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March 8, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


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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


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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


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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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March 5, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel


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Morning briefing: Game 8 @ Blue Jays

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Jeff Locke was supposed to start today, but he felt some tightness in his side a couple of days ago while throwing a bullpen. He’s still working out daily a McKechnie Field, but will not throw off a mound for a few days. Locke believes they caught the injury early enough that it will not lead to too much down time. … Gaby Sanchez, who’d been out with a gimpy knee, is back in the lineup today and will be there tomorrow as well against the Jays at McKechnie Field.

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March 4, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


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The U25s and perhaps a key early observation

LAKELAND, Fla. – Greetings from Florida, folks. Looking forward to bringing you sights, sounds and observations from camp over the next couple of weeks. But to begin, I wanted to share with you what I think are the most important sort of organizational rankings in baseball, those of Under-25 talent.

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March 4, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel


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Morning briefing: Game 7 @ Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. — Charlie Morton is scheduled to pitch three innings today, depending upon his pitch count. … Josh Harrison has hit safely in all three of his games so far. … Chris McGuiness has gone 5 for 10 with a walk in five games. … Pedro Alvarez has five hits in his past nine at-bats.

Update 11:38 a.m. — Pirates just told us LHP Jeff Locke has tightness in his right side and will not make his scheduled start Wednesday. RHP Jay Jackson will start in Locke’s place against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Fla.

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March 3, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


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Monday Mop-Up Duty: So you want a(nother) data revolution?

SOUTH HILLS – The Pirates have a chance to have the most athletic in outfield beginning in June when Gregory Polanco is presumably called up and joins Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. It’s a group that could be together through at least 2018. The most athletic outfield in the game? Those aren’t my words, that’s what Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told me October. While we think defensive acumen has considerable value, while defensive metrics have improved, we still really don’t know how much value individual defenders possess. We can’t quantify what a speedy outfielder’s range really means or what it really is. We don’t know how to measure his routes and first-step quickness. That’s about to change.

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