Spring training | Pittsburgh Pirates 'hit reset button' for 2014 | see video

jdill@bradenton.comFebruary 14, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Each Major League Baseball franchise is full of optimism every spring.

For once in Bradenton, postseason plans are not some far-off fantasy.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, coming off last year's playoff run, are in town for their annual spring visit, beginning with Thursday's first day of workouts at Pirate City before heading to McKechnie Field for spring games in late February and March.

The Bucs ended a long playoff drought by beating the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card game and battling the St. Louis Cardinals to Game 5 in the National League Division Series.

"We did some special things last year, but everybody was disappointed with the way it finished," catcher Russell Martin said. "... We're not far away, and I think we're going to be better than last year."

Despite coming up short against the eventual NL champions, the Pirates are looking forward to this year's journey.

"It has residual effects," closer Jason Grilli said. "I think the mentality coming in here is that we've turned the page on last year. This year, we hit the reset button. The goal is the same; we want to get to the World Series. That's why you come in here and play."

One of those residual effects is confidence.

Grilli said the team knows it can play with any team in the NL Central.

"We're not a doormat," he said. "We fixed a lot of bad things around here to make it good again."

Grilli was one of last season's stars, logging 33 saves in his first year as Pittsburgh's closer and earning an NL All-Star selection.

This year's group, though, will be without ace A.J. Burnett, who signed a one-year deal for $16 million with the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.

"I was surprised," Martin said of the signing. "He was saying he was wanting to come back here and that's it. I don't know what all went into his decision-making; I'm not A.J. I didn't feel the need to ask him, but he got a nice chunk of change, that's for sure."

Despite losing Burnett, the wisdom the veteran right-hander imparted on the younger players will be felt this season.

"Everything they learned from A.J., I hope they don't forget, and I don't think they will," Martin said. "But he definitely was a leader in the way he approached the game, and the way he competed when he went on the mound. Kind of the warrior-type attitude that he had kind of trickled all the way down through."

Manager Clint Hurdle also is looking ahead, and Thursday was his first glimpse at part of his team.

The first full team workout is Feb. 18.

"We've got to continue to get better at the improvements that we've made," Hurdle said. "We talked about catching the ball. That was one thing. Controlling the running game was last year was the big thing. Actually, pitching inside was the focal point the year before that. So this year, all those things have got to stay in place and improve."

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