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Pirates notebook: Rodriguez's comfort level with teammates grows

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Wandy Rodriguez went 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 13 starts for the Pirates in 2012. Tuesday, March 26, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Wandy Rodriguez has been a blur in the clubhouse, always on the move from his locker to the field to the players' lunchroom, slapping backs and smiling.

“He looks like a kid at Little League practice again,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

It's a sharp contrast to Rodriguez's introverted demeanor a few months ago after he arrived via a trade with Houston. Rodriguez had spent the previous 13 years in the Astros' system, and he was uneasy about joining a new team.

“Wandy is more relaxed than he was last year when he got here,” right-hander A.J. Burnett said.

Burnett also was a newcomer last season, but he made a smoother transition than Rodriguez. Burnett has always been a clubhouse scamp, firing Nerf guns and cracking jokes.

Rodriguez and Burnett are emerging as leaders in different ways.

“There was a language barrier (for Wandy), and trying to perform as a midseason acquisition,” pitcher Jeff Karstens said. “I think a year of him being comfortable now is good. Those two guys bring two different kinds of leadership — one guy who's more quiet and another who's vocal. A.J. If you're not doing something you should be doing, A.J. is going to let you know. That's something we've lacked in the past.”

TV games

Root Sports will televise 151 games. It also will partner with MLB Network for five early-season games — April 13, 17, 19, 20 and 22 — that will be available in the Pittsburgh area.

The Pirates are slated to appear in six Fox national broadcasts: May 4, June 1, June 29, July 13, July 20 and Aug. 17. Of those games, all but the July 20 game at Cincinnati will be played at PNC Park.

Pie opens eyes

Outfielder Felix Pie would seem to be a long shot to beat out Jose Tabata and Alex Presley to win a bench job. But don't count him out for getting playing time in the majors at some point this summer.

Pie has nine hits in his past 20 at-bats. His fifth-inning single Tuesday boosted his Grapefruit League batting average to .318. A former top prospect with the Chicago Cubs, Pie spent 2009-11 with the Baltimore Orioles and also has played in Cleveland's and Atlanta's farm systems.

“Felix has had a very good camp,” Hurdle said. “This is a guy who's traveled a lot. He's been challenged. He played winter ball and came in sharp; he was game-ready. Everything we've asked him to do, he's done.”

Around the horn

Noah Bendix-Balgley, violinist and concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, will perform the national anthem on Opening Day at PNC Park. ... Andrew McCutchen is included in MLB's latest marketing campaign, “I Play.” Commercial spots began airing last weekend on ESPN and MLB Network.

Minor matters

Six minor leaguers were released Tuesday: right-handers Zach Foster, Logan Pevny, Nate Kilcrease and Jordan Cooper; and left-handers Josh Poytress and Michael Jefferson. Foster is a Pitt-Bradford product who was drafted in 2008.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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