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Pirates lament loss of stars Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole

Kevin Gorman
| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 7:21 p.m.
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell makes his way to the batting cages for a workout Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell makes his way to the batting cages for a workout Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell works out Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell works out Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Francisco Cervelli was talking about baseball players, not card games, when he talked about two reasons the Pirates are starting spring training short-handed.

They lost a king and an ace.

When Cervelli reported to Pirate City on Tuesday, it was the first time he walked into a Pirates clubhouse without five-time All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen and top-of-the-rotation starter Gerrit Cole.

Cole was traded to the Houston Astros and McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants in a 48-hour span last month, moves that cost the Pirates the ace and face of their franchise and signaled a new start.

"It's tough," Cervelli said. "You take Andrew, who for me was the king of Pittsburgh, you know? Andrew was everything for the Pirates. Cole was a No. 1 guy. Best arm I've ever seen in my life.

"It was sad, but we've got to move forward. We've got people who can do amazing jobs. The young guys are going to be superstars soon, and we've got players from other teams. Andrew is going to be fine with the Giants, and Gerrit is going to be fine with the Astros. Best of luck to those guys. They're still family to us, but we've got to move forward."

Josh Bell is hoping they do so without losing anyone else.

When Josh Harrison publicly requested a trade after McCutchen was dealt, Bell privately hoped Harrison, a two-time All-Star, would reconsider "because he's going to be a huge part of this lineup and our defense."

"You don't want to lose three All-Stars in an offseason," Bell said, "so I'm definitely hoping he comes back."

Bell lamented the loss of McCutchen, especially because Bell batted behind him in 67 of the final 85 games.

"I loved hitting behind Cutch, for sure," Bell said. "That's one of those things where you get into the routine of everything, and it didn't really matter if you're (batting) four or five. I just watch Cutch, and generally he's on first."

Bell believes it's too early for him to take the torch as the next face of the franchise.

"I've got huge shoes to fill, especially coming up after that (20-year) drought, so hopefully there's not another 20 without Cutch," Bell said. "We'll definitely see what happens. I'm excited for opportunities to come this year, but I don't think I'm going to focus on trying to fill that man's shoes."

Cervelli warned that Bell shouldn't be expected to carry the Pirates any more than what he produced in his first full season in the majors last year, when he batted .255 with 26 home runs and 90 RBIs.

"This guy is growing up as a player," Cervelli said. "He's just got to go have fun. He's a good hitter. His work ethic is special, so I'm not worried about him. The guy's going to be good.

"Right now, we've got to be focused as a group. He had a big role last year. I don't think this one is be any bigger. It's going to be the same. He's got to compete and be better every day."

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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