Pirates notebook: McCutchen arrives, vowing to 'get better'
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, 5:06 p.m.
BRADENTON, Fla. — Andrew McCutchen arrived Monday at Pirates spring training camp, armed with a list of personal goals as well as boxes of shoes, gloves and other gear.
“He usually comes with a couple focus points,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We'll get his thoughts on the work he's done this winter and where his focus is this spring, and we'll see if it matches up. Every year I've been here, it pretty much has. His game continues to get better and more consistent. He sets the bar pretty high for himself.”
It will be difficult for McCutchen to top what he did last season, when he batted .317 with a .911 on-base plus slugging percentage and was named the NL Most Valuable Player.
“I'm just trying to continue the things I've been doing, every facet of the game,” McCutchen said. “I'm going to focus even more on baserunning, because I know I can get better at it. I'll get on base, and everyone will know I'm going to second, but I've still got to do it. You've got to work on it. Being consistent at the plate, being consistent with my throws and defense, all of that.”
McCutchen had a busy offseason, attending events on the East and West coasts and in Hawaii. He was showered in the buzz from the MVP award until December, when he got engaged on “The Ellen Show” in front of a national audience.
“I knew that after I proposed, people would totally forget about the MVP award,” McCutchen said with a smile. “That's as it should be.”
Grilli insists: ‘I'm fine'
Closer Jason Grilli has not thrown off a mound since Thursday, the first day of camp. Monday, he watched from behind the fence while 15 pitchers — including Wandy Rodriguez, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Vin Mazzaro — threw bullpen sessions.
Grilli, 37, missed two months last season due to a strained right flexor tendon. He said he's healthy and is merely following a normal, albeit less intense, workout routine.
“I'm fine. I'm just trying to pace myself,” Grilli said. “I've seen guys who've had long careers, and it's about staying prepared and staying healthy. I wouldn't say I'm quite game-ready, but condition-wise I'm fine. It's just about getting some reps, narrowing the focus, getting command of the pitches and the strike zone. There's plenty of time to do that.”
Wandy ramps it up
The pitchers were told to scale back their bullpens — a “touch and feel” session designed to get them to sharpen their focus in workouts.
However, Rodriguez threw 38 pitches, twice as many as his peers. The left-hander fired several curveballs and ended his workout with a sizzling fastball that drew applause from a large crowd of fans.
“It was a good day,” Hurdle said. “Wandy was able to throw all his pitches and get right through it.”
Rodriguez, who missed half of last season due to chronic forearm discomfort, also has extra days off built into his pitching routine.
Super Bowl swagger
Right fielder Travis Snider walked into the clubhouse early Monday morning wearing a Seattle Seahawks cloak and matching Mexican-style wrestling mask. Snider, who makes his offseason home in suburban Seattle, made sure everyone remembered who won Super Bowl XLVIII earlier this month.
“I've got to remind these Niners fans who the champs are,” Snider said, nodding toward California native Justin Wilson.
Snider has recovered from surgery in October to remove bone spurs from his left foot. He has been running and hitting at full speed for a few weeks, but will take a cautious approach at the start of camp.
“If we do eight reps of something, I'll do four,” Snider said. “I'm progressing, but there's no sense pushing it at this point.”
Around the horn
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the Pirates gave pitcher Gerrit Cole a $512,000 contract for 2014. As a player with less than three years' service time, Cole must accept whatever salary the team assigns him. ... The Pirates will receive the Chuck Cooper Foundation's Career Achievement in Leadership, Diversity and Community Service Award to recognize the team's work in the minority community. The award will be presented Tuesday at the Lexus Club at PNC Park.
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