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Pirates Notebook: Pirates healthy and eager

Sunday, March 30, 2003

By Robert Dvorchak, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For the first time in Lloyd McClendon's time at the helm, the Pirates had a winning record in spring training. But what's on his mind is tomorrow and beyond, when the games and statistics begin to count.

"We're excited about getting it going. We worked hard this spring. I think we're in good shape," McClendon said after an 8-3 win against the Tigers in the final tuneup before tomorrow's opening day in Cincinnati.

"I think they're all peaking at the right time. The lights are getting ready to come on. We have to get it done between the lines. We can talk about it all we want. You have to go out and get it done. I'm confident we'll play well."

The Pirates finished the spring 16-14-1, winning five of their last six games. They were 12-4-1 after falling six games under .500 March 11.

Two pitchers will open the season on the 60-day disabled list -- Mike Lincoln and Dave Williams. But unlike years past, there are no major issues with injuries, and there have been no distractions such as Derek Bell's "Operation Shutdown."

"I could not have been more pleased with the way things have gone. The focus was there, the effort was there. Guys have settled in their roles. The pitching hasn't been overly impressive, but we stayed healthy and got our work in. The staff has meshed well together," McClendon said.

"Having the veteran players certainly makes a big difference. It really helps camp go smooth. You have guys who know how to go about their business and know how to get themselves ready."

Five for Fogg

Josh Fogg, the player with the least amount of experience on the roster, picked up his fifth win of the spring by allowing two earned runs on nine hits in six innings against the Tigers.

He is the first Pirates pitcher to win five games since Denny Neagle in 1996.

"The last 10 or 12 games, we've been playing real well. I know it's still spring training. But when you put the top guys out there and they start hitting the ball real well, it's a real good feeling when you know you're going to get some runs," Fogg said. "The pitching's been a little better toward the end. I think everybody's looking forward to getting it going."

Fogg struck out four and walked two.

"I thought it was a nice tuneup," McClendon said. "He used all his pitches and threw strikes. I thought the changeup was exceptional. He should feel real good about going into the season."

Brian Boehringer and Julian Tavarez pitched perfect innings in relief, and non-roster pitcher Mark Corey worked a scoreless ninth.

Kendall 'batting champ'

Jason Kendall had two hits, drove in two runs and scored twice in yesterday's game. Among players with 50 or more at bats, Kendall led the Pirates with a .422 average and drove in seven runs.

Matt Stairs had a solo home run, his third of the spring. Randall Simon extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a run-scoring double in the first inning.

Most of the regulars were gone by the fourth inning.

Left fielder Nathan McClouth, a non-roster player who was used as a fill-in after the regulars were pulled, had a two-run home run and a run-scoring triple to highlight a 13-hit attack.

For the spring, Aramis Ramirez led the club with seven home runs and 20 RBIs. Rob Mackowiak and Craig Wilson led the team by each playing in 28 of the 31 games.

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