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Pirates notebook: McCutchen widens scope of recognition with ESPN spot

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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.

Sunday, March 30, 2014, 6:18 p.m.
 

PHILADELPHIA — If Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen did not become a household name after winning NL MVP honors last season, perhaps he will ensure such status by appearing on an ESPN commercial for the cable network's flagship program “SportsCenter.”

The Tribune-Review obtained an advance copy of the commercial that features McCutchen and a number of Pirate-themed mascots, including the East Carolina, St. John's and Pirate Parrot mascots. The mascots, at McCutchen's orders, storm a meeting room at ESPN's Bristol, Conn., headquarters.

McCutchen was at the ESPN campus to accommodate several interview requests this offseason when the commercial was filmed.

“They had an idea and I went and did it,” McCutchen said. “I had nothing to do with (the script). That's not my forte. I let them handle all that. I just showed up.”

Former Pirates MVPs Barry Bonds and Dick Groat will present McCutchen with the 2013 NL MVP award Monday at PNC Park.

Attrition games

How important is pitching depth? Consider the Pirates entered last September with 80 percent of their Opening Day rotation no longer in the rotation.

Every club knows entering a season it will almost certainly require more than five starting pitchers to get through a 162-game schedule. This spring, Pirates Opening Day starter Francisco Liriano has dealt with groin discomfort, Jeff Locke suffered a muscle strain, and top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon has elbow discomfort. Wandy Rodriguez has not made a major league start since he left a game with pain in his left elbow last June.

Part of the reason the Pirates elected to keep pitchers like Jeanmar Gomez and Stolmy Pimentel over Vin Mazzaro when the club made its final roster cuts on Saturday was because Gomez and Pimentel have the versatility to be used in the rotation or bullpen.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he likes his club's pitching depth entering the season.

“We have different options now,” Hurdle said. “We have Jeanmar (Gomez). We have Stolmy (Pimentel). We've also got (Brandon) Cumpton and we've also got (Jeff) Locke coming. We have plenty of options.”

The Pirates benefitted from Liriano, Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole all joining the rotation after the beginning of May last season.

Regression coming?:

Both Baseball Prospectus and ESPN are predicting significant regression for the Pirates in 2014. Baseball Prospectus has the Pirates finishing 79-83, and gives the Pirates a 21.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. ESPN has the Pirates finishing 80-82. The projections mark a double-digit decline from the Pirates' 94-win regular season in 2013.

He said it

“We look at ourselves as still chasing,” Hurdle said Saturday in Philadelphia. “We don't care about what other people are thinking or how they are looking at us. We are still looking to chase. Only one team gets a trophy. It wasn't us. There's only two league champions. It wasn't us.”

Pepper games

Pedro Alvarez is expected to be in the Opening Day lineup despite being held out in the final stretch of exhibition games … Starling Marte struck out 10 times and did not walk in 55 spring training plate appearances.

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