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Pirates notebook: Analyst predicts big things from Cole

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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.

Thursday, March 27, 2014, 5:57 p.m.
 

BRADENTON, Fla. — Will there be a sophomore slump this year for Pirates righty Gerrit Cole? MLB Network analyst Al Leiter doesn't believe so.

“I don't think that's even relevant,” said Leiter, who pitched 19 seasons in the majors. “He's got great stuff, presence, poise, size — all of the stuff you look for.”

As a rookie last year, Cole went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA. He'll start the season in the No. 4 spot in the rotation, but Leiter expects him to quickly develop into the ace of the staff.

“Cole's a (first-round) pick, cruised through the minor leagues. There's pressure with that,” Leiter said. “He gets to the big leagues, everything is faster and cooler, and he has success. Do you think he'll say, ‘Oh, no! Holy (moley), now they're counting on me.' That's (hogwash). All he's got to do is be prepared and execute quality pitches consistently. I think Gerrit's going to have a hell of a year.”

Roster moves

Right-hander Brandon Cumpton was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The move is another indication lefty Francisco Liriano (groin) will avoid the disabled list and will be the Opening Day starter.

Pitcher Kyle McPherson and catcher Nevin Ashley were reassigned to minor league camp. The Pirates have 28 players left in camp and must get down to 25 by 3 p.m. Sunday. Catcher Chris Stewart (knee surgery) will begin the season on the DL.

The Pirates acquired outfielder Keon Broxton from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later and assigned him to Double-A Altoona. Broxton, 23, was a third-round pick in 2009.

Last year, he batted .231 with a .655 on-base plus slugging percentage at Double-A Mobile.

Broxton has hit 50 home runs in 566 minor league games. He can play all three outfield spots but mostly has been used in center.

Alvarez gets break

Third baseman Pedro Alvarez did not play in the final two Grapefruit League games. “He was getting a break,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He'll be ready to go (Monday).” Alvarez appeared in 16 games and batted .277 with two homers, six RBIs and an .838 OPS.

Filling the seats

The Pirates set franchise records for average attendance (7,587) and single-game attendance (8,566 on March 22 vs. Philadelphia) at McKechnie Field. Total home attendance this spring was 91,046. The Pirates have played at McKechnie Field since 1969.

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

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