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Pregame: Cubs, Kris Bryant visit PNC Park

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Bryant comes to Pittsburgh

The Pirates will likely see a lot of Kris Bryant in the years in the come. Tonight they will get their first look, as Bryant will bat fouth and play third.

When asked if he was looking forward to seeing the highly-touted prospect play in person, Clint Hurdle simply said, "Yeah," followed by a pause and a shrug, "Yeah."

When Joe Maddon, who returns to PNC Park for the first time since 2008 when he was the manager of the Rays, first sat down in the visitor's dugout for his pregame press meeting, he looked out at the Clemente Bridge and said, "City of Bridges, city of Franco [Harris], city of a lot of good things."

On the hype surrounding Bryant, Maddon remarked that he hasn't seen an "anticipatory moment" like what went happened in Chicago. He added that being on the road would be a nice break for the third baseman.

"I think if Longo [Evan Longoria] had been a Chicago Cub minor league player, he might have gotten the same amount of attention," Maddon said. "I think it is a matter of where you're potentially going to exist that breeds the hype prior to it."

Hurdle sees a ‘strengthened' Cubs team

As the Brewers, a team which appears to be headed for a long season and a potential rebuild leaves town; the Cubs, a club that looks to be quickly headed in the opposite direction, are visiting PNC Park for an interesting early season four game series.

Hurdle is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to evaluating how improved the Cubs will be this season.

"Time will tell," Hurdle said. "They definitely strengthened their roster over the winter. They did a bunch of roster modification to put themselves to put themselves in a stronger position than they've been in the past."

Mercer update

Hurdle confirmed that Jordy Mercer did not suffer a fractured rib and said that tests showed nothing "alarming."

"He's in a better place than when I saw him on the field yesterday," Hurdle said. "He is sore. He feels a lot better. We have another test we want to run, but right now we're treating it as a contusion to the chest."

McCutchen doing better

Andrew McCutchen raised some eyebrows last Tuesday when he was slow coming in on a shallow line drive by Jose Iglesias, which allowed the Tigers shortstop to take second on the hit. It was known that McCutchen had an aching knee, but that play raised questions about the severity of his knee issue. Today, Hurdle said his centerfielder was feeling better than he was early last week.

"Our centerfielder continues to work," Hurdle said. "He had some challenges earlier in the week with his knee, but he's worked through them. He's moving much better the last two games."

Liz's seemingly ironic nickname

I've been posting excerpts from a wide-ranging conversation I had with Radhames Liz in recent ‘Pregame' notes. This is the third installment. I'll have full article on the adjustments that he and Ray Searage are working on later this week.

Radhames Liz's nickname is Bracitos, which is Spanish for "little arms." It would seem to be nickname born out of irony, or baseball ribbing. After all, he has what one American League scout described as the "some of the longest arms and longest fingers I've ever seen." (The same scout claimed that when Liz is standing still his fingers stretch to just below the knees.)

As it turns out, it actually originated in the Dominican Republic, and is an adaptation of his big brother Johnny's nickname, Brazo, "arms."

Out of Liz's 11 siblings, Johnny was the best baseball player in the Liz family growing up.  When Radhames was 16, his mother passed away and he quit school and went to work in a sugar factor. His brother pulled him out of the factory and told him that he was going to teach him to play baseball.

"I wasn't playing baseball," Liz said. "He was the one playing. He was the one that was good. And when I used to go to the field they used to call him ‘Brazo, Brazo,'and when I got to the field I was so skinny people started saying ‘Bracitos' because I was the little brother."

Liz doesn't hear many people call him by that nickname very much anymore, but when he does hear it he said that he knows they know him from "way back."