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March 7, 2014

McCutchen leads Pirates offense in loss to Twins

Bradenton, Fla. — Andrew McCutchen homered, doubled and singled Friday for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

McCutchen went 3 for 3, scored twice and drove in two runs. The reigning NL MVP is 8 for 11 in four games this spring.

“No big deal,” he said. “They don’t count in the spring.”

McCutchen’s two-run homer was part of a five-run barrage against Minnesota starter Vance Worley in 12⁄3 innings.

In the first inning, the Pirates sent nine batters to the plate and scored three times. McCutchen doubled and scored on Travis Snider’s two-run single.

Worley was replaced by Kris Johnson after serving up McCutchen’s homer in the second. Worley faced 12 batters, but recorded only four outs. The right-hander allowed five hits.

Pirates left-hander Wandy Rodriguez pitched two scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and struck out two.

Pirates: Rodriguez threw more breaking balls than he did in his first spring outing. He’s had trouble finding the zone with his curveball.

“I need to get that pitch over for strikes,” Rodriguez said.

Twins: Worley is trying to re-establish himself in the major league rotation after finishing last season in the minors. He made 10 starts for the Twins and went 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA.

Worley was solid in his Grapefruit League debut, allowing only one hit in three scoreless innings against Baltimore. But he left too many pitches up against the Pirates, and also was the victim of some bad luck. Three of the hits he allowed in the first inning were dribblers, including a bases-loaded infield single by Andrew Lambo.

To be the Twins’ everyday center fielder, Alex Presley needs to show he can get on base more often and be a base-stealing threat.

In 28 games last season, Presley had a .336 on-base percentage but swiped only one base in four tries. This spring, he’s competing with Aaron Hicks for the starting job.

“If I play my game, I think I’ll be fine,” Presley said. “I did a lot of good things last year with this team. If I steal a few more bases, I’ll be good. We need some guys at the top who can run, and they’re looking for me to be that guy.”

The 28-year-old broke into the majors with the Pirates in 2010, but was squeezed out of playing time when Starling Marte arrived in 2012. He was traded to the Twins last August.

“I got some chances in Pittsburgh,” Presley said. “I capitalized on some, didn’t on others. This is a new start and I’m excited to have the chance.”

Pirates closer Jason Grilli made his first outing of spring training and tossed a 1-2-3 inning.

“It feels good to get on the bump and see all the hard work come into effect,” Grilli said.

The 37-year-old Grilli has been eased into workouts this spring after missing six weeks last season because of a sprained right flexor tendon.

“He’s going to get as many innings as he’s gotten in the past,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s just how you construct it. A closer never gets closing work in spring training unless he pitches the first or second inning, and that doesn’t happen very often.”

There was a marquee matchup in the Twins-Pittsburgh B game at the Pirates’ minor league complex. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who’s rated the game’s top prospect by Baseball America, faced Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole.

The 20-year-old Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. At Class A last year, he batted .334 with 12 home runs and 55 stolen bases. The 23-year-old Cole was the first overall pick in 2011. He made his big league debut last June and went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA.

Cole won this showdown, as Buxton struck out in both at-bats against him.

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