Pittsburgh Pirates’ Danny Ortiz, right, high fives on-deck batter Josh Bell after scoring on a ground out by Alen Hanson during the second inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Dominican Republic Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking….good, real good.  All of the naysayers, haters and doomsday purveyors, (including me) have been a bit taken aback after the Bucs’ went on a sort of “miniature” house cleaning after 2016.  But hold up, as of Monday, March 12, 2017, the Pirates sat atop the National “grapefruit” League with a 12-4 record.

That fact might be a premature celebration because many of the top teams are looking a bit closer at their own minor league prospects being as though their starting lineups are close to being set, especially teams like the 2016 MLB World Champion Chicago Cubs who are currently sitting near the bottom of the NL “grapefruit” League with a less than stellar, 5-8 record.

However, know this, the Cubs will be more than ready to defend their championship come opening day.  The drought is over for the Cubs.


Aubrey Bruce

As for two former Pirates, infielder/outfielder Sean Rodriguez and pitcher Francisco Liriano, who in the past were very stabilizing players both on and off the field, they are in fact no longer a part of the Pirates organization. The Pirates faithful and the media that covers them will have to wait until the regular season begins to see how these offseason moves play out and what affect it will have on productivity.

Currently, the services of Rodriguez are missed in regards to having a player available as an extra infielder in light of the Visa difficulties that Pirates regular third baseman Jung Ho Kang is experiencing regarding receiving permission to leave his native South Korea to travel to the United States to join the Pirates squad.

Mr. Kang has a chance to be a great player but it seems that he has a few “behavioral” issues that need to be addressed before the situation spirals totally out of control.

If the Pirates’ starting shortstop Jordy Mercer or starting second baseman Josh Harrison or starting third baseman former Cardinal David Freese were injured, Rodriguez could step in and play all three positions probably at or above average,  He and Josh Harrison are truly “utility” men.

As the entire sports world probably now knows,  former Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen will be now patrolling the hallowed right field grounds of the Pirates that have been sanctified, glorified and eternalized by the late great Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente, Arriba, Arriba!

The move by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was both gutsy and brilliant because both critics and allies have pointed out that although McCutchen could play centerfield for any team in the MLB National or American League.  However, former Pirates leftfielder now centerfielder Starling Marte could be the starting centerfielder for any professional baseball team in the “universe!”

There seems to be some ghost static coming through the long dead Emerson radio that my dad listened to baseball games on late at night.  I can still imagine the smell of cherry pipe tobacco wafting slowly through the air.

Through the “white noise” I hear a faint melody and lyrics: “the bucs’ are going all the way, all the way this, beat em bucs.

The late Pirates’ broadcaster Bob Prince is yelling just after he has had a dose of his “medicine.” “We need a bloop and a blast.  There’s a bug on the rug.  He struck him out by a gnat’s eyelash.”

Pirates’ legend the late Willie Stargell had a restaurant located in Pittsburgh’s hill district.  After every Stargell home run the patrons would receive a free chicken dinner prompting Prince to exclaim: “there’s chicken on the hill.”

The ultimate “dark mojo” that could be put on the opposition was Bob Prince’s home grown curse: “the green weenie.”

The window is slowly closing for a Pirates championship: they had better get out the green weenies and let a few bugs loose on the rug because in the crisp days of spring, the dog days of summer, and the cool evenings of autumn, the Pirates have to win more games, a lot more games than they lose.  Sounds simple but it’s complicated.

Winners aren’t born winners are made.

Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412.583.6741

Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe

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