Even Pirates optimistic as spring training starts

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Optimism always runs high on the first day of spring training, even for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“This club has a feel that we can be a postseason team, that we can be a team that can advance deep in the postseason,” general manager Neal Huntington said Wednesday as workouts started. “Championship teams are based typically around starting pitching and you win the games you’re supposed to win because of your back end. Then you score.”

Pittsburgh hasn’t reached the World Series since winning the 1979 title. The Pirates were 82-79 last season, a bit of a surprise after Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole were traded.

The Pirates haven’t been to the postseason since winning the first NL wild card for three straight seasons from 2013-15. They have not won a division title since 1992.

However, the Pirates believe they can contend this year because of a rotation that includes Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove. All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez anchors a bullpen that includes Keone Kela, Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez in set-up roles.

“Our intent is to win our division,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “If you win your division, that puts you in a pretty good place. I love the fact that there’s hunger in there and it’s real, for all the right reasons. And I really like our pitching. If you’ve got good pitching, you put yourself in a really good position.”

Though position players aren’t required to report until Sunday, first baseman Josh Bell, second baseman Adam Frazier, left fielder Corey Dickerson and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall are projected regulars already in camp.