All posts by Rob Biertempfel

Pirates A.M. — Kuhl wants to be a slump-buster


BlueJays2By Rob Biertempfel

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Chad Kuhl believes the “sophomore slump” can be a thing, but he’s not fretting about it this season. “I don’t think you can worry about it,” he said. “We’re focused on being the best we can be. We know that a lot of (the team’s success) is going to fall on our shoulders. You prepare for everyone’s best. I’ve faced really good lineups and really good opposing pitchers. I had a string where I was going up against aces. Having that experience, knowing that everyone’s doing the same thing we are — getting better and getting prepared — you know you have to out-work and out-prepare them. Just be ready.”

>>> UPDATE 7:58 a.m. — Adam Frazier took some swings in the cage a few minutes ago and said his sore left thumb is good to go. “I could have played today, but I’m not on the (travel) roster,” Frazier said, adding that he’ll instead go through a full workout at LECOM Park. Frazier injured his thumb while trying to bunt on Saturday and had it drained the next day. “It’s still sore, but I can play,” he said. … Also, Austin Meadows‘ right forearm was lightly wrapped this morning. He was hit there by a pitch during Sunday’s game v. the Orioles.

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Blue Jays, 1:05 p.m., Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin. Webcast:

Pirates: Eury Perez 9, Startling Marte 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, John Jaso 3, Chris Bostic 4, Eric Weiss DH, Jacob Stallings 2, Gift Ngoepe 6. RHP Chad Kuhl

Also pitching for Pirates: LH Wade LeBlanc, RH Nick Kingham, RH Clay Holmes

Blue Jays: Kevin Pillar 8, Jose Bautista DH, Jarrod Saltalamacchia 2, Justin Smoak, Darrell Ceciliani 7, Anthony Alford 9, Darwin Barney 4, Ryan Goins 6, Gregoria Petit 5. RHP Marcus Stroman

Also pitching for Blue Jays: RH Roberto Osuna, LH Aaron Loup, RH Mike Bolsinger, RH Danny Barnes

>>> Tuesday’s game: Blue Jays (RHP Lucas Harrell) at Pirates (RHP Ivan Nova), 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. Webcast:

Also pitching for Pirates: LH Tony Watson, RH Daniel Hudson, LH Felipe Rivero, RH Juan Nicasio, LH Antonio Bastardo, RH Pat Light, RH A.J. Schugel.

Also pitching for Blue Jays: RH Casey Lawrence, RH Jarrett Grube, LHJeff Beliveau, RH Wil Browning, RH Glenn Sparkman, LH T.J. House, LH Chad Girodo

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates (RHP Josh Lindblom) at Twins (RHP Kyle Gibson), 1:05 p.m., Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers. Radio: 93.7 FM

Also pitching for Twins: RH Ryan Vogelsong, LH Craig Breslow, LH Stephen Gonsalves, RH Aaron Slegers, RH Felix Jorge, RH Fernando Romero

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


Pirates A.M. — Keeping tabs on Taillon


TaillonSTBy Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Jameson Taillon is scheduled to throw two innings today in his spring debut against the Orioles.

Last season, Taillon threw a total of 165 2/3 innings over 28 starts for the Pirates and Triple-A Indianapolis. It was his first game action since 2013, when the right-hander tossed 147 1/3 innings over 26 starts. He missed 2014-15 recovering from injuries.

Management already has set a target for Taillon’s workload this year (although no one is willing to divulge what it is). It could change later in the season, depending upon the number of high-stress innings and injuries (if any) Taillon encounters along the way.

“Conversations will be held when it’s appropriate,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We don’t want to be caught off guard. There’s already a built-in model of what we believe (our pitchers) can do, based on what they’ve shown. The number is never written in pen, but we do try to gauge it, based on our model and the experience we have.”

Taillon’s innings count grew by 12 percent from 2013 to ’16. Allowing for the same rate of increase this year, he would clock in at 185 innings.

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 p.m., Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota. Radio: 93.7 FM

discomfortZone2UPDATE 9:22 a.m. — Adam Frazier (left thumb discomfort) and David Freese (healthy scratch, manager’s decision) were removed from today’s lineup.  Here is the revamped lineup:

Pirates:  Phil Gosselin 4, Kevin Newman DH, Andrew McCutchen 9, Jason Rogers 5, Elias Diaz 2, Jose Osuna 3, Eric Wood 7, Austin Meadows 8, Alen Hanson 6. RHP Jameson Taillon.

Also pitching for Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow, RHP Drew Hutchison, RHP Jared Hughes, LHP Tyler Webb.

Orioles: Hyun-soo Kim 7, Adam Jones 8, Manny Machado 6, Chris Davis 3, Mark Trumbo DH, Seth Smith 9, Jonathan Schoop 4, Welington Castillo 2, Ryan Flaherty 5. LHP Wade Miley.

Also pitching for Orioles: RHP Joe Gunkel, LHP Chris Lee, RHP Jesus Liranzo, RHP Logan Verrett, RHP Richard Rodriguez.

>>> Gerrit Cole, who yesterday was named the opening day starter, will throw a two-inning simulated game today.

>>> From Saturday, a couple of minutes with newly minted right fielder (?!!?) Andrew McCutchen

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl) at Blue Jays (RHP Marcus Stroman), 1:05 p.m., Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin. Webcast: Also pitching for Pirates: LHP Wade LeBlanc, RHP Nick Kingham, RHP Clay Holmes

>>> Tuesday’s game: Blue Jays (RHP Lucas Harrell) at Pirates (Ivan Nova), 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. Webcast: 

>>> UPDATE 12:17 p.m. I’ve had a few folks ask which games Root will televise this spring. Here ya go: March 6 (Yankees), 7 (Braves), 10 (Rays), 12 (Twins), 15 (Orioles), 17 (Orioles), 21 (Rays), 24 (Rays), 25 (Tigers), 27 (Twins), 28 (Red Sox) and 29 (Phillies). I’ll also list the TV/radio/webcast info for each day’s game here in the blog.

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


Pirates A.M. — Opening day


LECOMsign2017By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Opening day! (Sort of.) Check my blog every morning during spring training for lineups, pitching matchups, game notes and such. I’ll try to update it throughout the morning as things happen, too.

If you’re coming to the game at LECOM Park (BFKMF), allow for some extra time to pass through security. The Pirates have installed walk-though metal detectors at all gates.


Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton

Orioles: Joey Rickard  7, Craig Gentry 9, Manny Machado 6, Adam Jones 8, Jonathan Schoop 4, Chris Johnson 5, Trey Mancini 3, Anthony Santander DH, Audry Perez 2. Gabriel Ynoa RHP.

Also pitching for Orioles: RHP Parker Bridwell, RHP Jason Garcia, LHP Jed Bradley, RHP Zach Stewart

Pirates: Adam Frazier 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Jason Rogers 3, Alen Hanson 4, Elias Diaz 2, Barrett Barnes DH. Brault LHP.

Also pitching for Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Daniel Hudson, LHP Felipe Rivero, RHP Juan Nicasio, LHP Antonio Bastardo, RHP A.J Schugel, RHP Pat Light.

Pirates at Rays, 1:05 p.m., Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte

Pirates: Josh Harrison 4, Jordy Mercer 6, John Jaso 3, Eric Wood DH, Joey Terdoslavich 9, Jose Osuna 7, Phil Gosselin 5, Austin Meadows 8, Jacob Stallings 2. Josh Lindblom RHP

Also pitching for Pirates: RHP Tyler Eppler, LHP Dan Runzler, RHP Edgar Santana, LHP Jared Lakind, RHP Dovydas Neverauskas, LHP Cody Dickson

Rays: Corey Dickerson DH, Kevin Kiermaier 8, Rickie Weeks 3, Jake Bauers 7, Nick Franklin 4, Curt Casali 2, Willy Adames 6, Patrick Leonard 5, Shane Peterson 9. David Carpenter RHP

Also pitching for Rays: LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Danny Farquhar, RHP Cory Rasmus, LHP Justin Marks, RHP Neil Wagner, RHP Taylor Guerrieri

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates (RHP Jameson Taillon) at Orioles (LHP Wade Miley), 1:05 p.m., Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota. Also pitching for Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow, RHP Drew Hutchison, RHP Jared Hughes, LHP Tyler Webb.

>>> Gerrit Cole will throw a two-inning simulated game on Sunday.

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl) at Blue Jays (RHP Marcus Stroman), 1:05 p.m., Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin.

>>> Francisco Cervelli either won the cook-off after yesterday’s workout or he’s the new heavyweight champion of the world. Cervelli had a large title belt draped over his chair in the clubhouse this morning.

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


Pirates A.M. — Stewie gets social: #perspective


By Rob Biertempfel

BRADENTON, Fla. — Good morning from the BFKMF. The Pirates will have  full workout here today, followed by the “Pirates Chopped” cook-off contest, then its full-speed ahead into the Grapefruit League schedule.

The judges for the final round of the cook-off include farm director Larry Broadway, special instructor Mike LaValliere, mental skills trainer Hector Morales, senior advisor Grady Little and assistant coordinator for minor league operations T.J. Large. “I’m really excited about the judges,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Grady has actually (written) a recipe book. Larry Broadway is a food connoisseur. And we got T.J. Large just to have an odd number and because we really think T.J. is a sleeper, a closet cuisine chef.”

GTR-BucsAM-022417>>> Chris Stewart put up his first-ever social media post yesterday on Infield Chatter. “The first of many,” Stewart said with laugh. The post was a photo of him and a girl named Anya, whom he met last season at PNC Park on Cancer Awareness Night. Stewart recently found out Anya lost her battle against the disease and wrote: “To my fellow ballplayers ad fans all over the world, with all the day to day stresses, I pray that we all remember the important things in life. Smile a little more, and light up the world. God bless.”

You’ll probably start hearing a lot about Infield Chatter, an app developed by the Players Association. There are a lot of players already posting, including Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Jared Hughes, David Freese, Trevor Williams (of course) and Steven Brault.

TrevTwitter>>> I’m a huge fan of Williams’s Twitter feed, which is often hilarious and occasionally thought-provoking. But, I’m going to have to find a substitute starting March 1 — Williams told me he’s considering giving up social media for Lent.

>>> You want some pitching matchups? Saturday: Orioles RHP Gabrial Ynoa vs. Pirates LHP Steven Brault, Pirates RHP Josh Lindblom vs. Rays RHP David Carpenter. Sunday: Pirates RHP Jameson Taillon vs. Orioles LHP Wade Miley.

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


Pirates A.M. — Union meeting


By Rob Biertempfel

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Pirates A.M. — Kang admits guilt, awaits verdict


By Rob Biertempfel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pirates A.M. — Financial flexibility? Um, maybe.


GTR-BucsAM-022117By Rob Biertempfel

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

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

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

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

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


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


By Rob Biertempfel

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

NuttingST2016.jpegSome highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pirates A.M. — WBC won’t change camp routine


By Rob Biertempfel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field 4: Tyler Eppler, Jared Lakind, Casey Sadler

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

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


Pirates A.M. — Live BP today


By Rob Biertempfel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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