Wednesday) and cranky this morning. The storm that washed away game three of the Pirates-Red Sox series yesterday also delayed my flight home for several hours. When I triggered my garage door opener this morning, the clock in my car said 3:02 a.m. Five hours later, I’m in the press box at frosty PNC Park.

Misery loves company, though, am I right? Fellow scribes Adam Berry, Stephen Nesbitt and Dustin Dopirak were on the same flight, so we hit a few watering holes near Fenway Park before grabbing an uber to the airport.

OK, enough whining. On with the game. Oh, wait. One last dose of whining (because SNOW) …

>>> The Braves originally were going to start R.A. Dickey today, but wound up moving the knuckleballer’s season debut back to Saturday. RHP Mike Foltynewicz will get the ball today.

>>> Chad Kuhl is still bummed about yesterday’s rainout, which wiped out his scheduled start. He had lots of family who made the 5 1/2-hour drive from Delaware to Boston to see him pitch against the Red Sox. “My mom and dad and brother were actually at the exit (into Boston) when I texted to tell them the game was rained out,” Kuhl said. “I’m upset they drove all that way for a rainout.” Kuhl will pitch tomorrow against the Braves and is in line to work the make-up game Thursday at Fenway Park.

>>> During his pregame presser, manager Clint Hurdle was asked about what progress he believes his team has made: “They’ve grown from being young players and learning things to … They’ve gone from being survivors to being contributors to now, I believe, being winners. The opportunity is in front of us with this group collectively to own everything we do moving forward. That would be my biggest get for the season. The thing I’m encouraged by, watching the transition through spring training, is the work that was done physically, mentally. I’m very encouraged by all of it.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Here’s everything you need to know about the home opener,

Gorman: “It’s the opener, simple as that, so it’s ‘Play ball!’ Let’s just hope it’s not with snowballs.”

Hurdle didn’t exactly call out Starling Marte for an ill-timed bunt attempt, but …

Notebook: In which it rains (and rains, and rains) in Boston, Juan Nicasio goes one and done, and Andrew McCutchen is 0 for the season so far

>>> Friday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves (1-2): Ender Inciarte 8, Dansby Swanson 6, Freddie Freeman 3, Matt Kemp 7, Nick Markakis 9, Brandon Phillips 4, Adonis Garcia 5, Kurt Suzuki 2, RHP RHP Mike Foltynewicz

Pirates (0-2):  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 Ivan Nova (2017 debut)

Gamecast: Nova went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts. He also pitched in two minor league games during spring training. … Last season, Nova ranked fifth in the majors with a average of 1.56 walks per nine innings pitched. He issued three walks in 64.2 innings pitched after being traded to the Pirates.

>>> Saturday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: None. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves: Lineup TBA. R.A. Dickey (2017 debut)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Chad Kuhl (2017 debut)

Gamecast: Dickey’s final tune-up was on March 31, when he tossed two scoreless innings and gave up one hit against the New York Yankees in an exhibition at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. It was the knuckleballer’s best outing of the preseason.

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

Braves: Lineup TBA. RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 9.00 ERA)

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

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Rainout: Hurdle won’t blame Marte (not out loud, at least)

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By Rob Biertempfel

marte2BOSTON — UPDATE 9:49 A.M. – The final game of the Pirates series at Fenway Park today has been rained out. It will be made up one week from today at 2:05 p.m.

The Pirates and Red Sox have five common off days this season, with April 13 being the easiest option. The Red Sox will be in the midst of a homestand, while the Pirates will be between the end of a homestead and the start of a weekend road series against the Chicago Cubs.

The other four dates would put either the Pirates or Red Sox in violation of MLB’s rule which prohibits a team from playing more than 19 games in a row.

>>> Locked in a scoreless tie in the ninth inning, the Pirates put their leadoff batter on first base when Jordy Mercer reached via an error. Up stepped Starling Marte, who at that point was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts — and 0 for 7 on the season.

Facing Craig Kimbrel, whose fastball was touching 100 mph, Marte tried to bunt. He popped the ball ball into foul ground where third baseman Pablo Sandoval, whose error let Mercer reach base, made an easy catch. The Pirates went on to lose 3-0 in 12 innings. Manager Clint Hurdle said Marte decided on his own to try the bunt. “Marte felt it was the best move for him to try to help us win the game,” Hurdle said. “There was no bunt sign on.”

Did Marte make the correct choice? Hurdle smiled. “I’m not going to second-guess my players publicly. I know it’s hard to bunt a guy who throws almost 100 mph. However, that’s the initiative he took to try to help us win the game. It’s hard to tell a player, when he says he’s trying to help you win a game, that he might’ve done the wrong thing.”

>>> In addition to Mercer reaching on the miscue, the Pirates got five singles and one walk. None of those runners made it past first base. “I’m not going to overcook this thing offensively,” Hurdle said. “They threw some good stuff at us.” OK, in that case, let’s allow Joe Block to do some cooking via Twitter …

>>> Juan Nicasio tossed a tidy 11th inning, getting two strikeouts and a grounder. He has the ability to pitch multiple innings, but gave way to Antonio Bastardo to start the 12th. Bastardo served up Sandy Leon’s game-winning, three-run homer.

Hurdle said he didn’t want to tax Nicasio by keeping the righty out there on a late, chilly evening. “He’d gotten up earlier in the game and gotten hot,” Hurdle said. “Then he was down for three innings and got hot again. I didn’t think it was in our best interests on a cold night to run him out any more than he had to in the second game of the season.”

>>> Andrew McCutchen got his first assist as a right fielder on Wednesday. He made a catch to rob Mitch Moreland of a home run for the first time, too. That’s two items checked off the bucket list in the same game. “Now, if I can get my first hit off that bucket list, I’ll be good to go,” McCutchen said.

McCutchen went 0 for 5 in the 12-inning loss against the Red Sox. That dropped him to 0 for 9 on the season. It’s the deepest he’s gone into a season without getting a hit. In 2012, McCutchen went hitless in his first six at-bats.

Despite the slow start, McCutchen said he feels good at the plate. He didn’t strike out on Wednesday (after whiffing three times on Monday) and flied out twice to the outfield. “I know I haven’t gotten a hit yet, but it’s game No. 2, so I’m not going to stress over it,” McCutchen said. “I’m going to keep my approach. I’m going in the right direction. I took some good swings at some good pitches. I hit a couple of balls decent. That’s baseball sometimes. I’m looking forward to (Thursday) and going at it again.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Red Sox 3, Pirates 0: Leon whacked a Monster shot, as the Pirates waste a stellar effort by Jameson Taillon.

Notebook: In which Gregory Polanco is fixed in No. 4 spot, the payroll dips, and the home opener is threatened by The Winter That Wouldn’t End.

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

PNCparkAllStar>>> Friday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves: Lineup TBA RHP R.A. Dickey (2017 debut)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Ivan Nova (2017 debut)

>>> Saturday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: None. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves: Lineup TBA. RHP Mike Foltynewicz

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Tyler Glasnow (2017 debut)

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

Braves: Lineup TBA. RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 9.00 ERA)

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

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Game 2: Team payroll goes down this year

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

moneyBOSTON — This morning, I spent a few minutes looking over the MLB payroll information compiled by USA Today. The Pirates’ opening day payroll of $94.6 million ranked 23rd among the 30 big league clubs. It’s also about $6 million less than the club’s total player salaries last year.

Payroll information can be tricky to decipher. The USA Today numbers involve only players on the active (25-man roster) and do not include deferred payments, incentives, money received in trades or the costs of players who were released. Keep in mind that when Pirates execs, such as prez Frank Coonelly, talk about team payroll, they like to use figures that pertain to the entire 40-man roster — it inflates the total, even if most of those players are making around the MLB minimum of $535,000. This year, the Pirates’ 40-man roster salaries cost about $104.3 million (which is still a lower total than it was a year ago).

>>> A team press release from today reminds us that Friday’s game against the Braves is not merely the home opener — it’s the “home opener presented by PNC Bank.” Gates will open at 11 a.m. Starling Marte will get his Gold Glove on the field before the game.  Sally McCrady, chairwoman of the PNC Foundation, will throw the honorary first pitch. Bob Friend will be recognized for his contributions to the franchise over the years. “God Bless America” and the National Anthem will be performed by Gabby Barrett. The four children of fallen Canonsburg police officer Scott Bashioum will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

IndyLogo2>>> UPDATE 5:33 P.M. – Triple-A Indianapolis released its preliminary roster. The starting rotation order will be Steven Brault, Drew Hutchison, Tyler Eppler, Clay Holmes and Josh Lindblom. The bullpen will consist of Cody Dickson, Dan Runzler, Pat Light, Brett McKinney, Dovydas Neverauskas, Angel Sanchez, Edgar Santana and A.J. Schugel. A press release from the team listed just two outfielders — Austin Meadows and Danny Ortiz — and added that 1B Jose Osuna also will get some time in the outfield.

AltoonaLogo>>> UPDATE 5:45 P.M. — Double-A Altoona’s roster includes four of the Pirates’ top 30 prospects, as ranked by Baseball America: SS Kevin Newman (No. 4), RHP Yeudy Garcia (No. 16), LHP Brandon Waddell (No. 17) and 2B Kevin Kramer (No. 21).

>>> UPDATE 5:51 P.M. – RHP prospect Nick Kingham sprained an ankle during spring training and will begin the season on the minor league disabled list as he gets built up to eventually join Indy’s rotation. Kingham, 25, had Tommy John surgery in May 2015.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

CutchSwing2017Some interesting comments from hitting coach Jeff Brason at the end of this piece about power bats and launch angles.

Gorman: Josh Bell left his mark on the Green Monster.

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

Pirates: Jordy Mercer 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 4, Josh Bell 3, Adam Frazier DH. RHP Jameson Tailon (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia 4, Andrew Benintendi 7, Xavier Bogaerts 6, Hanley Ramirez DH, Mitch Moreland 3, Chris Young 9, Jackie Bradley 8, Pablo Sandoval 5, Sandy Leon 2. LHP Chris Sale (2017 debut).

Gamecast: On Monday, Gregory Polanco said he expected to start the game in left field. Polanco, who has a tender shoulder, was the designated hitter in the season opener. … During the winter meetings, the Red Sox swapped prospects Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz to the White Sox for Sale. … In his final spring training tuneup, Taillon worked three innings Friday against the Blue Jays. He gave up a run on three hits, walked one and struck out two. His final Grapefruit League ERA was 3.52 over five outings. … The Red Sox have won each of their past six and 15 of their past 17 interleague games. … Here’s a good tidbit courtesy of Pirates PR man Jimmy Trdinich: As high school opponents, Andrew McCutchen (Fort Meade High) homered off Sale (Lakeland High). They have never faced each other in a regular-season MLB game, but McCutchen did get a base hit off Sale during the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City.

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

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

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

>>> Friday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves: Lineup TBA RHP R.A. Dickey (2017 debut)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Ivan Nova (2017 debut)

>>> Saturday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: None. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves: Lineup TBA. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (2017 debut)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Tyler Glasnow (2017 debut)

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

Braves: Lineup TBA. RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 9.00 ERA)

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. — Shafted by the shift

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photos by Christopher Horner

ColeCervelliBOSTON — Gerrit Cole cannot pitch and simultaneously play third base. If he could, the Red Sox’s five-run fifth inning in yesterday’s 5-3 win against the Pirates would have been at worst a more manageable one-run inning.

If you need the details of the inning, you can find them in my game story in today’s Trib. Let’s cut to the chase: the Pirates were shafted by their shifts. Against Pablo Sandoval and Sandy Leon — neither of whom has sprinter’s speed — the infield set up with SS Jordy Mercer hugging the second base bag and, when Leon was up, with 3B David Freese in shallow right field. The numbers say Sandoval and Leon (who are both switch-hitters) more often pull the ball to the right side when they bat lefty.

The ball Sandoval hit went precisely to the spot where Mercer would have been standing if he wasn’t shifted. And, of course, Leon would not have bunted to no-man’s land if Freese, the third baseman, had actually been at … um, third base.

There were two outs. Sandoval and Leon were the numbers eight and nine batters, respectively. They are slow. The Pirates already had very good odds of getting out of the inning with a 0-0 score or at worst a 1-0 deficit. Instead, they tried to jack up those odds even higher and rolled snake eyes.

There was palpable frustration in the clubhouse after the game. However, none of the players dared speak up about the shifts during interviews. It’s a tiny clubhouse, and several coaches and front office folks were within earshot — as well as the Pirates’ traveling analytics wonks, who set up their laptops on a table in the center of the room.

Cole: “I just got into a little trouble there. … They found some holes. … They just hit ‘em where we weren’t.”

Francisco Cervelli: “That’s they way baseball is now. That’s it.”

Mercer: “It sucks. That’s the bad part about the big shifts. In big situations, it doesn’t work out for us sometimes.”

CervelliDuck>>> Cervelli whacked a fly ball to the deepest part of Fenway Park, the center field notch. Jackie Bradley Jr. made a fantastic running catch to rob Cervelli of what would have been at least a double. Cervelli really tagged the ball … “But it’s Bradley,” he said. “He’s been doing those kind of plays for years now, so it doesn’t surprise me. He’s a pro. He’s one of the best.”

>>> UPDATE 1:03 P.M. – The roster for High-A Bradenton is out. It includes three first-round draft picks — Cole Tucker (2014), Ke’Bryan Hayes (2015) and Will Craig (2016) — along with pitcher Mitch Keller (second round, 2014) and outfielder Casey Hughston (third round, 2015). Baseball America ranks Keller the club’s No. 2 prospect (ahead of Tyler Glasnow). Hayes (sixth), Tucker (eighth) and Craig (ninth) also are among the top 10. You can find the complete Bradenton roster here.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Red Sox 5, Pirates 3: The mood in the postgame clubhouse said the players believe they out-shifted and out-smarted themselves in the fifth inning.

Columnist Kevin Gorman says the Pirates expect and desperately need more out of McCutchen and Cole

Notebook: In which Frazier leads off, Cutch dodges the question and Taillon preps for his turn on the big stage.

Want some Boston perspective? It’s always a treat to read a Hall of Famer like Dan Shaughnessy. (And, yes, he does accurately rate the Pirates as “mediocre.”)

>>> 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 Chad Kuhl (2017 debut).

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

>>> Friday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Braves: Lineup TBA RHP R.A. Dickey (2017 debut)

Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Ivan Nova (2017 debut)

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

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Game 1: Bold predictions

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

HurdleCardsBOSTON — Happy opening day. Let’s start the season with a few bold predictions:

— Since last fall, I’ve had a hunch 2017 will be Clint Hurdle’s final season as Pirates manager. That feeling intensified when Tom Prince was named bench coach. I wasn’t surprised when chairman Bob Nutting refused to say during spring training whether Hurdle’s contract — which runs through this season with a club option for 2018 — will be extended. Over the final few days of spring training, Prince shadowed Hurdle during his postgame media scrums, taking mental notes on how Hurdle handles reporters and how we probe him for information. I think its possible that at some point this season the Pirates will announce Hurdle will retire after the season.

Andrew McCutchen will bounce back. Cutch tried to use emotion to fuel his performance last year — hoping to force management to extend his contract — and it blew up in his face. This year, I sense he has a chip on his shoulder (who wouldn’t, after the way he was treated last offseason?) but is trying hard not to be sentimental. If Cutch can be all business, his numbers will rebound.

— The thing is, better stats will make McCutchen easier to trade. He’ll be gone by Aug. 1.

Tony Watson will put up decent (but not dominant) numbers as the closer and he also will be moved at the trade deadline. Daniel Hudson will become the new closer, keeping the spot warm while Felipe Rivero is groomed to take over in 2018.

Starling Marte will try to make up for some of Jung Ho Kang’s missing power. The Pirates won’t miss the distractions Kang will bring, but they do need to replace the 20-something home runs he’d hit if he was in the lineup. Marte went deep just nine times last year, but Hurdle believes there is more juice in his bat. Look for Marte’s HR total to approach the 19 he blasted in 2015, but it’s likely his batting average will take a bit of a hit.

Gerrit Cole will notch 18 wins and be in the Cy Young conversation all season.

— I’m stealing this prediction from the Bill James Handbook: Tyler Glasnow will lead the NL in walks issued. Other than that blemish, Glasnow will turn in a decent season, a spring board for bigger things in 2018.

Drew Hutchison will make a spot start or two when an injury pops up, but he won’t stick in the big leagues and will be gone next winter.

Ivan Nova and Rivero will combine for six different hair colorings and three mohawk-style trims by the end of September.

— And finally … the Pirates will finish 84-78, third in the NL Central and watch the postseason on TV for the second year in a row.

My view from the press box at Fenway. If McCutchen has a big day in right field, I'll never see it.
My view from the press box at Fenway. If McCutchen has a big day in right field, I’ll never see it.

>>> UPDATE 9:44 A.M. –  As Stephen Nesbitt of the PG and I were walking into Fenway this morning, we ran into Alen Hanson, who was searching for the players’ entrance. Ha, rookies!

>>> UPDATE 12:17 P.M. Gregory Polanco had a heat wrap on his tender left shoulder before the game. Polanco is the DH today, will start in left field on Wednesday and will be the DH again on Thursday. Polanco is batting cleanup today, which is where Hurdle wants him to stay this season. “I believe Polanco is going to be a run-producer,” Hurdle said.

>>> Some pregame thoughts from McCutchen, including a guarded response when I asked how he feels going into what might be his final opener with the Pirates:

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

I say the most important factor for Pirates success this season is a healthy Gerrit Cole

Kevin Gorman says the most important factor is Andrew McCutchen playing like his old self instead of what he was last year.

Alen Hanson and Phil Gosselin are on the active roster, Jose Osuna is back at Indy

Here’s a spring training photo gallery from the Trib’s award-winning photographer Christopher Horner

Four things the Pirates must do to improve their chances of catching the mighty Cubs in the NL Central race

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

Pirates: Frazier 7, Marte 8, McCutchen 9, Polanco DH, Freese 5, Cervelli 2, Bell 3, Harrison 4, Mercer 6. RHP Gerrit Cole (2017 debut).

Red Sox: Pedroia 4, Benintendi 7, Betts 9, H. Ramirez DH, Moreland 3, Bogaerts 6, Bradley 8, Sandoval 5, Leon 2. RHP Rick Porcello (2017 debut).

Gamecast: Porcello posted a 7.07 ERA over four Grapefruit League outings. Good news for the Pirates? Not necessarily. Last year, Porcello had a 9.77 ERA in spring training and went on the win the Cy Young Award. … Red Sox OF Mookie Betts is touted as a preseason MVP candidate. A righty batter, last year he had a better slash line vs. RHP (.331/.377/.540) than LHP (.264/.302/.512).

Hurdle says Fenway Park is his favorite major league venue: “I don’t get here enough, which probably continues to make it my favorite,” Hurdle said. “I’m really happy when I’m here. You can’t come up with anything better than to open up here. They’ve got a really good club over there, a fun team, a dynamic team. There is a lot of baseball to be found here and to be experienced.”

>>> 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 Chad 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. — Another arm departs for Indy

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By Rob Biertempfel

PENN HILLS — Voting in this Twitter poll ended at midnight. About eight hours later, it was sort of outdated, as A.J. Schugel this morning was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates have not yet tipped their hand on who’ll fill the final starter’s spot. My educated guess: Tyler Glasnow will in the rotation and Trevor Williams will join Tyler Webb in the bullpen.

>>> As you may have noticed from the dateline on this blog, I am not in Montreal for the two exhibition games against the Blue Jays. I’m getting a last gasp of R&R at home — I’m very pumped about seeing The Pretenders tonight at whatever they’re calling the Consol these days — before beginning what promises to be a busy, eventful April of Pirates coverage. I’ll check in on Sunday from Boston … and pretty much every day after that as we journey through the 2017 season.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Fenway Park is quirky, intimate, historic … and a nightmare for many pitchers. 

Frank Coonelly said embattled third baseman Jung Ho Kang is on double-secret probation. One more misstep and … well, something will happen. Probably.

There’s new grass, more netting and a nifty LED scoreboard on the outfield wall at PNC Park

>>> 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 day. Pirates will work out at Fenway Park in the mid-afternoon. 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. — 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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– Rob Biertempfel