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.

Cervelli hungry to learn all he can for everyday gig

Catcher talking to other Bucs backstop Stewart, getting to know pitchers

Cervelli hungry to learn all he can for everyday gig

BRADENTON, Fla. -- As Francisco Cervelli was getting dressed to leave Pirate City early Friday afternoon, infielder Jung Ho Kang was on his way out of the clubhouse. Cervelli stopped Jae Han, Kang's interpreter, and asked how to say "See you tomorrow" in Korean. He gave it a few tries and eventually got it right, or came close enough, as Kang smiled and repeated the words back at Cervelli.

This is going to be a time of learning for Cervelli, the Pirates' new starting catcher.

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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.

Cole's grounded attitude on display as camp begins

Young righty in unique position as bridge between prospects, vets on staff

Cole's grounded attitude on display as camp begins

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Friday morning was a good time to be around Gerrit Cole.

For Florida, it was cold, but the competitive fire that always smolders within Cole could warm up anyone who crossed his path.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bucs get lefty prospect Brault to complete Snider deal

Young starter posted 2.77 ERA with 124 strikeouts last year at Class A

Bucs get lefty prospect Brault to complete Snider deal

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Bucs' deal of outfielder Travis Snider to Baltimore was completed on Friday, when they acquired left-hander Steven Brault from the Orioles as the player to be named in the Jan. 27 trade.

Brault, 22, was Baltimore's 11th-round selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, and he combined for a 2.77 ERA while splitting the 2014 season between the Class A and Class A Advanced levels. The starter totaled 124 strikeouts in 146 1/3 innings, with an excellent 4-to-1 ratio of strikeouts-to-walks.

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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.

Harrison not worried about new pace-of-game rules

Hurdle, Burnett weigh in on the changes announced by MLB on Friday

Harrison not worried about new pace-of-game rules

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Josh Harrison is confident he will be able to adapt to the new Major League Baseball pace-of-game rules without any side trips to a habit-breaking clinic.

In particular, the rule mandating that batters keep at least one foot in the box throughout at-bats, one of the pace-of-game enforcements announced Friday, has direct bearing on Pittsburgh's third baseman.

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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

Richard Justice

Citing unfinished business, Pirates aiming for more

Citing unfinished business, Pirates aiming for more

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It's an indication of how far the Pittsburgh Pirates have come the last two seasons that this Spring Training begins with a sense of unfinished business.

"There's still more work to do," Andrew McCutchen said.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Alvarez focused on mastering first base

Slugger recovering from injury while moving from hot corner to be Pirates' full-time 1B

Alvarez focused on mastering first base

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pedro Alvarez managed to play only five games at first base in 2014, before a stress fracture in his left foot sidelined him for the rest of the season. And only game experience will prove if Alvarez is up to the task of becoming the Pirates' regular first baseman this year.

But for now, Alvarez is confident about his ability to successfully transition across the infield.

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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.

Morton feeling good, looking to start in April

Pirates pitcher says surgically repaired right hip hasn't been an issue

Morton feeling good, looking to start in April

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The arm action is shorter. Charlie Morton is hoping it will keep him on the mound longer. April to September would be about right.

Morton doesn't know how it will end; nobody can, and the right-hander has had his share of unwelcome surprises. But he does have a pretty good feeling of when it will begin: In early April, whenever his turn in the Pirates' rotation first comes up.

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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.

Alvarez wins Bucs' final arb case of offseason

Alvarez wins Bucs' final arb case of offseason

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Arbitrators who on Wednesday heard the Pirates and Pedro Alvarez present cases for his 2015 salary ruled on Thursday afternoon in favor of the player.

Alvarez's salary is set at $5.75 million, rather than the $5.25 million he had been offered by the club. The infielder earned $4.25 million last season, after which he became a second-time arbitration-eligible player. Alvarez's contract nudged the Bucs' 2015 payroll to $81,437,500, eclipsing the $78.4 million at the end of the 2014 season.

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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 go stealth with new matte black helmets

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Pirates go stealth with new matte black helmets

With ballplayer fashions forever evolving, there hadn't been much done in the way of batting helmets. Sure, they've advanced to become more protective, involving more flaps and guards, but the shiny helmets always tended to look a lot like the ones that come with two scoops of ice cream. 

Players like Craig Biggio were famous for trying to camouflage their helmets with pine tar and all manner of forest ephemera: 

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Pirates go to work at new Performance Center

Pirates go to work at new Performance Center

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It is far too cavernous and high tech to be called simply a "weight room." So Pirate City's new conditioning and rehab facility goes by "Performance Center."

Erected adjacent to an existing dining room at the team's Spring Training site since 1969, the new 12,240-square foot facility includes a myriad of state-of-the-art equipment and will serve the Bucs as a year-round performance and rehab mecca.

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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 hopes to succeed for Bucs, Korean baseball

Infielder could help former league develop into international pipeline

Kang hopes to succeed for Bucs, Korean baseball

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates will spend most of this spring trying to figure out exactly what they have in Jung Ho Kang. Pirates fans likely will do the same, watching their new infielder closely throughout Spring Training.

But nobody is more invested in Kang's transition from the Korean Baseball Organization to Major League Baseball than Kang himself -- not just for his sake, but to set a precedent for others to make the same leap.

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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.

Bucs embark on journey for National League gold

Pitchers and catchers report to camp in Bradenton, Fla., with high hopes

Bucs embark on journey for National League gold

BRADENTON, Fla. -- They raised the Jolly Roger 182 times the last two seasons, the fifth-most wins in the Majors during that span. Expectations have risen along with that booty. So the Bucs have rolled into Pirate City bent on unfurling that other flag, a National League pennant.

These aren't your father's Pirates -- maybe your grandfather's. Their greatness skipped a generation, but it is back. Sixty-four players clad in black and gold are getting to work to pass the eye test of those who see them as an NL force.

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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. 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.