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Former Bucs OF McLouth revived in Atlanta

ORLANDO, Fla. — If there ever is a reunion of players the Pirates have traded away over the past few years, Nate McLouth won't volunteer to mail the invitations.

"No, because you don't want to pay for all that postage," McLouth said, grinning. "A lot of letters would have to be sent out."

The deal last June that sent McLouth to the Atlanta Braves kicked off the Pirates' season-long roster upheaval. The move was even more stunning because the Pirates had signed McLouth to a contract extension four months earlier.

"You might as well get rid of everybody, if you're going to start over," McLouth said. "It was tough at the time. But after watching what went on last summer, I'm glad I was the first (player traded) and didn't have to deal with it all summer."

Thursday, McLouth drew a leadoff walk and scored the first run in Atlanta's 4-2 victory against the Pirates. He played four innings, going hitless in his next two at-bats, then quickly showered and left Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.

The Braves' modern spring training field is nestled inside the resort which bills itself as the place "where dreams come true." That's certainly the case for McLouth, who figures to be an important cog in Atlanta's playoff chase this season.

"Things here are a lot more positive and relaxed," McLouth said. "People aren't so ... uptight. Losing for so long, there's so many negative things said about the Pirates. It's tough to read them; you get defensive. The thing is, it's true and it's tough to deal with that negativity every day. It was kind of nice to get here to an organization that's won for a long time."

Last season, McLouth hit .256 with 20 homers and 70 RBI. He expects to put up better stats this year after getting contact lenses in the offseason.

"It's kind of like going from watching standard definition television to watching HD," he said. "I notice a big difference, both seeing pitches and in the outfield."

McLouth said his vision could have been corrected years ago, but he never bothered to visit an optometrist. The Pirates checked his vision each year during spring training, but never detected any problems.

"A blind man could pass that test they do," McLouth said, noting it basically consisted of reading an eye chart.

McLouth understands the business side of baseball. And he realizes the Pirates peeled off veterans in exchange for prospects to build depth in the system.

However, McLouth warned that it takes more than just a collection of talented players to build a winning club.

"You can never underestimate how much chemistry and being with people for an extended period of time really matters," McLouth said. "Even though baseball is kind of an individual sport inside of a team sport, that kind of stuff still matters — seeing familiar faces every day, guys you've seen for the last year or couple of years.

"It's tough, knowing guys are going to be shipped out. I guess they said they're done with that, but it's nice to have that familiarity — and that's something they just don't have right now."

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