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There's nothing like spring training. Nothing, that is, except being greeted by a great pitching matchup. My first camp of this tour was in Bradenton as the Pirates prepped to take on the Phillies. I was able to see several players in camp that I was hoping to get a look at:
  • Garrett Jones acts like a different player this spring. He's relaxed and confident, which doesn't mean he's not working hard. He was in the cage for extra hitting when I got to the field at 8.45a. It also strikes me every time I see him how big he is. He's not quite Adam Dunn big, but it's close. I heard one of the ushers talking to another and asking "Is he as big as (Dave) Parker?" Pretty close, actually.
     
  • Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge still look alike, still like playing with each other, and like this spring a lot more than they did last year. McCutchen's not happy I had him second on my ROY ballot
     
  • Octavio Dotel and Joel Hanrahan are making good progress. Hanrahan did his workout just feet away from me, then got up on the mound. Both look like they have a shot at being ready Opening Day. The Pirates won't rush either since they have some options in the pen.
     
  • I had a long (off record) talk with Neil Huntington. It's safe to say he's optimistic but realistic. What makes me optimistic is that he's not out of ideas or discouraged after two admittedly rough years. 82 wins isn't a goal for this team, but it's possible, especially in this division.
     
  • The full pressbox to see Roy Halladay helped me see Halladay better. I was able to find an empty seat just behind John Russell and Joe Kerrigan. Halladay looked … well, like Halladay. He had good stuff, but not great. Zach Duke was working on control and was testing the corners. 
     
  • Placido Polanco injured his knee. On a popup, he was looking up, following the wind-swept ball and didn't know he was close to the mound. He stepped down and his knee buckled. He was in obvious pain and had to be helped from the field, but later reports seemed positive. 
All in all, a good first day.