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March 13, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


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Gerrit Cole is diversifying his portfolio

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – If you remember back to Gerrit Cole‘s first few months in the big leagues he was often a one-pitch pitcher. In his first few starts, 80 percent of his pitches were fastballs. For the season, two thirds of his offerings were fastballs. Now, it was a heckuva one pitch – a 96 mph fastball – velocity by a starter that perhaps only Kansas City’s Yorando Ventura can exceed.

But no matter how hard you throw, it’s tough to miss bats with four-seam fastballs. And Cole was having a difficult time missing bats until he found velocity separation with a curveball in September.  Then he took off. He was so good he earned a Game 5 start in the NLDS as a rookie.

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March 12, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


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Silver linings playbook: Pirates’ 2014 schedule and Travis Snider

FORT MYERS, Fla. – One issue facing the Pirates entering 2014 is a number of NL contenders have become stronger. The Braves have reached an agreement with Ervin Santana. The Nationals added Doug Fister and are due for an overall bounceback, I think. The Cardinals addressed their black hole at short and overall defense. The Giants added Tim Hudson, etc., etc. The Pirates have done relatively little as is well documented.

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March 10, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


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Monday Mop-Up Duty: the risk and reward of Pitch-22

BRADENTON, Fla. – One strong impression for me early this spring after spending time both in the major league clubhouse and around the minor leaguers at Pirate City, is the Pirates have built up a small army of impressive young arms. I knew this reading and hearing about the arms, but seeing is believing. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, it seems there is a 6-foot-6 right-hander with a 95 mph fastball. And this is not an accident.

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March 10, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel


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Morning briefing: Game 14 v. Orioles

BRADENTON, Fla. — There were 59 players in camp Sunday night. This morning, six moved out in the first wave of cuts. RHP Jameson Taillon, the second overall draft pick in 2010, was reassigned to minor league camp. He made two Grapefruit League outings and might have gotten one more, if not for a blister on a finger on his pitching hand. Taillon will start the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, but most likely will be on the mound at PNC Park sometime before the summer is over. “It’s never fun (to be cut), but I’ve got to go down and get innings,” Taillon said. “It was fun to get some innings here. But, the reality of it is I’ve got to get built up and there’s not enough innings to go around.”

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March 9, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel


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Morning briefing: Games 12, 13 vs. Red Sox, Orioles

BRADENTON, Fla. – Travis Ishikawa, who’s been slowed by a hamstring problem, will make his first start of the spring today as the designated hitter in the split-squad game vs. the Red Sox. … Andrew McCutchen will play in his first road game today, although it’s not much of a trip — a 20-minute drive down Rt. 41 to Sarasota. … Bench coach Jeff Banister unofficially gets credit for the win yesterday against the Rays, as manager Clint Hurdle spent the day at Pirate City. Banny will try to make it two in a row this afternoon vs. the O’s at Sarasota; Hurdle will manage the split-squad vs. the Red Sox in Bradenton.

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March 8, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


26 comments so far - add yours!

Clash of the Titans: Cole vs. Buxton … and other backfield observations

BRADENTON, Fla. – I was able to slip over to Pirate City on Friday for the 10 a.m. Pirates-Twins ‘B game’ prior to the main event over at McKechnie Field. But the main event for me was really over on the backfields. Yes, there were only a handful of scouts and fans behind chain-link fencing there. Yes, there are no grandstands or amenities at Pirate City. But this venue provided an intimate setting for the best one-on-one matchup of the spring to date.

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March 7, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


56 comments so far - add yours!

The Martin-to-McGuire bridge

BRADENTON, Fla. – One of the coming challenges for the Pirates after the 2014 seasons is in how they replace Russell Martin. Martin told our Rob Biertempfel that he would listen to a contract offer if he was approached by the Pirates. But it seems unlikely Martin would not test the free agent market place. After all, with the Pirates the importance of pitch-framing has gone public and he’s essentially rebuilt his value to that of a fringe All-Star catcher.

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March 7, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel


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Morning report: Game 10 v. Twins

BRADENTON, Fla. — No rain today, so plenty of baseball will be played here and at Pirate city. … The Twins will start a familiar face in center field and they also are bringing along OF Byron Buxton, whom Baseball America ranks as the No. 1 prospect  in the game this year. … For what it’s worth, the Pirates go into the game with the best record in the Grapefruit League.

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March 6, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


36 comments so far - add yours!

Observations from minor league camp

BRADENTON, Fla. – Quiet day in Bradenton as the Pirates and Blue Jays were rained out. Too bad because the Blue Jays were bringing a strong lineup of regulars up from Dunedin and Jason Grilli and Wandy Rodriguez were scheduled to throw.  Alas, Grilli will have to wait until Friday to make his Grapefruit League debut and Rodriguez will also have to wait another day to take another step forward in proving the health of his elbow.

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March 6, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel


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Morning briefing: Game 9 v. Blue Jays

The tarp is coming off the field at McKechnie, but probably not for very long.

The tarp came off at McKechnie for a few minutes, then they dragged it back on again.

BRADENTON, Fla. — If today’s game is rained out (a 50-50 proposition at this point), the players and pitchers could make up for lost work tomorrow, when there’s a “B” game against the Twins at 10 a.m. at Pirate City. At the moment, Stolmy Pimentel is scheduled to start that B game and the lineup os written in pencil at this point: Alen Hanson ss, Chase d’Arnaud 2b, Gregory Polanco cf, Brent Morel 1b, Nevin Ashley c, Matt Hague 3b, tba dh, minor leaguer tba lf, minor leaguer tba rf.

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