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Official opening of spring camp 'special' for Hurdle

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."