Pirates star Andrew McCutchen eyeing another step forward

first_imgFILE – In this Sept. 18, 2014, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen (22) hits a grounder down the third base line against the Boston Red Sox in a baseball game in Pittsburgh. McCutchen has won his third straight Sliver Slugger Award; the winners were announced Thursday, Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) – The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 95 games in 2005, the year they drafted outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the first round. Four years later, when McCutchen made his major league debut, they lost 99 games.McCutchen has seen the franchise at its worst. As he has matured into one of the top players in the National League, the Pirates also have been on the upswing.The Pirates got an NL wild-card berth in each of the past two seasons. This year, McCutchen wants more.“We’re not here to try to win a wild-card game,” McCutchen said. “We’re here to win the division and keep going from there to win a championship.”Such a statement would have drawn laughter not too long ago. McCutchen said perceptions about the Pirates have changed.“People look at us a lot differently because they know we’re for real,” McCutchen said. “It would’ve been easy to say 2013 was a fluke and we just got lucky. But we showed up in ’14 and were able to do the same thing. We know we’re for real. And other teams know they just can’t come in (thinking), ‘All right, we’re going to beat the Pirates.’ We’re not that team anymore.”The Pirates have a solid bullpen and a starting rotation topped by left-hander Francisco Liriano and right-hander Gerrit Cole. The infield includes veteran second baseman Neil Walker, who hit a career-best 23 homers, and third baseman Josh Harrison, who had a breakout season in 2014.“We have a really good team,” McCutchen said. “And I believe the outfield will be our anchor.”McCutchen is a three-time MVP finalist in center field. He’s flanked by Starling Marte in left and Gregory Polanco in right. All three of them can hit for power and a high average, have above-average speed and are very good defenders.“Right now, we are the best outfield (in the majors),” Marte said. “I think we have a chance to catch every ball that’s hit.”Marte, 23, was a Gold Glove finalist last year and has batted .282 over his first three seasons. Polanco, 22, was the Pirates’ top prospect last year and played in 89 games after being called up in mid-June.“It’s all about getting to know each other,” McCutchen said. “When Marte first got here, I’d yell, ‘I’ll get it,’ (on a fly ball) then look and he’d already be there. Now, when the ball’s hit, I know he can get it. Now, I just have to figure out Polanco.”McCutchen, 28, should have plenty of time ahead to work with Marte and Polanco. McCutchen is in the middle of a six-year, $51.5 million contract, which includes a club option for 2018.“Andrew’s been a critical part of the team,” Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said. “I love having him in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform and I hope he (wears it) for a long, long time.”Nutting and his front office group have begun to consider whether they should offer McCutchen a contract extension. McCutchen will make $10 million this season, and management must decide if they Pirates can afford to double his salary in a longer-term deal.“It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to,” Nutting said.As he works out during spring training, McCutchen is not focused on getting a longer contract.“Right now, I’m not too worried about it,” McCutchen said. “It’s nothing that I’m thinking about. If it happens, that would be great.”last_img read more

Polanco, Sanchez HR, Pirates top Twins in rain

first_imgPittsburgh Pirates’ Gregory Polanco (25) looks up to the sky and points after scoring a solo home run in the first inning during an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – Gregory Polanco and Tony Sanchez hit solo home runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to rain-shortened 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.The game was called in the top of the eighth inning.Both Pirates homers came off Trevor May, who was making his final bid to open the season in the big league rotation. May was lifted after 4 2-3 innings, having allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk.Left-hander Tommy Milone appears to have the upper hand in that three-way competition with May and veteran right-hander Mike Pelfrey.Brian Dozier singled, tripled and made a leaping catch of a line drive behind second base for the Twins.last_img read more

Inside Conditions…The prodigal son returns:

first_imgAubrey BrucePlease indulge me this week because I’d like to weave a cloth of sports and spirit for you to tailor into a garment.  There is a portion of the Holy Bible that discusses having a good life, leaving that scenario for what may be perceived as a better life, suffering through a bankrupt condition and finally returning back to the good life.  No more is this pointed out than the Holy book of Luke: 15th chapter, the 1st – 32nd verses.The scripture explains that: a son basically asked for his share of his father’s estate that was to be divided between him and his older sibling.  The young man sets off, goes “buck wild” spends all his inheritance. After he becomes broke, everyone around him becomes broke as well, no more bling, bling, no more entourage.  Now he becomes hungry and longs to go back home, where love and food are plentiful.  His father’s servants are eating better than him.  He goes back home and is welcomed with open arms by everyone glad to see him back, disregarding where he has been.Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, right, is greeted by pitcher A.J. Burnett as he arrives to take part in an informal spring training baseball workout in Bradenton, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Pirates pitchers and catchers officially start the spring on Thursday, Feb. 19. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Let’s take the case of Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.  After spending 2012 and 2013 with the Pirates, Burnett decided to take his talents to the Philadelphia Phillies, supposedly, the “city of brotherly love” in 2014. Burnett’s record with Pittsburgh from 2012-2013 was 26-21. In 2014 with Philadelphia he was 8-18.  Last year the Phillies finished 73-89 in the National League Eastern Division, a full 23 games out of 1st place.  The Pirates on the other hand finished the 2014 season, 88-74, just two games out of 1st in the NL Central Division.Even though it may have been a tad more lucrative for A.J. Burnett to ply his trade in the hometown of “Rocky Balboa” in 2014, he may have realized early on during the season that the Phillies, unlike Monsieur Balboa were not going to end up at years end, standing at center ring with their arms being raised high in the air in victory. In addition to that scenario, when Burnett returned to PNC Park and took to the mound to face his former teammates, a fitting tribute to him was displayed on the video board, prompting a deserved ovation from Pirate fans to whom he graciously tipped his cap when he stepped onto the pitcher’s mound.That sort of welcome home emotion from the fans doesn’t happen every day.  Don’t believe me? Ask Barry Bonds or Aramis Ramirez.This year the hecklers and boos aren’t as bad for Ramirez, well maybe because this is his final year and he won’t be around to torture the Pirates any longer. Just the mere mention of the name Barry Bonds in Pittsburgh and one might unceremoniously be invited to smoke a pipe….bomb.  But hey let’s get back on point.A.J. Burnett found out that although the grass may have been “greener” on the other side no one bothered to inform him that the grass hadn’t been mowed for a while and hidden among the tall unkempt landscape, there was poison ivy, stones, branches and other unseen objects and hazards that always end up as a negative for those who are charged with mowing the lawn and for those that “inherit” or “purchase” the property.As it was in scripture which mirrors life, sometimes it is okay to come back to a place where you are welcomed and appreciated after you experience a few bumps and bruises out on the road.  There is something more to A.J Burnett than meets the eye.  He is pitching like a man that may be more anointed than appointed every fifth day to take the ball and “git er done.” He appears to have tapped into a source that only he is connected to.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.A.J. Burnett……Welcome back.Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412.583.6741He is also a contributing columnist for urbanmediatoday.comFollow him on Twitter@ultrascribelast_img read more

Ronaldo poised to start against Germany after fitness doubts

first_img Portugal: Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles; Ronaldo, Almeida, Varela. Philipp Lahm will play in midfield, alongside Toni Kroos. Meanwhile, Thomas Muller will start up front for the Germans. “USA and Ghana are well organised and have some good values, but we have the ambition to move forward, grab the most points as we can and to reach the round of 16.” The national team’s head scout Urs Siegenthaler believes that it will be tough, saying: We’re not only playing against Portugal, but we’re playing against 70,000 people in the stadium. Portugal will have a home advantage.” Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness is the main topic of discussion ahead of Portugal’s mouthwatering clash with Germany. After injury scares he has been training normally and is fit to play in the opening game of Group G on Monday evening.  CEST “You’re talking about the best player in the world. It’s like the other good players in the other teams that can make a difference. Rik Sharma He said: “Cristiano is training well, he’s training hard and we are sure he’s going to be 100 per cent to help us and to have an excellent game.”  Germany have reached the semi finals, at least, of every tournament they have played in since 2006 but have not won any of them. Goalkeeper Eduardo also spoke about the Real Madrid superstar. “We’re ready for anything, but of course with Cristiano it’s better for us. Of course we are a group, a lot of good players and nobody wins alone. But of course with Cristiano it’s better for us.” Possible teams Portugal manager Paulo Bento said:  “A player like Ronaldo is important for any team, and that’s the case for us. It’s good that he is back. Group G has a team in Germany who may be considered favourites because of their history and potential, but it is a very balanced group. Coach Joachim Low also has tough selection decisions to make, with both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira fitness doubts.  Upd. at 21:29 Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia). Germany: Neuer; Boateng, Hummels, Mertesacker, Hoewedes; Khedira, Lahm; Kroos, Özil, Podolski; Müller. 15/06/2014 “He’s healthy and he can’t wait to start this tournament. He’s determined and he wants to play to the limit, like all of us, with an immense will to win and give our best.last_img read more

Suarez: “Thanks to everyone for the support”

first_img He flew back to Montevideo after being handed the ban, and was given a hero’s welcome by the adoring Uruguayan public. Despite the sanction, Suarez remains a target for Barcelona.  “Hello everyone, I write this message in order to give my thanks for all the support and affection that I am receiving.  The Uruguayan striker has sent his thanks to everyone who has stood by him over the last few days since he recieved a four month ban from FIFA for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini: CEST Upd. at 21:25 center_img Luis Suarez has posted a message of thanks on the social networking site Twitter. “Both myself and my family really appreciate it. Thank you very much for being by my side and I want you to give all your support to my colleagues in the Uruguay team for their game against Colombia.” 28/06/2014 Sport ENlast_img read more

Soldado struggled at Spurs after Villas-Boas exit

first_img Sport EN “I lost confidence and I had a hard time, but I think it’s helped me appreciate and enjoy my life more.” Soldado left Spurs for the summer, returning to Spain to sign for Villarreal. Roberto Soldado says he struggled to deal with Andre Villas-Boas’s departure during his time at Premier League side Tottenham.  “But it was the opposite. After the departure of Villas-Boas, who was the one who signed me, everything was flipped upside down. “I thought the Premier League would offer the perfect football for me 10/10/2015 at 20:40 “I went there with excitement and enthusiasm,” AS report he has said.  The former Valencia striker spent two years at White Hart Lane, but he was never able to reproduce his La Liga form in England. He has scored two goals in six league appearances, with the Yellow Submarine currently sitting at the top of the table. CESTlast_img read more

Arsenal to offer Jese Rodriguez January escape

first_img CEST Upd. at 17:00 15/10/2015 Present in just three of Real Madrid’s nine games this season, Jese Rodriguez is planning to leave the club in January. The forward feels Rafa Benitez has not been fair with him and Arsenal could be about to offer him the chance to escape.  It’s a situation which doesn’t look like improving given the distant relationship between the player and the coach, so Arsenal are ready to make their move. The initial deal would be a loan until the end of the season, with an option to buy then included, with a decision taken on how Jese adapts to English football.  Jese, 22, decided to stay at Los Blancos in the summer, believing that he would have chances to play. However, he has played just 132 minutes thi season — in games against Sporting, Athletic and Malaga.  During the summer, there was speculation that Arsene Wenger was interested. But the return of Joel Campbell form Villarreal forced him to pull back from making an offer. The Costa Rican forward has disappointed the French coach, though, and has not yet played in the Premier League.  Peter Martin Wenger wants a quick forward who can play centrally or on the wing. Jese, who has also been linked with Napoli, is his first choice. If Benitez is will to let him go, it’s a deal which could be done when the transfer window opens in January.last_img read more

Macri, Maradona and the Argentine people rally together to prompt Messi U-turn

first_img “Messi must go on. Messi has to stay because he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion. 28/06/2016 Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Argentina president told AFP that “[Macri] called [Messi] and told him how proud he feels of the national team’s performance and asked him not to listen to the criticism.” Sport EN “Look what we have achieved, we are the only country capable of criticising the best in the world and now he doesn’t have any motives to continue wearing the national team’s shirt. On Saturday (July 2) at 18.00h everyone go to the Obelisco to show our affection and our desire for him to continue representing Argentina. Come on Messi, don’t let up on us!!!” say those organising the event.  To do that, a group of supporters have called a demonstration for Saturday by the Obelisco de Buenos Aires. They are using the slogan “Everyone to the Obelisco. Messi don’t go #NoTeVayasLio” in a bid to mobilise as many people as possible in the hope of showing that all the country is by the 29-year-old’s side.  His compatriots don’t want the Barcelona forward to move forward with his decision and are joining together in a bid to change his opinion. There are already nearly 50,000 people who have confirmed their presence and the list continues to grow. center_img “The lads have to be supported more to help him take the team forward.” Upd. on 22/11/2016 at 03:06 CET Maradona said: “Those saying he should quit don’t want us to see what a disaster Argentine football has become.  Lionel Messi’s drastic decision to announce his retirement from international football after Argentina’s Copa America final defeat to Chile has profoundly shook the country. Since Messi announced his retirement from international football there have been a growing number of people asking him to make a U-turn. Among them have been Argentina president Mauricio Macri and Diego Maradona.  Gerard Pique and Dani Alves have also had their say on the matter, with the latter calling on Messi to take a decision with a “cold head” and after spending a few days reflecting on things with his friends and family.last_img read more

Luis Enrique unhappy with foul given away by Arda Turan

first_img Trying to dilute the criticism, though, Luis Enrique added: “But it’s easy where we are; the people who have it hard are the players. I wouldn’t focus it on one player [Arda].” “A manager’s orders are clear and concise.”  Albert Roche It was Arda who gave away the foul in the 89th minute which allowed Luka Modric to cross for Sergio Ramos’s goal.   “The instructions were very clear: don’t commit fouls, especially when Madrid players have their backs to goal,” he said in his postgame press conference. IN SPORT.ES Upd. at 21:27 El palo de Luis Enrique a Arda Turan The result leaves Barça six points back from Madrid in the standings, second in the table. With these quotes, Luis Enrique singled out Arda Turan as the responsible party for the last gasp goal scored by Madrid.  03/12/2016 Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was very clear with his players when they were leading Real Madrid 1-0.  CETlast_img read more

Carlo Ancelotti declines to label Cristiano Ronaldo the best he’s coached

first_img Asked that question in an interview with AS, Ancelotti responded: “One of the most important, without a doubt. He’s highly dedicated, really professional, and also scores in almost every game.  “For a coach, he’s crucial. When I left Real Madrid, he gave me his public support, but the greatest help he gave me was by the way he trained day in, day out, by being an example to his team-mates and by scoring lots of goals.” Sport EN 15/12/2016 Upd. at 11:04 center_img Carlo Ancelotti did not want to say if Cristiano Ronaldo was the best player he has ever coached, but praised the Portuguese star. CET Ancelotti was also asked if Ronaldo could win any more Ballon d’Ors, responding: “Without doubt he can over the next two or three years. Like Messi. The rest will still have to wait, although we can help some of them as a team, such as Lewandowski for example, if we win lots of trophies.”last_img read more