BRADENTON (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – The “KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway concluded their visit to Pirates Spring Training in Bradenton on Friday.
They wrapped it all up by having conversations with pitchers A.J. Burnett and Tony Watson, as well as Bucco General Manager Neal Huntington and broadcaster the “Rock” John Wehner.READ MORE: Two People Taken To The Hospital After Being Shot In Stowe Township
Fans were excited to hear that Burnett would be making his return to Pittsburgh to finish off his long career.
He says signing as a Pirate was, “an opportunity to finish where I want, finish where I was happy, finish where I felt like I belonged, not only in the clubhouse, but in the city.”
He adds that while he returned for those reasons he also wants to win.
“I’m not going to just going to put myself somewhere to be happy and disregard the winning aspect of it because we’re all here for that reason and if you’re not, you’re here for the wrong reason,” he says.
Watson is the setup man for closer Mark Melancon and knows the expectation is high.
“We’ve had a nice recipe for success down there (and) we got a great group of arms (in the bullpen),” says Watson.
Watson also says the fans have been great. He reflected on the 2013 Wild Card game, but says the fans have been coming out every game.
“The sell-outs on the weekends, the rivers packed with all the boats, people hanging from the bridges, it’s just nuts. Everybody always said when I first got up, if the Pirates start winning, (fans) will start coming out, and it really has been,” says Watson.
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Burnett and Watson will be making the trip up north, but many players at Pirate City won’t. Almost 200 players are with the team and its General Neal Huntington’s job to make sure the 40-man roster is set by Opening Day.
Huntington knows it’s hard.
“The worst days in the world are the days when you’re letting a staff member know he’s not coming back,” says Huntington.
He adds they explain to each player why they are being sent to the minors or cut.
“More importantly, we try to explain to the player what we feel he needs to do to get back to the big leagues or to get to the big leagues for the first time,” says Huntington.
Larry and John wrapped up their week with Carrick native, former Pirate, and current color commentator John Wehner.
Wehner says he knows what it’s like to be nervous about whether you’ll make the team or not.
Wehner says the players that are on the bubble, “are on pins and needles and it’s the worst. For me, the worst week of all was the last week of Spring Training. I was never a guy who was assured a spot. I was always that bubble guy. It was hard to sleep.”
Listen to the “KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.MORE NEWS: Two Firefighters Injured While Battling Duplex Fire In Lawrenceville