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Perrotto: Pirates Group Text Buzzing With Seldom-Used Word



Pittsburgh Pirates- Mitch Keller

The Pittsburgh Pirates players, like seemingly everyone else in today’s world, have a group chat.

Their phones have been buzzing pretty much all winter. And they’ve been buzzing with good news.

The Pirates have added established major league players this offseason rather than subtracting them. It’s a refreshing change of pace for a team that has finished in last place in the National League Central for four straight seasons.

One of the few players who played on four of those teams is right-hander Mitch Keller. So, he is obviously as excited as any Pirates’ player about what general manager Ben Cherington has done on the heels of back-to-back seasons with at least 100 losses.

“It’s awesome,” Keller said. “With Cutch and the other signings that we made, it’s just brought a buzz to the guys that are on the team. I know we’re all texting each other. The word that’s going around is ‘win.’ That’s what we want to do. Winning is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. That’s all we’re talking about. Whatever we’re doing, it gets back to how does this help us win, and nothing else matters.”

Win. What a concept.

The word hasn’t been used around the Pirates since the early stages of the 2019 season. The Pirates imploded under the strain of internal strife that year and it led to the firing of GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle.

Keller was a rookie on that team. Things haven’t gotten any better since then as the Pirates have a 142-242 record in three seasons with Cherington and manager Derek Shelton in charge.

However, the Pittsburgh Pirates have overhauled their roster in front of the 2023 season by adding eight veteran players.

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who made five All-Star Games with the Pirates from 2011-15, was signed in free agency along with left-hander Rich Hill, right-hander Vince Velasquez, lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia, catcher Austin Hedges and designated hitter Carlos Santana.


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First baseman Ji-Man Choi and first baseman/outfielder Connor Joe were acquired in trades.

Like everyone else associated with the Pirates as well as their fans, Keller is thrilled with the addition of McCutchen.

“It just gives us a buzz, and for the city, it was really cool,” Keller said.

Keller is especially interested in getting to know Hill and Hedges when spring training begins on Feb. 14, the day pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton.

The 43-year-old Hill is the oldest player in the major leagues. Hill made his big-league debut in 2005 and will be beginning his 19th season.

“He’s been through a lot,” Keller said. “Really good experiences he’s had. He’s been on a lot of winning teams and I think he brings that mentality and that fire to win to our young group and I’m just excited to learn from him.”

Hedges, who spent the previous two seasons with the Cleveland Guardians, is one of the game’s best defensive catchers. Mitch Keller had a chance to talk with Guardians right-hander Cal Quantrill last month at Pittsburgh Pirates closer David Bednar’s wedding about Hedges.

“(Quantrill) was like, ‘He couldn’t be a better human being. He really cares. Every time you’re out there, he wants you to succeed more than anything in the world. He’s trying to take care of you out there.,’” Keller said. “Which was awesome to hear because as a pitcher, when you have that kind of relationship with somebody and they want you to succeed as much as you do, it already sets up a good feeling out there when you’re out there.”

But not quite as good of a feeling as the Pirates mentioning the word win. It’s a nice change of pace.


John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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