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McLouth off to strong, satisfying spring with Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. — Nate McLouth evidently wants nothing to do with the Mendoza Line-level hitter he was the past three seasons in Atlanta.

"That guy's gone," he said. "You won't see him again."

That remains to be seen in real games, of course, but McLouth's return to the Pirates is at least off to a strong spring: His two-run home run in the seventh inning Wednesday beat the Boston Red Sox, 6-5, at McKechnie Field, and it raised his average to .400 — 8 for 20 — with two doubles and three RBI.

"I really was hoping for a good start. That was going to be very important," McLouth said.

The home run, in his first at-bat as a late replacement, came off a 2-0 fastball and wound up in the water beyond right field.

McLouth and hitting coach Gregg Ritchie had worked in recent days on getting more loft into balls he already was pulling solidly.

"Nice to see that rewarded," McLouth said.

> > Bench candidates Josh Harrison and Matt Hague each went 2 for 3. Harrison is batting .579, and Hague's home run was his third.

> > Reliever Evan Meek, working toward full velocity after shoulder trouble last year, was stretched to two innings and allowed a monster home run but otherwise showed his best zip — 94 mph — and command of the spring.

"I'm getting to the point where I can just let go," Meek said.

> > The Pirates reassigned four players — pitchers Daniel Cabrera and Tim Wood, first baseman Jeff Clement and outfielder Brandon Boggs — to minor-league camp. The camp roster is at 39.

> > A.J. Burnett's third side session — 52 pitches off a McKechnie Field mound — went as well as the first two, and he remains on pace for a seamless recovery from his broken orbital bone. He chose the side session over a live batting practice because he was uncertain of his arm strength, but he'll do the live BP Saturday.

"The eye's fine. Strength feels good. It's just timing and mechanics, things like that," Burnett said. "Today was definitely a big step."

> > Pedro Alvarez, getting extra at-bats in a minor-league game at Pirate City, went 2 for 5 with a home run, single and two strikeouts.

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