2/3/2014 3:41 P.M. ET
Polanco, Taillon get Rookie of the Year notice
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Outfielder Gregory Polanco and right-hander Jameson Taillon have collected plaudits all offseason as the Pirates' top two hopes for the future. Now, at least one respected national publication has accelerated their clocks.
In its Baseball Preview, USA Today gave each a nod as the likely 2014 National League Rookie of the Year.
The most popular ROY choice in a survey of the paper's editorial staff was Billy Hamilton, who is replacing departed Shin-Soo Choo as the Reds' center fielder. However, an editor went with Polanco, while national baseball writer Paul White sided with Taillon.
Two interesting things about those picks: In their entire history, the Pirates have fielded only one NL Rookie of the Year, and not until Jason Bay claimed the honor in 2004; and neither Polanco nor Taillon is expected to begin the season in the Majors.
The team is sworn to patience, allowing extensive seasoning at Triple-A Indianapolis for both. Polanco has a grand total of nine Triple-A at-bats and Taillon made six starts for the Indians at the end of last season.
Obviously, someone thinks that either their Spring Trainings will be compelling enough for the Pirates to revise their thinking, or that they will arrive midseason with enough fanfare and impact to head off the rookie class.
McCutchen helps hometown with youth clinic
It is easy for Andrew McCutchen to not forget where he came from. Because he never left.
McCutchen has simply grown from the prep pride of Fort Meade, Fla., into its Pied Piper. He was at it again Saturday, surrounded by the area's youth at his "Raising The Standard" Baseball Camp.
All proceeds from the one-day clinic are earmarked for Fort Meade Dixie Youth Baseball. Instructions on strength and speed drills and defensive and batting techniques were capped off by an inspirational address by McCutchen.
When the National League MVP speaks, you bet the kids listen.
It was one of McCutchen's final public appearances before joining the rest of the Pirates for the start of Spring Training. Position players are to report Feb. 17 but McCutchen, whose Fort Meade roots are a mere 50 miles from Pirate City, is predictably one of the regular early arrivals.
Hurdle set for honor as Sportsman of the Year
One more award into the trophy case. Then they all go into the rearview mirror.
A spotlighted offseason spent gathering the spoils of last year's success draws to a close Thursday night, when Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is feted as Sportsman of the Year at the 78th Annual Dapper Dan Banquet at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
This is a big deal. Andrew McCutchen was presented with the same honor last year, and members of the Pirates were last honored consecutively in 1978 (Dave Parker) and 1979 (Willie Stargell).
But the "year" on the award is 2013. And the calendar reads 2014. One week after accepting this latest award, Hurdle will be in Florida, overseeing his pitchers and catchers going through their first Spring Training workout in Bradenton's Pirate City.
So, as Hurdle noted at December's PirateFest in the same convention center, "as with anything else, there's a time to move on" from celebrating last season.
That trophy case is full. McCutchen's NL MVP Award is front and center, next to Hurdle's Manager of the Year laurel. Last week, Hurdle was also honored by having the baseball field at his prep alma mater, Florida's Merritt Island High School, renamed for him.
The Bucs also cleaned up at the GIBBYs, named Storyline of the Year while Mark Melancon was named Setup Man of the Year and Francisco Liriano's the Comeback Player of the Year by MLB.com's panel of voters.
It has all made for a proud winter. And it's all history.
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.