Pirates' Correia understands need to win on road
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CHICAGO -- This opening day game at Wrigley Field, when starting pitcher Kevin Correia delivers his first pitch in a Pirates uniform against the Chicago Cubs, will be his initial chance to make an impression on Pirates fans.
Or so it would appear.
"I got to go PirateFest [in January] and met a few of the fans, and they were real energetic," said Correia, 30, who signed as a free agent from San Diego in the offseason. "That kind of got me going and ready to want to go out and win some games for these people."
Those few days inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center were his off-the-field introduction; today comes his first on-the-mound presentation.
Game: Pirates vs. Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago.
TV, radio: Root Sports, WPGB-FM 104.7.
Pitching: RHP Kevin Correia (10-10, 4.47 ERA in 2010) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (15-12, 3.85).
Key matchup: Correia against Marlon Byrd, the Cubs' No. 3 hitter and center fielder. In 10 at-bats against Correia, Byrd hasn't had a hit, has struck out twice and grounded into a double play.
Of note: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez struggled as a rookie last season at Wrigley Field, striking out 13 times in six games -- more than any other away park in which he played.
While Correia wasn't with this club last season and, thus, didn't deal with the 17-64 record away from home, he knows how pivotal getting started on solid footing away from PNC Park is for this club, which begins the season with its six division games on the road.
"With a team trying to win the division or just make improvements from the year before, you definitely have to win games on the road," Correia said. "Just playing 50 percent baseball on the road is huge. If you can do that, you've got a chance at the end of the year."
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 30s as the teams warm up -- or at least try to -- and around 40 for the first pitch, and that might have an impact on the starting pitcher. In addition, there could be some precipitation.
"It is not that big of a deal, really," Correia said of the weather. "Especially, once you get going, you always end up warm, anyway."
And there is that always tricky, forever unpredictable Wrigley Field wind.
It could blow in strongly, making it a steep chore to hit a ball over the wall, even if you were standing on second base. Or, it could blow out, turning an off-the-fists popup into a cheap home run that just climbs into the seats.
Correia has pitched six times (twice as a starter) at Wrigley, and his experiences there enabled him to acknowledge factors that could alter how he pitches.
"There are certain situations you might want to pitch differently if the flags are blowing in or out," Correia said. "But it is not going to completely change the way I pitch. Sometimes, if you are behind in the count and the flags are blowing straight in, you can give a guy a pitch to hit. What's the worst he's going to do? Hit a single?"
The roster was finalized Thursday with pitcher Ramon Aguero designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for pitcher Jose Veras, a right-hander the Pirates signed as a minor league free agent in the offseason who made the major league club as a reliever.
They also put four players on the 15-day disabled list: starting catcher Chris Snyder (lower back stiffness), right-handed starting pitcher Brad Lincoln (right forearm contusion), left-handed pitcher Scott Olsen (left shoulder inflammation) and right-handed pitcher Jose Ascanio (rehabbing from right shoulder surgery).
Also, infielder Josh Rodriguez, who made the club as a Rule 5 selection, has changed uniform number from No. 7 to No. 10.
The Pirates announced Thursday that they will honor former manager Chuck Tanner -- who died Feb. 11 -- by wearing a patch on their right jersey sleeves throughout this season.
The black-and-gold patch will feature Tanner's No. 7 enclosed in a "Stargell Star," made famous by former Pirate Willie Stargell.
Tanner, a New Castle native, guided the Pirates for nine seasons, including the 1979 season when they won the World Series.
Before his death, he served as a senior advisor to general manager Neal Huntington.
Right-handed starting pitcher James McDonald, who injured his left side in a spring-training start March 11, threw in a minor league camp game Thursday in Bradenton, Fla.
He pitched five innings, gave up four hits and one earned run. He also walked one and struck out four while throwing 69 pitches. McDonald is scheduled to pitch Tuesday at St. Louis.
Left-fielder Jose Tabata, removed from the exhibition game Wednesday in Philadelphia after sliding into second base, will be in the opening-day lineup. "He's fine," Hurdle said. ... The Pirates signed right-handed relief pitcher Tim Wood to a minor league deal. Wood, 28, will not be placed on the 40-man roster. Recently released by the Washington Nationals, Wood pitched in 26 games for the Florida Marlins last season, throwing 272/3 innings with a 5.53 ERA.
First Published April 1, 2011 12:00 am