Pirates eager to put another dismal season behind

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BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) —After the Pittsburgh Pirates hired Clint Hurdle as manager in November, the team’s players picked up their cell phones and went to work.

They called other players who had worked with Hurdle during his recent stints as manager of the Colorado Rockies and hitting coach for the Texas Rangers. Both teams went to the World Series during Hurdle’s tenure.

The Pirates, shell-shocked after losing 105 games last season, wanted to know if Hurdle really could make that kind of a difference with their club. The overwhelming consensus was, yes, he can.

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‘BEST IN THE GAME’—Pirates’ outfielder Andrew McCutchen prepares to run bases during spring training, Feb. 20, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“Everybody had nothing but great things to say about Hurdle, so I’m excited to work with him,” catcher Ryan Doumit said.

After finishing below .500 the past 18 seasons, the longest losing streak in North American pro sports, the Pirates can use any sign of hope.

Hurdle’s arrival seemingly has sparked some enthusiasm—all 62 players had reported to camp by Friday, a day before the deadline.

“We were getting rumblings that a bunch of them were going to show up (early) and they did,” Hurdle said. “It’s another sign of them taking accountability and responsibility for what’s in front of us.”

Four players at the center of that rebuilding plan are outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, second baseman Neil Walker and third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

The 24-year-old McCutchen is going into his third season. The MLB Network recently rated him the best active center fielder in the game. He hit .286 with 16 homers, 56 RBIs and 33 stolen bases last season.

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