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Five Pirates soak in making first OD roster

Reliever Neverauskas first Lithuanian-born player to accomplish feat
MLB.com @adamdberry

DETROIT -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Friday he loves the "pageantry" of Opening Day -- the excitement, the ceremonies, the start of a new season. Five Pirates got to experience it for the first time at Comerica Park, and one of them made history.

Third baseman Colin Moran, catcher Elias Diaz, left-hander Steven Brault and right-handers Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas made their first Opening Day roster. Neverauskas, who made his debut in 2017, became the first Lithuanian-born player to appear on an Opening Day roster in Major League history.

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DETROIT -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Friday he loves the "pageantry" of Opening Day -- the excitement, the ceremonies, the start of a new season. Five Pirates got to experience it for the first time at Comerica Park, and one of them made history.

Third baseman Colin Moran, catcher Elias Diaz, left-hander Steven Brault and right-handers Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas made their first Opening Day roster. Neverauskas, who made his debut in 2017, became the first Lithuanian-born player to appear on an Opening Day roster in Major League history.

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"That was the goal, to break the camp," Neverauskas said. "The other goal is to stay all year, healthy and out there."

Neverauskas is part of Pittsburgh's eight-man bullpen, as are Brault and Santana. Diaz has played 67 games for the Pirates over the past three years, but he was always blocked on Opening Day by former backup catcher Chris Stewart. Moran joined the Bucs in January as part of the Gerrit Cole trade.

"Just go ahead and soak that in and realize there's going to be a game to play, and you have a responsibility once the game starts," Hurdle said. "I'm not a big fan of telling everybody what they need to do."

Moran, the only first-timer in the starting lineup, said his wife, Kelsey, and parents, Bill and Diane, made the trip to Detroit for his first Opening Day start.

"You try not to be, but obviously you're a lot more excited," Moran said. "You just try to get rid of the anxiousness and excitement and try to treat it like another game."

Hurdle reflects on Staub
Hurdle remembered Rusty Staub, his friend and former teammate who passed away on Thursday morning, as "a great big man with a bigger heart, a huge laugh, a zest for life, and [he] loved to compete and loved to play the game."

Hurdle, Staub, Wally Backman and now-Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire played cards together during every Mets road trip in 1983. Hurdle often credits Staub for teaching him how to handle a role off the bench.

Video: PIT@DET: Hurdle on relationship with Rusty Staub

"He just kind of took me under the wing and showed me a better way of preparing for games playing in an extra man's role, playing off the bench. It was very invaluable," Hurdle said. "Opened my eyes to a lot of different things you needed to be aware of. Just the overall excellence. He demanded a lot of himself, demanded a lot of his teammates. … He has touched so many people in so many different causes and ways in New York."

Their time together was on Hurdle's mind earlier this week. Before the Pirates' Spring Training finale, Hurdle met at home plate with Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, who has experimented with swapping his corner outfielders' positions on a batter-by-batter basis. Hurdle told Kapler about the Mets' 5-4 win over the Pirates at Shea Stadium on April 28, 1985, when he and Staub switched back and forth as the game went 18 innings.

"Way ahead of the curve," Hurdle said, smiling.

Around the horn
• Right-hander Joe Musgrove left the team after Friday's Opening Day ceremonies and flew to Florida, where he will make a six-inning/100-pitch start in a Minor League game on Saturday. Musgrove wanted to be with the Pirates on Opening Day, even if it was delayed a day.

• The Bucs lined up on Friday as Hurdle indicated on Tuesday, with Adam Frazier making his second straight Opening Day start in the leadoff spot.

Josh Bell became the first Pirates first baseman to make consecutive Opening Day starts since Adam LaRoche did so from 2007-09.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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