After completing 2012 with a disappointing 79-83 record, the Pittsburgh Pirates have not finished .500 or better for 20 consecutive seasons. They hope that string of futility will end this year, and pitching could be a reason why.
The Pirates have a rotation anchored by A.J. Burnett, and the club added left-hander Francisco Liriano, who hopes to rediscover the success he had earlier in his career with the Minnesota Twins. James McDonald, veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez, 25-year-old southpaw Jeff Locke, right-hander Jeff Karstens and non-roster invitee Jonathan Sanchez will contend for the remaining rotation spots.
By this time next year, uber pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon might be Major League ready. They could even make their Major League debuts at some point this season, especially Cole.
Earlier this season, the Pirates traded closer Joel Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt to Boston for left fielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, right-handed reliever Mark Melancon, utility infielder Ivan De Jesus pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel.
Pittsburgh thinks Melancon can rebound from a disastrous only season with the Red Sox and demonstrate the success he had as a closer for the Houston Astros. Veteran right-hander Jason Grilli is projected as the closer, but having Melancon as a set-up man who could step in and close if needed bolsters a mostly young Pirates pen.
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who was a National League MVP contender last season, will be flanked by left fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Travis Snider to form an outfield of run producing bats.
Garrett Jones can play right field when he is not at first base, where the Pirates also have Gaby Sanchez and Sands. Add third baseman Pedro Alvarez, second baseman Neil Walker and veteran catcher Russell Martin to the mix, and the Pirates have the makings of a potentially formidable lineup.
Shortstop is the position of weakness with veteran Clint Barmes slated to start. De Jesus has a chance to prove he is more than a utility player and claim the job.
With Cole and Taillon getting closer to the majors – and highly regarded position player prospects like infielder Alen Hanson, and outfielders Gregory Polanco and Barrett Barnes in the system – the Pirates could become a contender if they build around core players like McCutchen, Alvarez and Walker; and if Marte realizes his potential.
This season, Pittsburgh is unlikely to contend, but finishing at .500 or better is within reach.
About McKechnie Field
Named after former Bradenton resident and Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie, McKechnie Field in Bradenton has served as the Pittsburgh Pirates spring training home since 1969.
Built in 1923 and renovated in 1992 and 2008, the 2013 season marks the Pirates’ 45th spring training at the ballpark.
Situated near thriving downtown Bradenton, McKechnie Field is located east of the nationally-acclaimed Village of the Arts, which is an evolving neighborhood of galleries and studios where artists and artisans of various types create and sell their wares.
A $10 million renovation has added a boardwalk around the outfield, increased capacity from 6,500 to 8,500, new bullpens in the outfield and more comfortable seats among other features.
Among the new locations in the stadium include the Left Field Party Deck and the Boardwalk Barbeque Area for group picnics, the Outfield Bar in center field and the Left Field Bleachers. The Fan Plaza inside the main gate has expanded and includes new concessions and restroom facilities. The number of shaded seating areas has increased all around the ballpark.
The Bradenton area is nestled between Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Drawing more than 2,591,300 visitors in 2010, the area is made up of nine distinct communities; Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Palmetto and Parrish.
Tucked into the corner of northwest Bradenton, Robinson Preserve includes 487 acres of coastal saltern, marsh, and mangrove habitat. These systems attract a variety of rare wildlife, presenting careful observers with an opportunity to see roseate spoonbills, wood storks, white pelicans, bald eagles, and least terns in their natural environment.
Robinson Preserve offers visitors numerous ways to explore the coastal habitats. Scale the 40 foot tall observation tower for a view of four counties and five water bodies or check out the view from the camera in the Valentine House Visitor’s Center. Bike or roller blade on 2.5 miles of paved trail, and hikers can explore more than 5 miles of shell and coastal trails. For paddlers, Robinson Preserve’s 2.5 miles of blueways present a chance to navigate through mangrove tunnels, marshes and more. The opportunities are endless.
Environmental activities include hiking and biking trails and a canoe/kayak launch. Additional amenities include observation towers and platforms, picnic areas, and a visitors center.
South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium and Manatee Aquarium is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The facility is located within walking distance from downtown Bradenton.
The museum hosts the Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium. Guests can see daily manatee presentations and planetarium shows. South Florida Museum has exciting exhibits and Snooty, which is the world’s oldest manatee on record.
Located a few blocks south of downtown Bradenton, The Village of the Arts is a vibrant community of artists living and working together. The Village is Florida’s largest art community and over 30 businesses call it home. Galleries, studios, cafes, healing arts, jewelry, fashion and books can all be found as you wander the streets of this charming area of restored 1920′s and 30′s cottages.
Art walks are the first Friday and Saturday of each month. Pick up Artwalk guide in the Village for more information. The community includes galleries and shops with art accents, furniture, jewelry, antiques, books, framing, plants, clothing, pottery, restaurants and even a pet boutique.
For more information about Bradenton, visit here.
Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Information
First Practice Dates
February 12 – Pitchers and catchers
February 15 – Position players
1611 9th Street West
Bradenton, FL 34205
2013 Ticket Prices
Infield Box, $22
Infield Reserve, $20
Baseline Box, $18
Left Field Bleachers, $14
For ticket information and to see a Pirates spring training schedule, visit here.