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SPRING TRAINING Early arrivals give Pirates fast start to snapping skid

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Pittsburgh manager says number of players working out is "good" start.
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates didn't have to worry about many late arrivals when spring training began Friday with the first workout for pitchers and catchers.
The opposite is true. Many of the team's position players were already in camp even though they don't have to report until Wednesday.
Third baseman Ty Wigginton, first baseman Daryle Ward and shortstop Jack Wilson took batting practice Thursday. Other players spotted in camp this week have been infielder Freddy Sanchez, first baseman-outfielder Craig Wilson and outfielders Tike Redman and Rob Mackowiak.
"That's the start of something good," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "You get your players in here on a volunteer basis and have them out there working out early, it's important for what you're trying to do."
The Pirates are trying to rebound from a 72-89 season and their 12th consecutive losing season.
All of the team's pitchers and catchers on the 40-man roster were expected to show up for the first workout Friday.
Visa problems
The only anticipated no-show is non-roster catcher Carlos Maldonado, who is having difficulty securing his work visa in Venezuela.
Injured players such as Jack Wilson, who is recovering from an emergency appendectomy in December, also will be allowed on the field with the pitchers and catchers. The other position players will have to work out privately until the first full-squad workout is held next week.
Even if he wasn't trying to regain his strength after losing 15 pounds because of the surgery, Wilson would have arrived early to camp.
"I love being out there, that's why I'm here," he said. "You get to be out in the warm air, see the guys you haven't seen in four months. It's a good time. Spring training is the best time of year."
Craig Wilson volunteered to report as a catcher despite making only one start and three mop-up performances behind the plate last year. He was one of the earliest non-pitchers to show up in camp and has been working out at the team's spring-training complex for about 10 days.
"It's a chance to come in, get adjusted to the time and weather, be able to practice with the guys and hang out with the wife at night," he said.
Pitchers eager to begin
The pitchers apparently also couldn't wait to get started. Of the 32 healthy pitchers in camp, 22 reported within the past 1 1/2 weeks, pitching coach Spin Williams said.
Several pitchers remained in Florida after the team's voluntary mini-camp concluded in mid-January.
Among the 16 pitchers who threw off the mound Thursday were starters Kip Wells and Josh Fogg.
Williams is keeping a close eye on Wells, who is recovering from a right elbow injury that limited him to one-third inning after Aug. 13.
"We're going to take it slow with him and keep him in line to get ready for the season," Williams said. "It's the time of the year where you have to start getting guys prepared."