Bucs lay out plan for OF trio ahead of WBC '17

Coaches, players set schedule for getting in necessary fielding practice, at-bats

Bucs lay out plan for OF trio ahead of WBC '17

BRADENTON, Fla. -- With all three starting outfielders bound for the World Baseball Classic, the Pirates must balance several factors as they plot out playing time.

Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco will leave to join their respective national teams on March 5. That gives them eight days between the start of Grapefruit League play and their departure. Both Team USA and the Dominican Republic are expected to play deep into the tournament, possibly keeping the outfield trio away from the Bucs for most of March.

Over the next week, then, they must get acclimated to their new outfield positions individually and as a group. They have to accumulate enough at-bats to get ready for the international tournament. They'll also need innings in the outfield to properly prepare themselves. Primarily, they must stay healthy.

So the Pirates have already laid out a plan for McCutchen, Marte and Polanco after consulting with first-base/outfield coach Kimera Bartee, hitting coaches Jeff Branson and Jeff Livesey and each of the three outfielders.

Marte and Polanco will be on the same schedule the next eight days, while McCutchen will be on a slightly different track. Marte is expected to start for the Dominican Republic, and it's unclear what roles Polanco and McCutchen will play.

Outlook: Polanco, OF, PIT

"We want to make sure we're in communication with them on the innings they're looking to get with the input from [Bartee], the at-bats they'd like to get with input from Branson, Livesey and themselves," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think we're in a really good place moving forward on what we're set up to get done for them before they get out."

While the starters are away, the Pirates will send out a completely different group, giving several prospects (including Austin Meadows) and role players (perhaps Adam Frazier, Alen Hanson and Jose Osuna) an opportunity to prove themselves in the outfield.

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"We're set up to move on. We're going to continue to work with the guys here," Hurdle said. "We've got plenty of men here in camp that are going to get added opportunities they wouldn't normally have gotten."

Around the horn
• First baseman Josh Bell (left knee) was a full participant in defensive drills and batting practice on Friday morning. Head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said Wednesday that full-speed running is Bell's only hurdle left to clear.

Bell was not listed in either of the Pirates' split-squad starting lineups for Saturday afternoon.

Hurdle on Josh Bell in camp

• Catcher Francisco Cervelli (right foot) took batting practice during Friday's workout. Neither he nor catcher Chris Stewart are slated to start Saturday.

• Hurdle declined to single out anyone who shined during the first few weeks of Spring Training, instead praising the group's overall work.

"I just love the quiet confidence. I love the edge," Hurdle said. "I love the energy they've been bringing, the focus that's been put into all the work."

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.