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Pirates notebook: Wilson's emergence gives Hurdle another left-handed option

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'American Coyotes' Series

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.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 7:51 p.m.

After being brought up to the majors, Pirates reliever Justin Wilson hasn't had to wait long to get into a game.

The left-hander was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Aug. 20, 2012, and made his big league debut that night. This year, Wilson broke camp with the Pirates and pitched on Opening Day against the Chicago Cubs.

“It's nice to get out there and control the nerves a little bit by getting the first one out of the way,” he said.

Wilson retired all four Cubs he faced, including strikeouts of Brent Lillibridge and Jeff Samardzija. In spring training, Wilson threw 15 23 innings, the most by any Pirates reliever, and fanned 16 batters.

“He throws the heck out of the ball — one of those guys who just grips it and rips it,” reliever Jared Hughes said. “It's fun to watch when he's throwing the ball by guys.”

Tony Watson, the other lefty in the bullpen, was sidetracked in camp by a cranky lat muscle and mechanical issues. Watson made 68 outings last season, the most on the team. Wilson gives manager Clint Hurdle the luxury of not having to use Watson as often this summer.

• The Pirates will have the fifth-largest pool of bonus money — $8,884,600 — for the 2013 draft, according to Baseball America. The pool covers bonuses for a team's first 10 rounds as well as any payouts over $100,000 for players selected in rounds 11 to 40. If a player from the first 10 rounds does not sign, his assigned bonus value is deducted from the pool total. Any team that exceeds its pool by up to 5 percent must pay a 75 percent tax on the overage. If a team goes over its limit by 5 percent to 10 percent, it pays the tax and forfeits a first-round pick. Any team going over its cap by 10 percent to 15 percent pays a 100 percent tax and gives up first- and second-round picks. Exceeding the pool by 15 percent or more results in a 100 percent tax and the loss of two first-rounders. The Pirates will have 11 picks in the first 10 rounds of 2013 draft. That includes a compensation pick for failing to sign last year's first-rounder, Mark Appel.

• One of Hurdle's friends sent him a life-sized stuffed rabbit, which he said will bring the Pirates good luck. By way of explanation, Hurdle offered a vague storyline about Gaelic folklore and lucky rabbits' feet. The stuffed rabbit, which rests near a small refrigerator in the back of Hurdle's office, is carrying a long pipe in one hand and a rifle in the other. “Quite creative, wouldn't you say?” Hurdle mused with a grin. “I actually had an Elvis head lamp in my office for a while, so there's nothing I won't try.”

• LHP Francisco Liriano (broken arm) threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and will throw another Friday. RHP Charlie Morton (elbow) threw a 35-pitch simulated game Wednesday. RHP Jose Contreras (elbow) will throw Friday in an extended spring training game. “All our guys are making progress,” Hurdle said. ... RHP Jeff Karstens (shoulder) tentatively is slated to throw on flat ground later this week. ... RHP Hunter Strickland was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants and INF Clint Robinson was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays. Both were designated for assignment Sunday to clear 40-man roster spots for LHP Jonathan Sanchez and INF Brandon Inge.

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