Though it was officially the seventh day of Spring Training, there was an extra buzz in the air as fans watched names such as National League batting champion Freddy Sanchez and first baseman Adam LaRoche slug ball after ball out to the warning track during batting practice.
"It's nice to have everybody out here. It's a good start," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "It's just human nature. It's exciting to have the group together and start."
One of the pressing questions this season has been how the infield situation will shakedown in the battle between Jose Castillo and Jose Bautista for the last everyday infield spot. The scales didn't tip one way or the other on Day 1, as Bautista shared third base with Jose Hernandez during fielding drills on one field, while Castillo swapped with Nick Green at third across the park.
It was the position players' first workout of the preseason, and capped off a day that included morning physicals and a noon team meeting with manager Jim Tracy, who stressed the importance of continuity and personal growth.
"That's basically what it's all about, that's all there is to it," he said. "It's really important for these guys to realize two things: They're pretty good. And their ability to realize what it was that they did over the course of the last three months of [last] season, and begin to carry that over beginning in April of 2007. It's obviously very important to the way we'd like to start as a baseball team."
Maz suits up: Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski was on hand for the first time Wednesday to hit grounders and instruct the middle infielders. Nick Green said learning straight from Mazeroski, who played all of his 17 Major League seasons with Pittsburgh, was a bonus.
"There's always stuff you can pick up from different people," Green said. "I've learned stuff from every infield instructor I've had. You just piece it together, and whatever works best for you. I'm always up for learning, and they're good guys to learn from."
Scoreboard addition: The Pirates announced Wednesday that they'll install a new video screen on the scoreboard at PNC Park that's more than twice the size as the old one, as well as add a new LED display for the upper deck. The old video screen will be reconfigured to enhance the experience for the fans in the upper deck, and will have player and team stats and pitch counts.
Still one shy: Sergueo Linares remains the only player of the 69 invitees who has yet to report to camp. Linares, a Cuban defector living in the Dominican Republic, has not yet received his U.S. work visa and therefore cannot enter the country. An interesting change to Linares' previously empty locker presented itself Wednesday morning, however, when a large box arrived addressed to him, in care of the Pirates.
Penguins support: The National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins will play the Tampa Bay Lightning at 5 p.m. ET Sunday in Tampa, a city about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh's spring home of Bradenton. Several of the Pirates expressed interest in making the journey to support their hometown team, but are having difficulty securing tickets because of the hype surrounding the game.
Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are the number three and four teams, respectively, in the Eastern Conference rankings, with just two points separating them heading into Wednesday night's games.
Solly's follies: Closer Salomon Torres announced that he didn't want any music to play to announce his at-bats this season, and would instead prefer silence. "Just something different," he said.
The ensuing discussion reminded Torres of several children's songs, which took the place of the players' normal at-bat music during kids' day at PNC Park. Torres then treated his teammates to an impromptu concert, belting out a few bars from Sesame Street's, "C is for Cookie," before fixing his shirt (it was on backward) and heading to Pirate City for practice.
Up next: Pittsburgh will continue working out at Pirate City for the rest of the week. Practice begins about 9:50 a.m. ET Wednesday, and is scheduled to run until about 12:30 p.m.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less