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Pirates notebook: Black and gold a natural fit for newest Pirate

Pirates/MLB Videos

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 4:00 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Regardless of whether he fits with the Pirates, California native Brent Morel won't ever feel like an outsider in Pittsburgh.

“I grew up a Steelers fan and my roommates in the minor leagues were from Pittsburgh,” Morel said Tuesday. “I like the way (the Pirates) play the game, and I hope to be a part of that.”

Morel, a third baseman, checked into spring training camp Tuesday, one day after the Pirates claimed him off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.

“It's nice to know somebody wants you and feels you can help their 25-man team,” Morel said. “I'll get a chance to compete for a job. I know they need some right-handed hitters. I can play third base, second and first.”

A third-round pick in 2008, Morel spent the past six years in the Chicago White Sox organization. He was claimed off waivers by Toronto in late December but was cut loose again before he really settled in.

As he moved through Chicago's farm system, Morel roomed with first baseman/outfielder Jim Gallagher of Peters Township and pitcher Brian Omogrosso, a Blackhawk graduate. They spent a lot of their down time talking about the Steelers.

Although he grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., Morel roots for the Steelers. Former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter is a long-time friend of Morel's family.

“When Joey was drafted by the Steelers, our family started following (the team),” Morel said. “He just got a coaching job with them, which is exciting. It's been rough the last two years, missing the playoffs. But they've got a good group and, hopefully, (Porter) can help out, too.”

Moving the chains

There are several reasons Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco have been grouped together for batting practice and field work. And it's more than the fact all three are outfielders.

“You've got a guy who knows the language, and one (Marte) who knows more English (than Polanco),” manager Clint Hurdle said. “You've got Polanco following the trail that Marte followed, which basically McCutchen established first. Three in-house guys who continually move the chains and set the bar high. It keeps the flow and intensity at a very good pace.”

Take the day off

There is an online petition asking the federal government to designate Opening Day as a national holiday. However, it's hard to say exactly what day that is anymore.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will play a regular-season game March 22 in Australia. The other 28 clubs will open their seasons March 31. Hurdle doesn't care either way.

“I love Opening Day,” Hurdle said. “My kids are probably going to have a temperature that day. They're going to have Buccos fever and maybe miss school and show up at the park.”

Around the horn

Neil Walker will sponsor and appear at a youth baseball camp June 30 at Seneca Valley High School. The camp is open to boys and girls in grades one through eight. Cost is $99. For more information, visit ... The New York Yankees, who play the Pirates on Wednesday, scrimmaged Tuesday against Florida State. ... Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and ex-Pirates reliever Chris Leroux will make the trip with the Yankees to Bradenton.

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




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