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Pirates notebook: Cancer patient enjoys honeymoon at camp

| Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, 5:48 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hugs Luke Blanock of Canonsburg before practice Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talks with Luke Blanock of Canonsburg and his wife, Natalie, before practice Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — As part of their honeymoon, Luke Blanock and his wife, Natalie, spent Sunday at Pirates training camp.

“We wanted to come to Florida, and it was at the same time as pitchers and catchers reported,” Blanock said, smiling as he sat in the sun and watched outfielder Gregory Polanco take batting practice. “Perfect timing.”

Two years ago, Blanock, a senior at Canon-McMillan, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

After doctors said his diagnosis was terminal, Blanock proposed to his longtime girlfriend. The couple was married Friday in Canonsburg.

Pirates surgeon Dr. Patrick DeMeo invited Blanock — along with Blanock's wife, parents and in-laws — to Pirate City. The group toured the complex, watched workouts and met with manager Clint Hurdle.

“I need to talk to him about the honeymoon idea,” Hurdle joked. “He might want to revisit that one down the line. I'm going to give him a mulligan on this one and let him do it again so just he and his wife can get away.”

Hurdle met Blanock last year in Pittsburgh.

“What a journey he's been through,” Hurdle said. “He's been through a lot, and he's in a much better place now.”

Luebke out

Left-hander Cory Luebke did not work out because of what the team described as right-hamstring discomfort. A non-roster invitee, Luebke, 30, has missed most of the past four seasons because of a host of medial issues: two Tommy John surgeries, ulnar nerve surgery and a staph infection.

Around the bases

Hurdle said the first round of live batting practice will be Tuesday during the first full-squad workout. ... Polanco (who is sporting a Mohawk hairstyle) and first baseman Mike Morse were new arrivals in camp. The deadline for position players to report is Monday. ... The Pirates have plenty of first-base options, so the plan is for Sean Rodriguez to get more playing time elsewhere this season, Hurdle said. Morse and Jason Rogers also might be used in the outfield.

— Rob Biertempfel

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