Bucs set to open Grapefruit slate vs. old friend

Kang, Alvarez facing former teammate Martin, Blue Jays to begin spring slate

Bucs set to open Grapefruit slate vs. old friend

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Starting the prelude to a new season, the Pirates will run into an old friend. They inaugurate Grapefruit play on Tuesday against Russell Martin and some other Toronto Blue Jays.

It is an ironic beginning to their Grapefruit League, because the loss of Martin through free agency has been the one caveat to the otherwise rosy predictions for the Bucs.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tabata's new swing is turning heads in Pirate City

Tabata's new swing is turning heads in Pirate City

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jose Tabata has been that Pirates house guest who wouldn't leave. Could he yet become a guest of honor?

During a week of full-squad workouts at Pirate City, the Bucs kept score of a daily drill on situational hitting. It was deemed the "Competition Game," and Tabata nailed it. Another competition, one for a spot on the Bucs' bench, may by now be out of Tabata's reach, but he's making it hard on club decision-makers.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kang's shortstop debut in intrasquad tilt draws big cheers

Korean infielder plays three innings before Grapefruit opener Tuesday

Kang's shortstop debut in intrasquad tilt draws big cheers

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The public unveiling of Jung Ho Kang was a popular hit. It was the only hit for Kang on Monday, as he played the first three innings of his Black team's 2-1 victory over the Gold team in an annual intrasquad game, but he nonetheless considered it a success.

Kang grounded out to short off Deolis Guerra in his only at-bat of the scrimmage, minutes after cleanly fielding a grounder off Justin Sellers' bat with one out in the top of the first.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates set pitching plans for early set of games

Pirates set pitching plans for early set of games

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Bucs completed the first phase of their Spring Training on Sunday, pulling up Pirate City stakes. Work done, immediate pitching plans set.

Next stop, McKechnie Field and one more pit stop before the onset of play: Monday's Black and Gold intrasquad game, which precedes Tuesday's Grapefruit League opener against Russell Martin's Blue Jays in Dunedin.

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Glasnow impressing Bucs with his work in camp

Glasnow impressing Bucs with his work in camp

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates brought Tyler Glasnow to big league camp to show him something about a Major League environment. Instead, the 21-year-old right-hander has been showing them something.

"Impressive stuff. The ball comes out of his hand as hard as anybody out there," said veteran catcher Chris Stewart, who has caught Glasnow's bullpens and has also faced the 6-foot-8 righty in batting practice. "Not a fun at-bat. He gets on top of it and drives down, and the ball is coming down on an angle and moving, cutting away."

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Bucs' contingent visits Miracle League Fantasy Camp

Bucs' contingent visits Miracle League Fantasy Camp

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Club president Frank Coonelly led a Pirates contingent including several players at a Saturday afternoon Miracle League Fantasy Camp for special-needs children at Manasota Field.

Co-presented with the Baltimore Orioles, their Sarasota-based Spring Training neighbors, Pirates Charities sponsored the event in partnership with Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates welcomed back to Bradenton with pep rally

Pirates welcomed back to Bradenton with pep rally

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The city of Bradenton rolled out the black and gold carpet for the Bucs on Saturday night, formally welcoming them to their 46th Spring Training here with the sixth annual Pirates Pep Rally.

A three-block strip of Old Downtown was blocked off from traffic and turned over to various attractions celebrating the dawn of another baseball season, which locally begins next Wednesday with the Pirates' first Grapefruit League home game in McKechnie Field.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bucs' investment in McCutchen paying off

Outfielder is midway through $51.5 million, six-year contract

Bucs' investment in McCutchen paying off

BRADENTON, Fla. -- In the conclusion of its countdown to the Major League's Top 100 current players, the MLB Network anointed Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen the sixth best player in today's game.

As a sidebar, that placement offers a fascinating glimpse at the club's shrewd move to sign McCutchen to a six-year contract in 2012 -- as well as at the challenges it will confront to hold onto its franchise player beyond the contract's option year.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Burnett expected to let it loose in final ride

Burnett expected to let it loose in final ride

BRADENTON, Fla. -- A year ago, A.J. Burnett walked out of Pittsburgh. Then he talked his way back in. The Steel City, he decided, is where he wanted to take the final spin of a what will be a 17-year career.

Are the Pirates being taken for a ride, or will they get a joyride for their $8.5 million ticket? Having Burnett back in their midst has already flipped the fun switch in camp; the 38-year-old is always louder, bubblier and more caustic than anybody else in the room. Those qualities figure to be even keener in this final roundup, so he'll do a lot to keep the team loose.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Richard working with Pirates to correct delivery

Lefty was in 'protection mode' while throwing due to past shoulder injuries

Richard working with Pirates to correct delivery

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Clayton Richard did his research when the Pirates invited him to Spring Training. He liked the direction the team was headed. He talked to former Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez, his teammate in San Diego, and heard nothing but good things about the coaching staff and the clubhouse atmosphere.

More than anything, Richard was intrigued by the Pirates' recent success with pitchers who had been injured or ineffective. So far, his experience working with pitching coach Ray Searage and special assistant Jim Benedict has validated the high praise.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tabata alters swing to get lift on the baseball

Pirates outfielder discussed changing hitting approach with former teammate Byrd

Tabata alters swing to get lift on the baseball

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jose Tabata put on a show during batting practice at Pirate City on Friday, the shouts and cheers of his teammates heard among the loud bangs of several home run-distance shots crashing into the roof over the batting cages and clubhouse beyond the high left-field fence.

As it turns out, Tabata spoke with a former teammate to tweak his swing this offseason -- and not just so he could put a few dents in the Pirate City roof, either.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates map out pitching schedule for Spring Training

Pirates map out pitching schedule for Spring Training

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle announced the pitching schedule for the Black & Gold game on Monday. The intrasquad contest at McKechnie Field will be 5 1/2 innings, featuring 11 pitchers throwing one inning each.

Right-handers Nick Kingham, Josh Wall, Collin Balester, Adrian Sampson, Wilfredo Boscan and left-hander Charlie Leesman will pitch for the Black team. Right-handers Arquimedes Caminero, Deolis Guerra, Angel Sanchez, Blake Wood and lefty Jeremy Bleich will pitch for the Gold team.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCutchen declares Pirates' outfield baseball's best

Former MVP states case for Pittsburgh trio over Kemp's group in San Diego

McCutchen declares Pirates' outfield baseball's best

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Three years ago, when Matt Kemp showed up for Spring Training with a National League Gold Glove in his bag, Andrew McCutchen had a message for his buddy.

"You've got it now, but I'm coming to get it," warned McCutchen, who sure enough ousted Kemp from the NL's Gold Glove outfield in 2012.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cervelli makes strong early impression at camp

Veteran catcher excited for added responsibility of replacing Martin

Cervelli makes strong early impression at camp

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The 2015 Pirates could be a star-making vehicle -- again. Josh Harrison filled the bill last season. Jung Ho Kang now has the above title-billing. But Francisco Cervelli is another breakthrough candidate, and his emergence would be more impactful, because it is more challenging and more critical.

Kang is the fifth wheel in the Bucs' current infield. Cervelli has to cover for the Bucs' biggest loss, catcher Russell Martin, who had a hand in all of the team's pies. The gregarious Venezuelan appears to have the personality to also be a clubhouse leader, and he definitely has the desire to want to be a pitching staff caretaker.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates work on improving all-around baserunning

Hurdle wants team to focus on taking extra bases on balls in the dirt

Pirates work on improving all-around baserunning

BRADENTON, Fla. -- A significant portion of the Pirates' Thursday workouts was devoted to the dirt-ball drill. It had nothing to do with the school attended by Jared Hughes and Vance Worley, Long Beach State, whose baseball teams are affectionately nicknamed the Dirtbags. It had everything to do with Free 90s -- extra bases through hustle.

Manager Clint Hurdle is prioritizing improved all-around baserunning by the 2015 Bucs, and sees the greatest room for improvement in how they react to errant pitches. Hence the drill: Getting a jump at the first indication the pitch will be a worm-killer.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nutting: Expectations for Bucs higher in 2015

Club chairman says organization is gaining increasing respect throughout baseball

Nutting: Expectations for Bucs higher in 2015

BRADENTON, Fla. -- In making his annual Spring Training address, it has always been Pirates club chairman Bob Nutting's intent and duty to look at the roomful of players through rose-colored glasses, to pump them up enthusiastically for the coming season. To talk a good game, as it were.

How nice it must be now to not have to fake it.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hurdle looking to rest McCutchen more this season?

Pirates' strong bench will enable manager to 'maximize entire roster'

Hurdle looking to rest McCutchen more this season?

BRADENTON, Fla. -- One reason Clint Hurdle is stoked about his reloaded, amped bench is obvious. Any manager loves engaging in baseball's chess match with more pieces on his board. Another reason is more subtle, longer range.

"We'll be able to rest people more than we have in the past," Hurdle said.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kang, Mercer take field for first full-squad workout

First day of teaming for shortstops at Pirate City

Kang, Mercer take field for first full-squad workout

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It was curtain up Tuesday on the greatest sideshow in the Pirates' camp.

Under the scrutiny of the eyes and camera lenses of a dozen and a half media members from South Korea, shortstops Jung Ho Kang and Jordy Mercer took Pirate City's Field No. 1 for the team's first full-squad workout and the first day of their somewhat awkward teaming.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates unveil new spring clubhouse facilities

Pirates unveil new spring clubhouse facilities

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates put the "big" in big league with their new clubhouse facilities at McKechnie Field.

Unveiled Tuesday night to media and invited dignitaries, the 22,500-square-foot edifice beyond the right-field corner represents about a 50-percent expansion of the previous accommodations and introduces numerous state-of-the-art features.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates have set core early on

Position players mostly in place at start of camp

Pirates have set core early on

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When Pirates position players "reported" on Monday -- it has already been a full house for days -- they knew exactly to which positions to report.

Pedro Alvarez, you got first base. Neil Walker, take second. Jordy Mercer, right there at short. Josh Harrison (third base), Starling Marte (left), Andrew McCutchen (center), Gregory Polanco (right) and Francisco Cervelli (catcher) all had their places.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates announce PNC Park improvements for 2015

Pirates announce PNC Park improvements for 2015

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates are raising the "bar" for the fan experience at PNC Park for the 2015 season.

The club on Monday announced four new areas for fans to congregate and toast the action on the field, without having to miss a single play. Three of the enhancements will be accessible to fans in general seating areas. Additionally, a 1,600-square-foot meeting center is being added to the park's administration building.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Not big on utility, Harrison earns top billing at third

All-Star enters with hot-corner job after spending past springs looking for work all over field

Not big on utility, Harrison earns top billing at third

BRADENTON, Fla. -- During Josh Harrison's first three nomadic seasons, as he went about changing positions more often than a yoga instructor, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle went out of his way to compliment him with comparisons to notably versatile predecessors.

Hurdle would liken Harrison to Tony Phillips, or to Chone Figgins, or to Mark DeRosa. At one point, he even hoped Harrison could become the Bucs' Jose Oquendo, the St. Louis defensive chameleon with whom Hurdle had played in 1986.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Taillon sees light at the end of Tommy John rehab tunnel

Taillon sees light at the end of Tommy John rehab tunnel

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When time came for the all-important PFP (pitchers fielding practice), Jameson Taillon jumped in with his Group C brethren. Otherwise, he was an outsider on Sunday. While Stolmy Pimentel, John Hodzkom, Brad Lincoln and others were throwing in the bullpen, Taillon was recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The right-hander has been doing that since April 10, the day after his elbow ligament replacement operation. And on Day 319 of the recovery, he beamed over the progress he has made and how he felt.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hurdle sees rest of roster hungry to join pitchers, catchers

Hurdle sees rest of roster hungry to join pitchers, catchers

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Monday is the "So what?" date on the Bucs' preseason calendar. It is the reporting day for position players, but most have been in Pirate City for days.

Yet they have not officially been part of camp. There is a reason pitchers and catchers report earlier: First-week drills are tailored to them, leaving position guys to fend for themselves, with conditioning or by taking batting practice off coaches.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mercer welcomes competition with Kang at short

Pirates veteran has newfound attention coming from Korean media

Mercer welcomes competition with Kang at short

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jordy Mercer, turns out, has become a household name in South Korea. Just how big the 28-year-old Okie is on the other side of the world became apparent when he was approached by a Korean camera crew Saturday morning and asked to say hello to his new friends.

Mercer bent his 6-foot-3 frame, peered into the camera lens and said, waving, "Hi, Korea! How you doin'?"

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Kang has talent, but time will dictate his place with Bucs

Despite impressive numbers in Korea, it is still early for Pirates to evaluate newcomer

Kang has talent, but time will dictate his place with Bucs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jung Ho Kang could make a major impact with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But for the moment, let's look at the individual and wait at least until the exhibition games begin before the legend is created.

Kang, playing in the Korean Baseball Organization, had a 2014 season that was phenomenal. He hit .356/.459/.739, belting 40 home runs and driving in 117 runs in 117 games. The KBO isn't the NL Central, but still, North American scouts were duly impressed.

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Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hurdle excited to see Hart step into box for Pirates

Bucs hope veteran can help in outfield and first base after overcoming injuries

Hurdle excited to see Hart step into box for Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Corey Hart can be a polished first baseman. Balky legs permitting, Hart can also handle the outfield.

But on Hart's first day in the Pirates' Spring Training camp, manager Clint Hurdle saw him at his best position -- legs slightly spread, arms belt-high, in the batter's box.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hurdle pleased with latest pace-of-game rules

Pirates skipper believes adjustments will streamline contests

Hurdle pleased with latest pace-of-game rules

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Following his overnight review of the pace-of-game rules announced Friday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said they will go a long way toward "streamlining the pace of games, something we all need to be aware of."

"I'm sure we'll make the necessary adjustments as we go along. We're all for keeping the games moving and interesting," Hurdle said.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.