Locke earns last remaining rotation spot, Worley to 'pen

Decision challenging for manager Hurdle; both pitchers likely to get starts

Locke earns last remaining rotation spot, Worley to 'pen

BRADENTON, Fla. -- In the past two seasons, Jeff Locke has stepped up when the Pirates needed him -- and also cordially and helpfully stepped down when they did not.

Recognizing, and rewarding, that ethic played a part in Locke getting the one open spot in the Bucs' starting rotation, as revealed Monday by manager Clint Hurdle.

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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's grand slam caps homer-filled McKechnie finale

First baseman's shot one of six home runs by Bucs in final spring home game

Alvarez's grand slam caps homer-filled McKechnie finale

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Starling Marte, Tony Sanchez, Pedro Florimon and Pedro Alvarez hit two-run homers, Josh Harrison added a solo job and Alvarez capped the homers with a grand slam Monday as the Pirates downed the Phillies, 18-4, in the Bucs' final Grapefruit League home game, which was marred by a benches-clearing fracas.

A punches-free altercation was sparked by Sean Rodriguez's displeasure at being quick-pitched by Phillies right-hander Kevin Slowey in the fourth inning. Coaches Juan Samuel of the Phillies and Rick Sofield of the Pirates were ejected during the disturbance. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle drew a later thumb from plate umpire Chad Fairchild for arguing balls and strikes.

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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.

Tomlin wants Cutch, Jared Hughes on the Steelers

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Tomlin wants Cutch, Jared Hughes on the Steelers

What seemed like an innocent visit by Mike Tomlin to Pirates Spring Training on Monday may have actually had ulterior motives.

In the above video, you can hear the Steelers head coach talking about how the Buccos changed the culture of baseball in Pittsburgh over the past few years and why he supports them. But then, Tomlin begins talking about specific players. Only then do we find out why he's really at McKechnie Field.

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Sofield, Samuel ejected after benches-clearing incident

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The benches emptied and two coaches were ejected Monday in a game between the Pirates and Phillies that featured six Bucs homers in an 18-4 rout of Philadelphia.

Phillies right-hander Kevin Slowey delivered a fourth-inning pitch before Sean Rodriguez was set in the batter's box, and things escalated from there.

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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: Bucs to bring 'pack mentality' to new season

Pirates manager confident in depth as team sheds underdog status in pursuit of division title

Hurdle: Bucs to bring 'pack mentality' to new season

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Approaching his fifth season as Pirates manager, Clint Hurdle took time out of a typically busy Spring Training day to wax enthusiastically about the 2015 season, and what it might hold for a team looking to take the next step.

MLB.com: As we count down the final days to Opening Day, what best sums up your feelings? Excitement, anticipation, curiosity ... apprehension?

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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 confident Holdzkom will pitch meaningful games

Club has decisions to make while finalizing Opening Day bullpen

Bucs confident Holdzkom will pitch meaningful games

BRADENTON, Fla. -- If it was up to them, Triple-A hitters could petition the Pirates to keep John Holdzkom and his 98-mph cutter out of the International League.

That isn't an option. However, sending Holdzkom to Indianapolis is a Pirates option -- one they are likely to use when finalizing the makeup of their season-opening bullpen.

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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 breaks slump at plate with two-hit game

Second baseman's two-run homer in the ninth gives Bucs win over Braves

Kang breaks slump at plate with two-hit game

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pirates second baseman Jung Ho Kang halted his recent woes with a two-hit performance that was highlighted by the two-run, ninth-inning home run he drilled off Michael Kohn during Sunday afternoon's 4-2 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium.

"A very, very good day at the plate for him," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of Kang. "He stayed on a breaking ball and lined out hard, singled sharply to center, then got all of that fastball. Nothing can breed confidence like success."

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

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Cole can reach potential at perfect time for Pirates

Right-hander has shown he can be dependable down the stretch

Cole can reach potential at perfect time for Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When the games have meant the most and the pressure cranked the highest, Gerrit Cole has been at his best. Isn't that what they say about the all the great ones?

OK, slow down. He's not there yet. He's 24 years old and has made just 41 career starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates these last two seasons. In ways large and small, he's still figuring things out.

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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.

Kang proving himself after time in Pirate City

Bucs impressed with infielder's last eight at-bats

Kang proving himself after time in Pirate City

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Whether contractually or just congenially, the Pirates have been committed from Day 1 to having Jung Ho Kang on their season-opening 25-man roster. Korean Baseball Organization position players, as a whole, may be on trial through him. But Kang himself hasn't been on trial in Spring Training.

However, the Bucs have to be both delighted and relieved to have Kang dot some I's and cross some T's of their arrangement. And Kang put a big-time dot on a Michael Kohn pitch in the ninth inning Sunday, sending it far over Champion Stadium's left field fence for a two-run homer that gave the Bucs a 4-2 win.

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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.

Prospect Meadows excels in full nine innings vs. Braves

Outfielder triples, scores run in Bucs' Grapefruit League win

Prospect Meadows excels in full nine innings vs. Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It isn't even your proverbial big league cup of coffee. A sip of decaf, maybe. To future Pirates, however, it is the nectar of their nascent careers.

Austin Meadows received the treat Sunday, starting in right field and playing the entirety of the Bucs' 4-2 Grapefruit League victory over the Braves.

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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.

Polanco hits 2nd homer in 2 days to propel Bucs

Morton allows 3 runs over 6 solid innings vs. Jays; Walker drives in 3

Polanco hits 2nd homer in 2 days to propel Bucs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Charlie Morton put in a claim for his inclusion in Pittsburgh's season-opening rotation with six solid innings, and Gregory Polanco struck his second homer in as many days as the Pirates downed a Toronto split-squad, 8-3, in Grapefruit League play Saturday.

Morton, making his way back from Sept. 26 labrum repair surgery, still could remain in Florida for extended spring training when the Bucs break camp on April 2. But he overcame solo homers by Daric Barton and Danny Valencia to limit Toronto to three runs, allowing six hits and walking two without a strikeout. He finished strong, retiring the last nine men he faced.

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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.

Morton makes progress with effective outing

Pirates righty goes 6 innings, states case to be included in rotation

Morton makes progress with effective outing

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' brain trust typically takes a meeting to discuss personnel decisions, with everyone from manager Clint Hurdle to general manager Neal Huntington involved. They may have to put their heads together on Charlie Morton's season-opening fate.

April 12, in Milwaukee against the Brewers? Or, held over in Florida for a little extra tuneup in extended spring training?

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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.

Sanchez enjoying benefits of tweet-free spring

Sanchez enjoying benefits of tweet-free spring

BRADENTON, Fla. -- To baseball fans from coast to coast, it has been dramatically apparent for months that there is something different about this Tony Sanchez in the Pirates' Spring Training camp.

It hasn't been the fact that this Sanchez has lots of hits. Rather, it's the fact this Sanchez doesn't have any tweets.

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

Solo blasts power Pirates past Twins

Polanco, Sanchez both homer to back Locke's solid start

Solo blasts power Pirates past Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Gregory Polanco and Tony Sanchez both homered to help carry the Pirates to a 4-2 win over the Twins on Friday at Hammond Stadium. The game was called in the eighth inning due to rain.

Twins right-hander Trevor May, competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, didn't help his cause by giving up seven extra-base hits in 4 2/3 innings, including the homers to Polanco and Sanchez.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Locke makes case for rotation spot in close contest

Lefty competing with Worley, Morton; Bucs pleased with options

Locke makes case for rotation spot in close contest

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Often, Spring Training battles are won on default. Managers and front office executives like it that way, for "players to make the decision for us." The Pirates have certainly experienced plenty of those.

Not this one. Sorry, but Jeff Locke and Vance Worley aren't going to do anyone any favors when it comes to the contested spot in the rotation. And the Bucs couldn't be happier about 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.

In meet-and-greet, Manfred praises Pirates brass

In meet-and-greet, Manfred praises Pirates brass

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rob Manfred stopped by Hammond Stadium on Friday to introduce himself to Twins and Pirates players, but Major League Baseball's 10th Commissioner didn't need an introduction to the braintrust that has steered the Buccos back on a winning track.

Pirates chairman Bob Nutting and club president Frank Coonelly both have worked closely in the past with Manfred, and have earned his respect.

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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 among 12 sent to Bucs' Minor League camp

Fellow veterans Lombardozzi and Morel also slated to begin year at Triple-A

Tabata among 12 sent to Bucs' Minor League camp

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Veteran infielders Steve Lombardozzi and Brent Morel and outfielder Jose Tabata were among 11 players reassigned to Minor League camp on Friday by the Pirates, who also optioned left-hander Bobby LaFromboise to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Also reassigned to Pirate City were pitchers Deolis Guerra, Brad Lincoln, Charlie Leesman and Josh Wall, infielders Gustavo Nunez and Delbinson Romero, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and catcher Sebastian Valle.

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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, Walker homer as Bucs rally, then fall to Braves

Worley settles in after five-run first, retiring 13 straight in one stretch

Harrison, Walker homer as Bucs rally, then fall to Braves

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Braves jumped out to a big lead in the first inning and beat the Pirates, 7-5, on Thursday afternoon at McKechnie Field.

After the Pirates chipped away at a five-run deficit and eventually tied the game at 5 in the eighth inning, Jonny Gomes led off the ninth with his first Braves homer, a blast to left field off lefty Clayton Richard. Later in the inning, Jesus Flores singled home Chris Johnson to make it 7-5.

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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.

Likely to lead off, Harrison not concerned with spot in order

Bucs third baseman focuses on performance; Cutch expected to remain at No. 3 slot

Likely to lead off, Harrison not concerned with spot in order

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Spring Training lineups don't often reflect the real deal come Opening Day, but the Pirates have trotted out something close to their everyday squad each of the past two games.

The constants between the Bucs' lineups Tuesday and Thursday were clear: Josh Harrison first, Andrew McCutchen third and Starling Marte fifth. Not that it's on their minds at this point.

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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.

Hair Cutch: Pirates star happy with new 'do

All-Star's dreadlocks will be auctioned off to raise money for Pirates Charities

Hair Cutch: Pirates star happy with new 'do

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Andrew McCutchen is going to need a new hat.

The Pirates center fielder arrived at McKechnie Field on Thursday morning sporting a newly shorn look after cutting off his trademark dreadlocks on Wednesday.

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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.

In possibly his final rotation bid, Worley shows resiliency

Bucs fifth-starter candidate allows five early runs, then blanks Braves for five innings

In possibly his final rotation bid, Worley shows resiliency

BRADENTON, Fla. -- With the Pirates set to make a decision soon about their final rotation spot, Vance Worley made what could be his final argument for the job Thursday.

The final line wasn't pretty -- five runs on seven hits over six innings -- but Worley was victimized by one bad inning. The rest of the way, he was all but untouchable.

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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.

Richard focusing on contributing, not his opt-out clause

Veteran lefty stretching out and preparing to start, whether with Pirates or other club

Richard focusing on contributing, not his opt-out clause

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Left-hander Clayton Richard's name comes up just about every time Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is asked about his club's rotation depth. It happened again after Richard pitched Thursday against the Braves.

"Clayton is a guy you have to talk about," Hurdle said.

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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.

Command is key for Bucs' reclamation arms

Focus of Searage, Benedict on throwing strikes continues to pay dividends

Command is key for Bucs' reclamation arms

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For several years, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage and Jim Benedict, a special assistant on general manager Neal Huntington's staff, have earned reputations for restoring pitchers.

When referring to Searage and Benedict, media, industry insiders and fans have thrown around adjectives like "brilliant," "miraculous," "uncanny" and "remarkable." We may have been shortchanging them.

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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.

Cutch shaves off dreads for charity

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Cutch shaves off dreads for charity

Wednesday, March 24 was already shaping up to be one of the saddest days of the Social Media Era, thanks to the (Facebook) official announcement that Zayn Malik had left British pop group One Direction. (We know, we know ... we'll give you a minute.)

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McCutchen not worried about being ready for season

McCutchen not worried about being ready for season

BRADENTON, Fla. -- In giving some insight into why he chose to lay low for a dozen days with "lower-body soreness," Andrew McCutchen also gave some insight into his makeup.

"There was no sense pushing it," McCutchen said on Tuesday following his first game action since March 12. "I'll make it worse when it counts."

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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.

Brown excited about present and future of Pirates

Broadcaster believes the team still has 'something to prove'

Brown excited about present and future of Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- No citizen of Pirates Nation had to pinch himself harder over the team's changed fortunes than broadcaster Greg Brown, who five years ago called the play-by-play of 105 losses.

"A couple of days ago I was reading that Buster Olney of ESPN had [predicted] the Pirates and the Mariners in the World Series and the Pirates beating the Mariners," Brown said. "I actually paused and reread it to make sure. It's an odd feeling for me, but it's a great feeling."

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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.

McCutchen returns to lineup as Pirates fall to Orioles

All-Star center fielder played four innings after not playing since March 12

McCutchen returns to lineup as Pirates fall to Orioles

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Steve Pearce ignited a five-run fourth inning with his fifth homer of the spring on Tuesday and the Orioles went on to defeat Pittsburgh, 9-2, in Grapefruit League play.

Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen played four innings in his return to the lineup after a 12-day layoff with "lower-body soreness." McCutchen went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and smoothly fielded several balls hit his way.

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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 still getting acclimated to life in the Majors

McCutchen grants another wish, Stewart working his way back from injury

Kang still getting acclimated to life in the Majors

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates are giving Jung Ho Kang all that the club believes he needs -- plenty of at-bats. Kang hasn't yet reciprocated by giving the Bucs what they need.

Resurfacing on Tuesday after three days in the baseball workshop, Kang was the Bucs' lone position player to play all nine innings in a 9-2 defeat to the Orioles. However, an 0-for-4 extended his hitless streak to 15 at-bats and two more strikeouts gave him nine in that stretch.

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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.