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Pirates notebook: SI cover brightens clubhouse

| Friday, July 19, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

CINCINNATI — Photos of some of the greatest players in franchise history adorn the wall outside the Pirates clubhouse at their spring training complex in Bradenton, Fla. Honus Wagner. Pie Traynor. Max Carey. Lloyd and Paul Waner.

“All the pictures are black and white,” manager Clint Hurdle mused Friday. “There are a few color pictures in the cafeteria. I mentioned to the boys in spring training that one of our goals this year is to put some color on the walls.”

Next year, there will be at least one addition — this week's cover of Sports Illustrated, which features closer Jason Grilli.

“This SI cover is color on the walls,” said Hurdle, smiling. “It's another mile marker on the journey we're on.”

Grilli is the first Pirates player to appear on SI's cover since Barry Bonds in May 1992.

“The fruits of my labor, I guess,” Grilli said. “I'm there in large part because of everybody in this (clubhouse). That's really what it boils down to. It's taken everybody to get to this point.”

Hurdle said he didn't realize Grilli was on the cover until Thursday, when he saw the magazine at a newsstand at the airport.

“I was kind of wigged out,” Hurdle admitted. “It was almost along the lines of when I saw my face on the SI cover. It was like, ‘Wow! That's cool.' “

Hurdle graced the front of Sports Illustrated's March 20, 1978, issue. Next to the image of a laughing, younger and slimmer Hurdle — then a rookie outfielder with the Kansas City Royals — was the headline, “This year's phenom.”

Things didn't quite work out that way, though. Hurdle batted .259 over parts of 10 seasons in the majors. Only twice did he play in 130 or more games in a season.

Another victim of the so-called SI cover jinx? Hurdle doesn't buy it.

“There's no jinx,” Hurdle said. “I don't believe in it. There are plenty of people who've been on the cover and who have gone on to do wonderful things.”

Walker on mend

Second baseman Neil Walker (sore right side) traveled Thursday to Cincinnati with the Pirates, then left Friday to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis. The Indians are in Lawrenceville, Ga., for a four-game set against Gwinnett (Braves).

Walker was slated to play five innings Friday, seven Saturday and nine Sunday. He will be re-evaluated Monday in Washington and come off the disabled list in time for that night's game against the Nationals.

Quality family time

One of Mark Melancon's most treasured memories from All-Star week has nothing to do with the game.

“It's having my family there,” he said. “Three sets of aunts and uncles, my parents, my sister and her husband, my wife. We went to dinner one night, then we went to breakfast the next day. Everybody was together and that was a cool moment.”

Around the horn

The Red Sox signed reliever Jose Contreras, whom the Pirates released Thursday. Contreras, who signed with the Pirates during spring training while on the mend from elbow surgery, was pitching for Indy. ... As part of its “Wednesday Night Baseball” package, ESPN will broadcast the July 31 game against the Cardinals. The scheduled commentators are Jon Sciambi, Mark Mulder and Doug Glanville. The game will be blacked out in the Pittsburgh area but available on Root Sports.

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

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