First best call of the year

Before Nate McLouth even stepped into the batter’s box against Andrew Bailey in the seventh inning of today’s game, Pirates media relations maven Jim Trdinich announced loudly in the press box: “Here it comes, two-run homer for Nate!”

Three pitches later, McLouth lost a ball over the right field fence to turn a 4-5 deficit into a 6-5 win over Boston. Making the call even better: It was the first time McLouth had ever faced Bailey, so it was all instinct, no history. … 

The Pirates will have two off-days around their first three games of the season, but manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t yet know whether they’ll leave the gate with three starters — which would allow the Opening Day choice to also pitch Game No. 4 on regular five days’ rest — or go with four and give everyone an extra day between their first two starts. … 

I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Jeff Clement. Considering he spent most of last season rehabbing from yet another left-knee surgery, he is actually looking forward to resuming regular play in Triple-A to prove his health and earn another chance. Have never seen anyone so happy to be reassigned to Minor League camp, where he knows he’ll get a tougher physical test than he would’ve by remaining an occasional player in the big-league camp. … 

A new guest checked into my Bradenton-area hotel today: The D-Train, Dontrelle Willis, pulled into the station, reporting to the Orioles, who picked him up following the left-hander’s release by the Phillies. … 

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