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Pirates notebook: Team faces quick turnaround as Cubs await

| Thursday, July 6, 2017, 8:51 p.m.
The Pirates' Josh Bell hits a two-run home run off Phillies starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson during the fourth inning Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Philadelphia.
A Philadelphia Phillies fan sits at Citizens Bank Park as rain delays the start of the Phillies' game against the Pirates, Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Philadelphia.
Getty Images
The Pirates' Gregory Polanco steals second base past the Phillies' Andres Blanco in the second inning July 6, 2017 in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA — Less than 19½ hours after the first pitch of one game, the Pirates were scheduled to begin another. With about three hours in a plane or bus and a night of sleep in between.

Not ideal.

“It's gonna be tough, obviously,” shortstop Jordy Mercer said Thursday heading into Friday afternoon's game in Chicago against the Cubs. “But it's just part of it and part of the way the schedule sets up.

“Play nine and shower and get out of here and play again (Friday) real quick.”

Though rare, it's not unheard of for such an arrangement, especially for teams in a division with the Cubs and their bevy of afternoon games at Wrigley Field. Last season, the Pirates pulled the night-day, back-to-back, both-on-the-road trick (in New York and Chicago).

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called it “not a very big deal.”

“(Adjusting) is just kind of what we do,” he said. “Sometimes it can be a little more challenging.”

The matter was compounded by a rain delay that pushed back the start time of Thursday's game 47 minutes to 6:52 p.m.

Teams often play “getaway day” games (typically Sundays or Thursdays) for the afternoon, but the Phillies had a fireworks promotion Thursday night.

Sometimes, though, the networks that pay the big money to fund the sport have their say, too. On Labor Day weekend 2015, for example, the Pirates were bumped to “Sunday Night Baseball” for a big NL Central game against the Cardinals in St. Louis. The holiday start time the next day in Cincinnati was 1:10 p.m. — meaning three fewer hours of turnaround time than this week (albeit with a shorter flight).

“A lot of it is TV,” Mercer said. “We do not have much say in that. It's just out of our hands.”

Actually, players have some say, and they used that power in the most recent negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement. The ninth amendment under Article V, Section C of the CBA that will go into effect in regards to scheduling in 2018 reads: “Getaway games shall not be scheduled or rescheduled to start later than 5 p.m. if either Club is required to travel for a day game, scheduled the next day, between cities in which the in-flight time is more than 11⁄2 hours.”

However, the rule continues, and there is a very notable exception, particularly in how it affects NL Central teams who play at the Cubs three series per season:

“In each season, the … schedule may contain six exceptions to the rule in the immediately preceding sentence provided that the traveling Club is traveling to Chicago to play the Cubs and the in-flight time does not exceed 21⁄2 hours.”

Commercial flights traveling from Philadelphia to Chicago typically take about 2 hours, 10 minutes. Therefore, the scenario the Pirates faced Thursday will be permitted to continue under the new CBA.

“Unfortunately,” said the Pirates union representative, Gerrit Cole. “(But) we are going to make a slight move in that direction (of banning such arrangements completely).”

No Frazier again

Adam Frazier was not in the lineup for either of the final two games against the Phillies. Hurdle has a tendency to give players who might be struggling off days in succession.

Backups Jose Osuna started in left field and Max Moroff at shortstop, both positions Frazier can play.

“We like the matchups (of Osuna and Moroff against Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson),” Hurdle said before Thursday's game. “And it does give (Frazier) a little bit more rest. He might not even want it.

“I have every intention of getting him some action in Chicago. … He had a good at-bat coming off the bench (Wednesday); looking to build off that. … We will get him a game or two in Chicago.”

Before Wednesday, Fraizer had started 26 of the previous 31 games. Hitless in his past 10 at-bats, Frazier has hit just .191 since his season average peaked above .370 following a home run May 25 in Atlanta.

“I kind of got out of my approach and was starting chasing some balls,” Frazier said, “and I've been pitched a little differently, too. I've kind of starting chasing stuff instead of making pitchers come to me, and I'm getting out of whack with my swing. You have to make the adjustment back and keep pushing forward.”

Retire ‘21'

The Strip District-based Roberto Clemente Museum announced in an effort to honor its namesake it has launched a national grassroots petition campaign to retire No. 21 across MLB.

The Clemente Museum hired Pittsburgh-based MARC USA to help spread the word in its effort. A change.org online petition was established ( change.org/p/major-league-baseball-retire-roberto-clemente-s-number-21-from-major-league-baseball ).

Volunteers will be stationed outside the All-Star Game on July 11 in Miami to gather signatures, and other MLB ballparks will be targeted for visits, too. The organization said it is shooting for 100,000 signatures by Aug. 18 (which would have been Clemente's 83rd birthday). Its aim is to get the audience and ear of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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