By John Shumway

BRADENTON, Fla. (KDKA) – The short sleeve days in the Florida sunshine are over and the battles for spots on the roster just about done; now it’s time for long sleeves and baseball that counts.

“They’re ready to go out there and compete every night, regardless of who the opponent is,” said Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington.

The mindset coming north, from game 1 to 162, every game can be the difference in a playoff spot or an early exit.

“I think people lose sight of it, it’s our job not to,” said pitcher Gerrit Cole. “When the anthem’s done on the first day, the bell rings and it’s a dog fight till the end, and we’re fully expected to be ready to start throwing punches.”

“The better start we get off to early, it will help us down the stretch,” said closer Tony Watson.

“We just got to stay focused,” added catcher Francisco Cervelli. “It’s just mental because, you know, it’s a long season.”

From now to October, it also means a lot of time away from wives and children.

“You want to be home, absolutely; but it’s part of the job, and you just have to do what you have to do,” said infielder David Freese.

The first week can be tough, meteorologically speaking.

“As a Latin player, you’re not used to cold, you’ve got to get used to it probably in one day or two,” said relief pitcher Felipe Rivero.

But for the younger players.

“Anytime I’m out here playing baseball, I’m happy,” said pitcher Tyler Glasnow.

Manager Clint Hurdle feels good about the Bradenton accomplishments.

“Not only were we building baseball players, we were building strength, we were building team cohesion,” said Hurdle. “I’d say mission accomplished here, and let’s move on.”

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The Pirates will wrap up their Spring Training schedule with two games against the Toronto Blue Jays in Montreal; and then, it’s on to Fenway Park to open the regular season against the Boston Red Sox.

The 105-year-old ballpark means a lot of history for any baseball player.

“Just to be on the field with the tradition and history there is pretty neat,” said infielder Jordy Mercer.

For opening day starter, Gerrit Cole, it means taking the mound for his first pitch in what is bound to be an electrically-charged environment.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to play in a game like that you’re typically pretty excited, looking forward to it,” said Cole.

While the game itself is of equal importance to the other 161 to come, it represents the switch to meaningful baseball.

“I think we’re ready to go. It’s been a long Spring Training,” said Cervelli.

In case you haven’t checked your schedule yet, in just the first three weeks of the season, the Pirates will face Boston, the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees, not to mention the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves.

“What a better way to start it off, playing against some of the better clubs,” said Freese.

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