By Chris Mack

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BRADENTON, Florida (93-7 THE FAN) – After an outspoken couple of days over the weekend, there was an inclination by observers to question the atmosphere in the Pirates’ clubhouse. In particular, there was a guess by one member of the media who hasn’t even been in the state of Florida this month, let alone the Pirate City locker rooms.

The supposition by this person was that they couldn’t “remember the Pirates clubhouse being in worse shape since the Pittsburgh Drug Trials days of the mid-1980s.”

Maybe this person forgot the final days of the Jason Kendall/Brian Giles-led Pirates clubhouse when they each openly abhorred their teammates and the club they were a part of. Maybe they’ve forgotten Derek Bell’s Operation Shutdown. Maybe their memory is just bad. I’m not sure. However, I am totally aware that the writer has been in the Pirates clubhouse a couple of times since 1985, because I saw the person in question in the Pirates clubhouse just last year.

A couple of times, anyway.

Out of 81.

Clearly, they must have the pulse of the team.

In response, a member of the team today asked me how in the world the columnist could have any idea what the atmosphere of the clubhouse was if they hadn’t even been IN the clubhouse.

That’s a good question.

To be clear: There are veteran members of the club who are unhappy with the way the organization conducted itself this offseason. However, they are also the veteran members of the organization who have put it on themselves more than anyone else to exude more leadership than in the past, and have already begun to do so.

As someone who’s spent more hours in the Pirates clubhouse today than the writer in question did all of last season, I can tell you that, at least at the moment, it is not a mutinous, sinking ship.

To that end, Sean Rodriguez reiterated what Neal Huntington had relayed yesterday about the essence of Clint Hurdle’s and Bob Nutting’s address to the players Monday morning.

“I liked what Clint said. I liked what Bob said,” explained Rodriguez. “It was just basically, ‘We’re here to help you guys win.’”

Asked if any hard feelings about the offseason had subsided, the veteran utilityman seemed reassured by the message.

“You want your owner, you want your manager trying to push towards winning.”

Rodriguez refocused the onus on him and his teammates one final time, though.

“There’s 25 of us. We have to come together and want to win. Whoever doesn’t want to be on board with that, then so be it. Just keep pushing with the guys that do. Put all the B.S. aside and let’s ride.”

-Reaction to the new rule limiting non-pitching change mound visits to just six in the first nine innings of a ballgame drew heavy criticism from several members of the team.

Francisco Cervelli, for one, called it “the worst thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Baseball is about tempo,” said Cervelli. “Sometimes you go to the mound not because you want to, but because you have to. [Maybe] you have to say one word to make your pitcher come back.”

“That’s not baseball. This game is a chess game, it’s strategy. [When] you got a man at second, a guy stealing signs over there, [if] you have to go there ten times, you have to go.

“Why do I need to speed up the game? We take as long as we can, because we have to win. What are you going to tell Boston and the Yankees when those games are  four hours all the time?

“I guess they’re (Major League Baseball) smarter than us, so I guess we have to close our mouth and adjust.”

Reliever Kyle Crick agreed with Cervelli, especially in regards to players communicating while opposing runners are on base and signs are possibly being stolen.

“I can’t have my shortstop limited. Players should be able to talk to players whenever they want. My shortstop may see someone pick my sign. That should not count as a visit.”

-For what it’s worth, after having the pronunciation of ‘creek’ in Pittsburghese explained to him, the 25-year old just acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade thinks he’s ready for any “Kyle Crick form Turtle Creek” references or jokes that may be slung his way, but admitted that ‘yinz’ sounded foreign to him as compared to the ‘y’all’ he’s used to as a Texas native.

-The team announced the acquisition of 29-year old corner outfielder Bryce Brentz from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for cash considerations. Brentz became expendable after Boston’s signing of J.D. Martinez, who be a DH primarily, but will also work as a 4th outfielder, which was to be Brentz’s role.

Brentz is the 2017 AAA Home Run Derby Champion, and hit 31 HR in 120 games in Pawtucket last year, but has just 1 HR in 90 career MLB PAs. A 1st Round Draft Pick in 2010, his career has been derailed several times by injuries, including a freak gunshot wound in 2013, when a gun he was cleaning accidentally went off.

Without any minor league options left, there’s a very good chance Brentz and his career .793 OPS in the minors – .863 last season – will make the team out of Spring Training.

Speaking off the record, a team official said Brentz will give the Bucs “another option for some right-handed thunder, and we’ll see if the 31 [HRs in Pawtucket] are real.”

Brentz’s ability to play both corner outfield spots may come especially in handy if Daniel Nava, who missed Tuesday’s workout with a low back issue and is still being evaluated, is no longer in play.

-Pitching Coach Ray Searage spoke at length about what he’s seen from his staff so far this spring, and spoke glowingly of Jameson Taillon’s emerging leadership.

“I came out of breakfast the first day, and here comes this wolf pack – nine starters, they all went to breakfast together,” described an excited Searage. “The last four days, I’m coming out, and they’re still coming in [together]. And I know Jamo had a hand in it, and I know Joe [Musgrove] had a hand it, and I know [Ivan] Nova had a hand in it. That’s how you get that cohesion.

“Jamo’s got ‘leader’ written all over his face.”

As for some other members of that “wolfpack,” Searage agreed with Nova’s assertion that Trevor Williams was their best pitcher the second half of 2017, and that his baseball intelligence is just as important as his talent.

“He learned a lot in a short amount of time. Some guys are just born to be a pitcher,” said the pitching coach.

“I told him that three years ago: I said, ‘Kid, when mama had you, God said, ‘You’re not going to be a carpenter, a rocket scientist, you’re just going to be a pitcher.’ Go pitch.’”

He also said starting the year in the bullpen may not be the worst thing for lefty Steven Brault, who was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season.

“I think it’s a great place to grow up and learn how to pitch,” contended Searage. “Because when you come out of [the bullpen], you don’t get time to get settled in. It gives you a different mindset, [of] don’t put a toe in the water to see how cold it is. You throw the first punch, you attack.”

And finally, on Tyler Glasnow’s issues at the Major League level and how he works to bolster the struggling youngster’s confidence.

“Last year was a great learning experience for him. Just in the conversations I’ve had with him this spring, there’s a change. We have to make sure we stay diligent and keep it simple, so he can apply stuff when he’s on the mound.”

-Daniel Hudson and Bo Schultz both got back on the bullpen mounds, in Hudson’s case, for the first time this spring.

-After working at third base on Monday, Jose Osuna spent Tuesday at first base, swapping spots with Eric Wood. Austin Meadows and Jason Martin swapped spots, Martin moving to left and Meadows to centerfield. Chris Bostick also swapped with Pablo Reyes, with Bostick working at third base and Reyes at second. Cole Tucker again worked on Field 1 with the veterans rather than Field 4 with the minor leaguers, allowing Jordy Mercer to go to Field 4 and work with Kevin Newman at short stop.

-If Brentz is expected to bring some “thunder,” then he’ll have to do battle with Jordan Luplow. The left fielder put several balls off the roof of the batting cages beyond the left field fence today, rattling off of the metal lid with a loud “BANG!” each time.

-Wednesday will be another long workout, with Live Batting Practice taking place on all four fields. Scheduled to throw are Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Joe Musgrove (pending any lingering soreness in his right shoulder), Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, Casey Sadler, Tyler Jones, Jordan Milbrath, Josh Smoker, Kyle Crick, A.J. Schugel, Michael Feliz, George Kontos, and Felipe Rivero. On-field workouts will begin at 10am and most players will probably not head back in until close to 1pm.

Thursday will be a short day before the Pirates Charities golf outing, as Pirate City will be cleared of Major League camp and everything moved down to LECOM Park before Friday’s first Grapefruit League game in Port Charlotte against the Rays, and the spring home opener on Saturday against the Yankees.

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