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Pirates' McCutchen signs deal, leads team past Yankees

| Wednesday, March 7, 2012

BRADENTON, Fla. -— Andrew McCutchen was eager to get the announcement about his $51.5 million contract extension out of the way quickly Tuesday morning.

"I was looking forward to it being over so I could exhale," McCutchen said. "I signed and shook hands with the owner (Bob Nutting) and (general manager Neal) Huntington, then I was able to breathe and say, 'All right, let's go play the Yankees.' "

It was worth the wait. McCutchen singled, doubled and drove in two runs in a 7-2 rout.

In the first inning, McCutchen bounced a run-scoring single to left field off left-hander CC Sabathia. In the third, McCutchen doubled over the head of center fielder Dewayne Wise to score Clint Barmes from first base.

Pirates starter Kevin Correia pitched two scoreless innings and issued two walks.

Yamaico Navarro, who's trying to make the team as a backup infielder, hit a two-run double in the eighth. Navarro has five hits in his past six at-bats. Starling Marte went 2 for 2 and has hits in his last five at-bats.

> > After seeming lethargic on the bases and sloppy on defense in their first two games, the Pirates have played much sharper in the past two contests. The turnaround was sparked by a closed-door meeting — manager Clint Hurdle smiled and called it "a little conversation" — on Monday.

"We're at McKechnie (Field) now," Hurdle said. "This is the second stage of spring training. Games are on. Competition. Play. Represent. All those things we've talked about. I think they hit the reset button. They're playing cleaner baseball and doing better things."

During their 0-2 start, the Pirates managed 12 hits. They've collected 34 hits in winning their past two games. Over the past 21 innings, the pitchers have allowed two earned runs.

> > Starting Wednesday, the Pirates will stop using a designated hitter, even if the other team chooses to have a DH. Hurdle said he usually employs that strategy once pitchers reach the point of working at least three innings. Right-hander Jeff Karstens is slated to pitch three innings Wednesday against Toronto.

> > Hurdle's lineup Wednesday looks a lot like it might on Opening Day: Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, McCutchen, Neil Walker, Garrett Jones, Barmes, Pedro Alvarez and Michael McKenry.

> > Charlie Morton, Rudy Owens, Kyle McPherson, Gerrit Cole and Duke Welker will pitch in a camp game Wednesday morning at Pirate City. It will be Morton's first "game" situation this spring. Position players in the game will include Marte, Jeff Clement, Jordy Mercer, Casey McGehee, Tony Sanchez and several minor leaguers.

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