BRADENTON, Fla. -- Andrew McCutchen, who once acknowledged that Ken Griffey Jr.'s American League Most Valuable Player Award-winning season in 1997 had inspired him to pursue baseball as a career, said it was "cool and significant" to hear The Kid cite him as the answer to two questions he was asked in a recent TV interview.
Question 1: "Who among current players plays with the style you had?"
Question 2: "Who is the best player in the Major Leagues today?"
"I got to know him a little bit through the years," McCutchen said, "but, sure, it was still cool to hear him say those things."
McCutchen's exact comment about Griffey in mid-November when he was named recipient of his own 2013 National League MVP Award:
"He's someone I wanted to emulate, someone I wanted to be like. He was definitely a big influence on myself when it came to playing the game and choosing baseball. I feel like I can be an influence in that."
Task accomplished, it would appear.
Morel, relievers stand out in Pirates' 'B' game
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Left-hander Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris, two big elements of the Pirates' 2013 bullpen who had gotten off to rocky starts this spring, got back on track during Friday morning's "B" game against the Twins at Pirate City.
The nine-inning unofficial game ended in a 3-3 tie, with the Bucs' runs coming on a three-run homer by Brent Morel in the fourth.
Wilson, who gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning on Monday against Boston, and Morris, touched for three runs in a third of an inning in the same game, each tossed a scoreless frame with both manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage in attendance. Between them, they struck out five of the seven men they faced, with Morris striking out the side while allowing an infield single.
"They both looked like they picked some things up," Hurdle said. "They were more efficient with their pitches. Their command -- everything -- was better for them."
Gerrit Cole allowed two runs while fanning four in three innings in his start for the Pirates, who were blanked across the first three innings on one hit by former teammate Kevin Correia.
Wandy makes progress in latest outing
BRADENTON, Fla. -- With his comfort and confidence clearly growing every time he takes the mound, Wandy Rodriguez took another significant step on his comeback from a forearm injury with Friday's start against Minnesota.
With an assist from catcher Russell Martin, Rodriguez faced only seven batters in blanking the Twins for the first two innings of the Bucs' 6-5 loss.
He allowed a game-opening single to former Pirates outfielder Alex Presley, who was caught by Martin attempting to steal second. Rodriguez surrendered another single to Trevor Plouffe with one away in the second, then retired the next two men.
"I was very pleased with his performance," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He had a very comfortable approach, and worked in his curveball in the second inning. We're real happy with the steps he's taken forward this spring."
Rodriguez confirmed using his curve more this time than in his previous outing, a scoreless inning on Monday against Tampa Bay.
"I was missing my spot early with the curve, so I kept throwing it until I could get it over for a strike," Rodriguez said. "So I threw everything, and didn't feel anything [bad]."
After going through a slower program than other pitchers in the early stages of Spring Training camp, Rodriguez is now on a regular fifth-day schedule. He is due to stretch out to three innings in his next start, which should come on Wednesday, again against Minnesota, in Fort Myers, Fla.
First number, last word
12: Consecutive scoreless innings by Pirates starting pitchers, covering the last six exhibition games.
"It's a funny game. We'll play 'em every fourth day, and if we get those kinds of results, we'll see where it takes us." -- Hurdle, on Martin and McCutchen, who both played in their first game since Monday and combined to go 5-for-6, score four runs and drive in two.
• Jason Grilli's long-awaited Grapefruit League debut turned out to be uneventful, meaning it went perfectly. Grilli retired the Twins in order in the third inning, with a strikeout of Jason Bartlett in the middle.
"We liked the shape of his pitches, definitely liked the fastball command -- to both sides of the plate," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're on a good path to have him finish Spring Training strong and be ready for the season."
• Jeanmar Gomez added three scoreless innings -- allowing only a Wilkin Ramirez double -- before the Twins, aided by some loose defense by the Pirates' late-game squad, jumped four relievers for nine hits in the last three innings after having three the first six.
• There was a Polanco duel in the morning "B" game: Pirates center fielder Gregory vs. Twins second baseman Jorge.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.