BRADENTON, Fla. — Clint Hurdle has been here since Jan. 17. Several of the Pirates manager's players have been wintering here even longer, working out as a small group.
Yet, none of the preceding days carried the magic of Day One, the official start of Spring Training.
"It's so good to get on the field, to watch these guys get their spikes in the dirt," Hurdle said Tuesday afternoon, following the club's first formal workout for pitchers and catchers at Pirate City. "We've done a lot of introspection and held a lot of meetings, put a lot of effort into creating the roster.
"Now you get to give the players you brought in a chance to compete and work together. I feel as much excitement as I ever have on a first day like today. It's a special day."
Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington echoed the same sentiments, for the first time watching in uniform the players he'd spent four months getting in-house. Including non-roster invitees, the batterymen dispersed among four fields included 15 new to the organization.
"It's a lot of fun," Huntington said, "to see what you hope will be pieces of the puzzle. From reading all the scouting reports and analytics to seeing everyone on the field … it's just Day One of Spring Training, but it's a significant day."
Perhaps more boldly than in opening his previous two camps as the Bucs' skipper, Hurdle talked not of taking steps toward competing, but of winning.
"I feel we've addressed the areas we need to in the winter. We've added depth, have more capable people in the bullpen," Hurdle said. "Our core people are in place. We have talent, and meaningful lessons learned. We want to get out of the box clean. We're gonna take out of here our best 25, the most representative team that gives us the best ability to win once the season starts."
Physicals, workouts go smoothly for batterymen
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Longest Day -- due to the rotation for the required physicals, workouts began at around noon, about the time they will henceforth end -- was as routine as possible for Pirates batterymen.
In some cases, that qualified as good news:
• Kyle McPherson, the rotation candidate who had to cut short a Winter League stint due to some shoulder fatigue, threw the ball with zeal during PFP (pitchers' fielding practice), continuing his problem-free progression.
"He had some minor setbacks over the winter, but his rehab is in a very good place," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's throwing his mounds and is on time with everything."
• Mark Melancon, the former Houston closer acquired from Boston as part of the four-man package for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt, dazzled during his bullpen session, drawing repeated raves from the guy catching him, Carlos Paulino.
• Francisco Liriano could only go through light therapy, but the Bucs are just delighted to finally have the left-hander and his broken right arm in camp, where they can keep a closer eye on him.
"We've set up a rehab program to keep him moving forward," Hurdle said. "Attention is mainly on him not having any setbacks. But we're very optimistic; there has already been a lot of improvement and now that he is in our environment, with our trainers, we have a good feeling."
• Russell Martin, the catcher who had expressed a willingness to play short for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, roamed the position and fielded grounders during batting practice. Hurdle quickly waved off any wild ideas: "Been part of his routine for a long time. I don't anticipate [having him actually play short] that being Plan B."
• The Bucs announced their Spring Training broadcast schedule, to launch on the same day Grapefruit League play gets going -- Feb. 23 in Port Charlotte against the Rays. That will be the first of 13 games on The Fan (93.7). The March 1 split-squad game against the Red Sox will be the first of three aired by ROOT. The biggest slice of the preseason schedule -- 14 games -- will be broadcast exclusively at pirates.com.
• Weather watch: Tuesday's low in Bradenton was 66 degrees. Sunday's high is forecast to be 59 degrees. No one visiting from Pittsburgh will be complaining.
• The locker assignments in Pirate City's clubhouses are alphabetical, for the most part. One big exception -- Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are neighbors, doubtless by design since the top prospects are destined to be neighbors in the rotation of the near future.
• The only camp absentee is Stolmy Pimentel, delayed in his native Dominican Republic by visa issues.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.