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Ben Cherington Can Feel Spring In The Air



PITTSBURGH — After a much busier offseason than many Pittsburgh Pirates observers expected, Ben Cherington is itching to put the phone in his pocket for a few minutes and watch some baseball.

The Pirates’ first workout of spring training in Bradenton is less than three weeks ago on Feb. 15. The general manager is excited to watch his new-look team in action.

“I think we’re all looking forward to seeing sun and baseballs flying around,” Cherington said Thursday after the Pirates held a press conference to introduce South Korean right-hander Jun-Seok Shim.

“It’s getting close. We’re starting to put together plans for early staff meetings and things like that. There’s still stuff we’d like to do to strengthen the team and build more depth. We’ll be in Florida soon enough now.”

Any roster moves Cherington makes between now and the start of spring training would likely be minor. However, he has done a significant reworking of the roster.

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who is returning to the Pirates after being away for five years, heads a list of veteran free agents who have been signed. The others are left-hander Rich Hill, right-hander Vince Velasquez, left-handed reliever Jarlin Garcia, catcher Austin Hedges and first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana.

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The Pirates have also traded with the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman Ji-Man Choi and the Colorado Rockies for first baseman/outfielder Connor Joe.

The Pirates look better on paper than the team that finished 62-100 last season. Ben Cherington certainly hopes so as the Pittsburgh Pirates have compiled a dreadful 142-242 record in his three seasons on the job while undergoing a massive rebuilding.

“We believe we’re better,” Cherington said. “We went into the offseason looking to get deeper, stronger, build a lineup that had more options. We think we’ve done that. Never going to be satisfied. Still know we need players to step up and improve.

“On the pitching side, combination of guys we’ve added but also internal growth of young pitchers being a year further ahead in their development. We feel good and excited about going to spring training seeing that group compete. We think there’ll be healthy competition for rotation spots, healthy competition for the bullpen and some guys who are a year more mature and advanced into their physical and mental maturation as pitchers. It’ll be exciting to see.”

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