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Pirates

Pirates notebook: Bucs set single-season attendance record

| Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, 4:18 p.m.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle addresses the sellout crowd at PNC Park after defeating the Brewers in the final regular-season home game Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle addresses the sellout crowd at PNC Park after defeating the Brewers in the final regular-season home game Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.

The Pirates set a single-season attendance record Sunday thanks to their 23rd sellout of the year. The Pirates drew 2,442,564 fans in 81 home games and also matched last year's club record for sellouts.

The Pirates surpassed their previous attendance record of 2,435,867 set during the club's inaugural season at PNC Park in 2001. It's the third straight year the club has surpassed 2 million in attendance and the sixth time in club history.

“We believed we had a very passionate fan base that would re-engage once we put out a winning team on the field,” Pirates general manger Neal Huntington said Sunday.

The Pirates have not only revived their fan base but because of the ticket sales they also have more resources.

For instance, attendance increased 7.9 percent in 2012 and 6.8 percent in 2013, the Pirates' Opening Day payrolls increased 28.7 percent last year, and 7.5 percent this season. But keep in mind attendance is just one driver of payroll and a 170,000 increase in ticket sales from last season — and a slight increase in ticket prices — will not result in a windfall tens of millions additional dollars.

“The more revenue we generate, the more money we can spend,” Huntington said. “(The attendance record) might not have the impact everyone thinks it should or that everyone wants … Bob (Nutting) has done a great job of putting whatever we make back into the club.”

Mandate for Martin?

Huntington was asked Sunday with the attendance record if there New is something of a mandate to sign impending free agent Russell Martin.

“We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ here. If we don't have enough, we'll do our very best to find the next Russell Martin,” Huntington said. “(Martin) is one of those unique circumstances where we got beat up and highly criticized for signing him, and if he does walk out the door, we are going to get highly criticized.”

Sanchez to play winter ball

If the Pirates are unable to sign Martin, Tony Sanchez is one of the club's few internal options at catcher going into next season along with Chris Stewart and, perhaps, prospect Elias Diaz. Sanchez will play winter ball in the Dominican this offseason to get in extra work. Sanchez said his offense took a step back this year as he focused on his throwing. While he threw out only eight of 63 base-stealers at Triple-A, he believes he has made strides in improving his throwing mechanics.

“I'm just really staying stubborn with mechanics,” Sanchez said. “It's just being confident in my throws, knowing that I'm a good player, getting back to where I was when I was drafted.”

No Alvarez for any play-in game

Huntington ruled out Pedro Alvarez (left foot) for a potential wild-card game. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle did not express much optimism in Alvarez returning to action soon.

“Pedro is not engaged in anything close enough to (suggest) he has some momentum,” Hurdle said.

He said it

Brewers pitcher Matt Garza after hitting Andrew McCutchen with pitches twice Saturday:

“If people think I hit McCutchen on purpose, in a 1-2 count in a game like this, then you're just an idiot. OK? And that goes for the Pirates' TV crew that kept insinuating that that's what we were doing.”

He said it, Part II

Huntington: “You watch a guy like Andrew McCutchen and it seems like once a series someone is taking a shot at him. It's hard to watch.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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