Pirates notebook: Renovation adds to McKechnie Field capacity

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 3:18 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — With the Pirates set to begin their 45th year at McKechnie Field, the 90-year-old ballpark underwent a $10 million renovation. The new-look field was unveiled Wednesday.

By installing outfield seats for the first time, capacity was boosted from 6,500 to 8,500. It's the fourth-largest ballpark in the Grapefruit League.

The centerpiece of the renovation is a 19,000-square-foot boardwalk spanning the outfield. A new agility drills area, a half-field and indoor batting cages were built behind the outfield.

“I think we've found the perfect blend of old ballpark charm and new amenities,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said.

The team paid $3 million toward the stadium upgrade; the public contribution came via a tourist development tax. As part of the deal with the city and Manatee County, the Pirates will spend up to $400,000 annually to promote Bradenton via advertising in Pittsburgh.

In February 2008, the Pirates signed a 30-year lease to keep their spring training home in Bradenton.

• After Wednesday's workout, manager Clint Hurdle named right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett the Opening Day starter. The Pirates open the season April 1 against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Hurdle also said left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will start the second game. It will be the first time in Burnett's 15-year career that he starts the first game of the year. Burnett likely would have gotten the honor in 2012, but he missed the first three weeks recovering from a fractured orbital bone. Last season, Burnett went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA and led the Pirates in wins, strikeouts (180) and innings (202 13).

• Top prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are scheduled to pitch two innings apiece in Friday's intrasquad game. The game will last 5 13 innings. Also scheduled to pitch are Kris Johnson (2 innings), Kyle Waldrop (2), Hunter Strickland (2), Eric Cordier (2) and Vic Black (2).

• Right-handed pitcher Jeff Karstens (biceps tightness) said he felt good after soft tossing Tuesday. He threw again on flat ground Wednesday.

— Rob Biertempfel

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