"When people count us out, we have our backs against the wall, that's when we play the best and we sneak up on people," shortstop Jordy Mercer said in December. "If we get some guys to step up on our pitching staff and keep us in the game, we can win a lot of one-run ballgames. That's our recipe. If we get back to that, we'll be fine."
The Bucs will filter into their Pirate City clubhouse this week, ready to get to work. But even if the Pirates return to form, they'll again face an uphill climb within their division. The Cubs are defending World Series champions, and most of that title-winning club is back this year. The Cardinals added Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil to last season's 86-win team.
"Our focus is not what our opposition is doing. Our focus is, how do we put the best team on the field that gives us a legitimate chance to compete for a postseason spot?" general manager Neal Huntington said. "We weren't supposed to win 98 games [in 2015]. There's been many teams through history that were supposed to win 95 that won 75 or 85. That's the beautiful part of our game. There is some variability to it."
Here is a look at the Pirates' Spring Training picture as the first day of camp draws near.
Pitchers and catchers' first workout: Tuesday
First full-squad workout: Friday
First Grapefruit League game: The Pirates will send a split squad to Port Charlotte, Fla., to face the Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET on Feb. 25. Another split squad will host the Orioles at LECOM Park at 1:05 p.m. ET.
The Pirates signed right-hander Daniel Hudson and expect him to fill a setup role in front of closer Tony Watson. Ivan Nova is not a new face, but this will be his first spring with the Bucs after signing a three-year, $26 million deal.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.