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FIELDING It’s not exactly the Pirates strong suit. First baseman Gaby Sanchez and second baseman Neil Walker were among the best in the NL, but the left side wasn’t as reliable. The outfield is steadier. Marte and McCutchen both had six errors, with Marte chalking up five outfield assists, while McCutchen ranked third among NL centerfielders and fifth among all outfielders with 11. Jose Tabata and free agent signee Travis Ishikawa will hold down right until 22-year-old Gregory Polanco is ready. Behind the plate, Russell Martin is one of the best in the game. He made only two errors (plus four passed balls) and threw out 40.4 percent of potential base stealers (third in the league). STARTING PITCHING Ray Searage’s starters held opposing hitters to an NL-low .243 batting average, while throwing the third-most shutouts (16), with the fourthlowest ERA. The mainstay of the ’13 staff, A.J. Burnett, is gone but the staff still has quality. Gerrit Cole is the ace, after a 4-0 September with a 1.62 ERA and a gritty postseason. Francisco Liriano, the ’13 Comeback Player of the Year, won a career-best 16 games with a 3.02 ERA, his lowest since his rookie season of 2006. Jeff Locke was an All-Star until he hurt his back, and Charlie Morton, coming off Tommy John that cost him most of ’13, finished strong and had a good spring. Veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez is coming back from a forearm strain that ended his season in June, and former Red Edinson Volquez will also be in the mix. RELIEF PITCHING The bullpen was even stingier than the starters, setting a franchise record with an NL-best 55 saves, a 2.85 ERA (second), and a .229 opposing batting average (third). Veteran Jason Grilli (37), a ‘13 All- Star, converted his first 25 saves and 33 of 35 overall until he suffered a season-ending forearm strain in July. Righty Mark Melancon, who closed after Grilli’s injury, and lefties Tony Watson, who ended the season with 21 scoreless appearances (covering 20 1/3 innings), and Justin Wilson, who led rookies with six wins and a 2.08 ERA, will be key setup men for a deep pen, which also includes righties Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez. MANAGING Clint Hurdle took home his first Manager of the Year award in 11 seasons in 2013, leading his second team to 90 wins. Hurdle is actually three years ahead of his schedule in Colorado, where it took him six years to have a winning season. It was a pennant-winner but also was his last winning season until last year. In fact, the next year the Rockies’ win total fell by 16 games. Don’t expect such a precipitous drop from the Pirates, as owner Robert Nutting and GM Neal Huntington have invested well in scouting and player development and have a nice pipeline of talent on the way. Andrew McCutchen JUSTIN K. ALLER/GETTY IMAGES SPORT


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