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Pirates notebook: Pirates establish five-man leadership council

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Russell Martin is brushed back by an inside pitch during the ninth inning against the Cubs Thursday, April 4, 2013, at PNC Park.

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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.

Sunday, April 7, 2013, 5:39 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — The Pirates' player leadership council is set: Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin, Clint Barmes, A.J. Burnett and Jason Grilli.

The members — one each to represent the starting pitchers, relievers, infielders, outfielders and catchers — were voted upon by the team. In essence, they are the team captains and will meet intermittently to act as a conduit between all the players and manager Clint Hurdle.

“It can't hurt,” Grilli said. “Communication is always good, whatever business you're in. Sometimes, it's easier for players to talk about their needs or concerns to other players. That's why we're here, and then we can take it to (Hurdle).”

Martin, who's in his eighth year in the majors, hasn't seen a setup like this before.

“I like it,” Martin said. “It's a good way to simplify things and keep the lines of communication open.”

The players also voted for five “co-captains” at each position. Well, almost every position.

“With the catchers, it's just me and Mac (Michael McKenry),” Martin said with a smile. “So, it was pretty obvious.”

Old friends

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully stopped by the Pirates' clubhouse to chat with Hurdle for about 10 minutes. Scully visits every time Hurdle is in town.

“It blows me away,” Hurdle said.

The two have known each other since 1985, when Hurdle was playing for the New York Mets. He was scratched from a game on a Friday due to the birth of his first daughter, Ashley. The next day, Hurdle was in the lineup against the Atlanta Braves, and Scully was part of the national broadcast crew.

“I hit a home run off Gene Garber and (Scully's) comment was, ‘That will buy some talcum powder for Ashley Hurdle,'” Hurdle said. “I had no clue until somebody showed me the tape, so I called the man to thank him. From that day on, whether I've been a player, coach or a manager, he comes down and we chat.”

The conversation never gets old, at least not for Hurdle.

“Vin is one of the best storytellers I've ever listened to in my life,” Hurdle said. “There's not a game I've ever watched or listened to that he doesn't present me with something that I did not have an awareness of before. It's incredible, his memory and his recall. The only other guy who fits into that category is (Tigers broadcaster) Ernie Harwell. The voices are iconic and the things they've done for the game will stick out forever.”

Empty the bench

The Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers both gave backups a chance to play Sunday. Both backup catchers — McKenry and the Dodgers' Tim Federowicz — were in the lineup. Also, the Pirates gave John McDonald a start at shortstop.

Hurdle said deciding when to play reserves can be more of a gut feeling than a particular strategy.

“You try to pay attention and keep your finger on the pulse of what's going on,” Hurdle said. “You kind of look at it, if there's a matchup that jumps out at you.”

Minor matters

The Pirates released minor league third baseman Jeremy Farrell, who spent the past two seasons with Double-A Altoona. He is the son of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell. ... Among a handful of minor leaguers who began the season on the seven-day disabled list are RHP Aaron Pribanic, LHP Rinku Singh, OF Evan Chambers and OF Miles Durham.

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

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