Notes: Randa, Casey feel at home

Notes: Randa, Casey get used to new digs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' official reporting date for position players on Tuesday was a homecoming of sorts for a couple of new Bucs.

Third baseman Joe Randa, who signed a one-year free agent deal during the offseason, was a key member of Pittsburgh's surprising 1997 team that challenged for a Central Division title until the final week of that season despite a sub-$10 million payroll. Randa flashed back to some of the exciting moments from that season as he traveled to the ballpark on Tuesday.

"It was weird driving in. A lot of memories floated back kind of quick," said Randa. "It's exciting to be here again."

Much has changed in the nine years since Randa last stepped out of the McKechnie Field clubhouse, particularly the personnel. Only the team's announcers, clubhouse managers and a few front office staff remain.

"Those guys are the only constant thing, I guess," said Randa. "It even looks a little bit different than I remember. I don't remember it being as big."

First baseman Sean Casey, a Pittsburgh native who was acquired from the Reds in a December trade, traveled to Bradenton as a child to watch the Pirates play. Tuesday was his first chance to unpack his bags in the same locker room as his boyhood heroes.

"My dad and I used to come here when I was a little kid," said Casey. "It's weird to be a player here now."

Casey will also have to get used to the fact that he won't be playing down the road in Sarasota anymore.

"It was funny driving by Ed Smith Stadium [the Reds' spring home] on the way over here. I'm so used to going that way," said Casey. "But it's great to be over here."

Casey, Randa and the rest of the position players will join the pitchers and catchers on Wednesday for the first full-squad workouts.

"I'm excited to get it going," said Casey. "Any time you get to the season you are ready to go. I'm excited to get back on the field and get playing again."

Hernandez gets to work: Veteran reliever Roberto Hernandez also made his first appearance in camp on Tuesday, five days after pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report.

The Pirates granted Hernandez permission to arrive late because the Dominican native needed extra time to arrange for his ailing father, Sergio, to be flown to the United States for medical care.

"I appreciate that and I am deeply gratified," said Hernandez. "My dad is the last one from his side [of the family] and I'm trying to make sure that he is OK and he has the best doctors around him."

Hernandez wasted no time getting back into the swing of things. He was one of 13 pitchers to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday.

"I'm ready to go," said Hernandez.

Money talk: The Pirates have 17 players on their 40-man roster who remain unsigned: pitchers Sean Burnett, Zach Duke, Mike Gonzalez, John Grabow, Mike Johnston, Paul Maholm and Ian Snell; catchers Humberto Cota, Ryan Doumit and Ronny Paulino; infielders Jose Bautista, Jose Castillo, Brad Eldred, Javier Guzman and Freddy Sanchez, and outfielders Chris Duffy and Nate McLouth.

Because each of the 17 unsigned players has less than three years of Major League service time, they remain under the contractual control of the team. The Pirates can unilaterally renew the players' contracts at their discretion if they refuse to sign.

"It's a system that the players and the owners agreed upon," said Pirates GM Dave Littlefield. "Like a lot of things in this business, you work with the system that is out there."

In the past, some players have refused to sign the Pirates' offer sheets as a form of protest. Perez and outfielder Jason Bay were renewed under these circumstances a year ago.

While such a situation could arise again this spring before the team-imposed March 1 deadline for signing contracts, Littlefield is not concerned that the negotiation process will lead to any long-term disgruntled feelings toward the club.

"I don't think it has any real significant issue in the big picture," said Littlefield. "This is the system we have and I am very comfortable with how we have handled it, as are most players and agents because we have very few who decide not to accept where we are at."

Bucs bits: Manager Jim Tracy will address his team Wednesday prior to the noon start of the first full-squad workouts. ... Left-hander Paul Maholm returned to the mound on Tuesday after sitting out the previous day due to a slight hamstring pull. ... Perez, Snell and Burnett each requested an additional day off between bullpen sessions. They are all expected to pitch again Wednesday. ...  Bautista, who had been battling the flu, fielded ground balls and hit in the indoor cage for the second straight day Tuesday. He expects to be ready to take batting practice with the rest of the position players by the weekend.

Quotable: "We're far enough along in the process where you need the other guys now. I am very big on the fact of not wanting Spring Training to get stale. With the other guys coming in, you'll see the program change somewhat. ... We are to the point in time now where they are needed." -- Tracy, on having the position players join the spring workouts.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.