PITTSBURGH -- A moving tribute to honor former manager Chuck Tanner highlighted the Pirates' home opener festivities at PNC Park on Thursday.
Following a video tribute to Tanner, who died on Feb. 11, the Pirates unveiled a decal of Tanner's No. 7 jersey on the center-field wall. The organization also presented members of Tanner's family with a framed Tanner jersey that has sewn on it the No. 7 patch that players and coaches will be wearing all season.
John Candelaria, Phil Garner, Grant Jackson, Bruce Kison, Jim Rooker, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Parker and Kent Tekulve -- all of whom were members of Tanner's 1979 World Championship club -- were all on hand for the pregame ceremony.
Following on-field introductions for both teams, Tanner's son, Bruce, threw the ceremonial first pitch to Sanguillen.
In a separate presentation, the Pirates recognized bench coach Jeff Banister with the organization's annual Pride of the Pirates Award. The award, which was created in 1990, goes to a member of the Pirates family who has demonstrated sportsmanship, dedication and outstanding character during a lifetime of service to the organization.
Banister is now in his 26th season with the organization, though his first on the Major League coaching staff.
Three Pirates to begin rehab assignments
PITTSBURGH -- Three rehabbing Pirates players are joining the Pirates' Class A Bradenton affiliate, which begins its season on Thursday.
Catcher Chris Snyder (lower back soreness) will play in Thursday's game, while right-hander Brad Lincoln (right arm contusion) will start for the Marauders on Sunday. The Pirates have not announced how long either player is expected to remain in Bradenton.
Snyder played in only one Grapefruit League game after March 7, so he does have to make up for a number of missed at-bats before he will be ready to rejoin the Pirates. Lincoln is expected to join the Triple-A rotation in Indianapolis once he is healthy.
Left-hander Joe Beimel (left elbow soreness) will make an appearance for Bradenton on Friday. After a few Minor League appearances, Beimel will likely be ready for his summons to Pittsburgh. He was shut down two separate times in Spring Training due to arm discomfort.
Banister goes back to number honoring friend
PITTSBURGH -- Joking that the time is right to exorcise old demons, Jeff Banister is going back to No. 17.
Banister sported the new jersey number for the first time on Thursday after wearing No. 55 throughout Spring Training and during the Pirates' opening road trip. The number holds both special significance and a chilling memory for the Pirates' new bench coach.
Banister first wore No. 17 during his senior year at LaMarque (Texas) high school. The number had belonged to one of his best friends, Donald "Ronny" Carelock, who was killed in a car accident on the 17th day of October during his freshman year in college.
Wanting to find a way to honor his friend, Banister asked Carelock's parents if he could wear their son's number during the following baseball season. They agreed, and Banister continued to wear No. 17 when he went to play for Baytown (Texas) Junior College. The affinity for the number changed, though, after Banister broke his neck in a home-plate collision while playing for Baytown. The incident left him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.
"I told myself after that that I would never wear 17 again," Banister said.
That is, until now.
"I got to thinking about it -- nothing against 55, nothing against Orel Hershiser or anyone who has worn 55 -- but I had been thinking about it," said Banister, who is in his 26th year with the organization. "I went to [the team's clubhouse manager] and said, 'Is it possible?' He said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'Let's do it then.'"
Walker plays first opener in hometown
PITTSBURGH -- Seeing a swarm of reporters and television cameras approaching, Neil Walker knew exactly what was coming. So much so, that he actually asked the question -- you know, the question about how it feels to play in his first home opener in Pittsburgh, which also happens to be Walker's hometown.
After jokingly posing the question to himself, Walker paused. Then he came up with the following:
"Well, it feels pretty good," Walker said. "Obviously, growing up in Pittsburgh and seeing a lot of home openers, I'm excited to be here. We've started the season off well. What more can you ask for? Thank you."
Walker has played in 133 games for the Pirates, though Thursday was the first time the second baseman has played in home game No. 1 of the season. He's grown accustomed to answering questions about his ties to the city and, though likely annoyed at times by the repetitive inquiries, Walker remains gracious in his responses.
"I think he's already shown good perseverance and resiliency," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think Neil is a very humble young man as well. He obviously is tied to this organization and this ball team a little differently, and I think he takes pride in that. I think he embraces that."
Reliever Jose Veras will be wearing No. 43 for the rest of the season.
Thursday marked the second time the Pirates have hosted the Rockies in a home opener. The first came in 1994, when the Rockies defeated the Pirates, 7-3, at Three Rivers Stadium.
With Ubaldo Jimenez landing on the disabled list, the Rockies' probable pitchers for the series have changed. Jorge De La Rosa will start on Friday, followed by Greg Reynolds and Jhoulys Chacin. De La Rosa will be the first left-handed starter the Pirates have seen this season. Matt Diaz is expected to get the start in right field against him.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.