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Pirates set rotation for season-opening series

Williams, Kuhl to follow Nova in set vs. Tigers
Special to MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' season-opening rotation has officially been set. Following Friday's 8-2 loss to the Phillies at LECOM Park, Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said right-hander Trevor Williams will work at No. 2, and right-hander Chad Kuhl will be at No. 3 -- following Opening Day starter Ivan Nova -- in next weekend's series vs. the Tigers.

Hurdle said right-hander Jameson Taillon will be the No. 4 starter, working the Pirates' home opener against the Twins on April 2.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' season-opening rotation has officially been set. Following Friday's 8-2 loss to the Phillies at LECOM Park, Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said right-hander Trevor Williams will work at No. 2, and right-hander Chad Kuhl will be at No. 3 -- following Opening Day starter Ivan Nova -- in next weekend's series vs. the Tigers.

Hurdle said right-hander Jameson Taillon will be the No. 4 starter, working the Pirates' home opener against the Twins on April 2.

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Video: TOR@PIT: Kuhl strikes out Bichette to end the frame

Meanwhile, Hurdle said right-hander Joe Musgrove, acquired in an offseason trade with the Astros, should have his initial Bucs start during a home series against the Reds on April 5-8. Musgrove, who fell behind after having shoulder discomfort early in spring, is still ramping up and might see some time in extended spring camp.

Tweet from @Pirates: Today Clint Hurdle announced our rotation for the Opening Series in Detroit. @IvanNova47@MeLlamoTrevor@KuhlWhhip_11#LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/mgVMghQCkz

Hurdle said left-hander Steven Brault and right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who have been used as starters in the Minor Leagues, will work as long men in the bullpen.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Bullpen adjustment
Friday was a forgettable start for Brault, who surrendered four earned runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies.

Next stop: the bullpen. Brault, named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the International League Most Valuable Pitcher last season when he went 10-5 with a 1.94 ERA in 21 appearances (20 starts) at Triple-A Indianapolis, is accustomed to being a starter. But during last season's callups to the Pirates, seven of his 11 appearances were in relief.

"I was told [relief work] might happen, so it's not a complete surprise,'' Brault said. "It's more like, 'I have to be able to get into the game immediately.' I'm going to spend a week practicing, getting ready for it.

Video: PHI@PIT: Brault induces 5-4-3 double play in the 1st

"I've learned that it's a very self-accountability position. As a starter, yes, you have to be accountable for yourself, but you have five days to do so. As a reliever, yeah, there's a bullpen coach down there, but he's not telling you, 'Hey, make sure your legs are ready just in case you go in. You just have to know what gets you ready and what gets you prepared to pitch immediately.''

Dickerson at leadoff?
Left fielder Corey Dickerson, who went 2-for-5 Friday to raise his Grapefruit League batting average to .316, could be a regular in the leadoff slot. That's where Dickerson mostly hit last season with the Rays -- 57 leadoff assignments in 150 games -- where he batted .282 and made the American League All-Star team.

"He has hit there a lot,'' Hurdle said. "He has usable speed. He's got more than gap power. He has a good at-bat in him, and he sees pitches. He has a lot of the components you're looking for. And he's done it, so there's experience as well. He could very well end up there some days.''

Adam Frazier, who batted leadoff in 63 of 121 games for the Pirates last season, is another logical candidate.

Hurdle said he's still kicking around other lineup combinations, but he has a pretty good idea of how the Bucs will line up. He didn't offer any specifics. The season-opening series at an AL opponent (Tigers) will require a designated hitter and immediately change the dynamics.

Planning on more pickoffs
In the second inning Friday, the Phillies had runners on first and third. Two runs already were in with one out. Then the inning was short-circuited when Pirates catcher Elias Diaz picked Phillies baserunner Jorge Alfaro off third base.

Video: PHI@PIT: Diaz makes great throw, nabs Alfaro at third

It was another example of Hurdle's calculated plan to be aggressive with opposing baserunners on pickoff attempts.

"We started talking about it in August, and we put in a whole new program [of pickoff plays] this year,'' Hurdle said. "It's a way to control the running games. The pick today at third, back picks at first, the throws to second … we're trying to be more active and aggressive with it.

"We're trying to get outs unconventionally in ways we haven't tried in the past. There are outs to be had, as evidenced by today. These are situations we can take advantage of.''

Nava agrees to Minor League deal
Outfielder Daniel Nava, who was released on Tuesday, has agreed to a Minor League deal with the Pirates. Nava, 35, underwent back surgery in February, when the team said he would be out 10-to-12 weeks. Nava batted .301 with the Phillies in 80 games last season.

The return of Buc Night
The Pirates will partner with Sugardale to host the popular "Buc Night" promotion at PNC Park on Wednesday, April 4, when Pittsburgh plays Minnesota at 6:05 p.m. ET. A limited number of $1 tickets are on sale exclusively through the MLB Ballpark App.

Tweet from @Pirates: Buc Night returns to PNC on Wednesday, April 4!INFO: https://t.co/UeR0nJPlIA pic.twitter.com/NhqZn9kWud

Up next
The Pirates will start Nova on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET in Bradenton, Fla., against the Rays, who counter with left-hander Blake Snell. The Bucs are also scheduled to use Glasnow and Dovydas Neverauskas. Watch the game on MLB.TV.

Joey Johnston is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Pirates on Friday.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Chad Kuhl, Ivan Nova, Trevor Williams