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Pirates notebook: Locke looks to Burnett as mentor

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 7:06 p.m.
Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke delivers during the fourth inning against the Braves in Pittsburgh on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. The Pirates won, 2-1, with Locke getting his first major league win. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

One day last week at Citi Field in New York, batting practice was over for both teams. The Mets' grounds crew was preparing for the first pitch, and Jeff Locke and A.J. Burnett were still sitting in left field having a conversation. They'd been in the same spot for a long time, just talking.

“I had a tough game, tough start the night before,” Locke said. “There's not a whole lot I can go out there and do that (Burnett) hasn't been through. He's one of those guys that when he speaks you listen. … A.J.'s just there to help keep my head above water and tell me that no matter how bad things get sometimes, they can be worse and just keep competing with what you have, keep working hard. It means a lot coming from him, obviously.”

The veteran right-hander, who will pitch the last game of the season today, has taken the Pirates' less-experienced pitchers under his wing. Locke called himself “extraordinarily lucky” to have Burnett as a throwing partner and mentor the past month since joining the Pirates from Triple-A.

“He's just here to help,” said Locke, who got his first major league win Monday. “He wants to make the big leagues the best experience for me that he can, and I'm sure someone took him under their wing when he was our age. He keeps a pretty good eye on Kyle (McPherson) and I and wants to show us the ropes a little bit. He gives us a hard time when he has to, but it's all in good fun.”

• Manager Clint Hurdle said he had a candid conversation with catcher Rod Barajas about the possibility of becoming a No. 2 catcher, whether behind Michael McKenry or someone else. “I thought it was time to explore that with Rod, and he doesn't have an ego,” Hurdle said. “He wants to play, and I think he understands very well, honestly, where he is at this point in time in his career.” The Pirates have a $3.5 million club option on Barajas for 2013, with no buyout. Barajas has said he's willing to take less to stay.

• Alex Presley's offseason tasks include working on first-step quickness, bunting, and hitting the changeup, Hurdle said. Aside from those details, Hurdle said the question he posed to Presley in the outfielder's exit interview was the same one he had for a number of players. “Their commitment level,” Hurdle said. “How good do you want to be? How good do you want us to be? This is something I want you to think long and hard about over the winter — what can you put into play this winter and show up (to spring training) and we're going to go, ‘Wow, he didn't have that when he left.' ”

— Karen Price

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