BRADENTON, Fla. -- It is easy to forget that a year ago, Kyle McPherson was considered the frontrunner for the rotation spot that eventually went to Jeff Locke. It turned out all right for the Pirates, who got an All-Star first half from Locke that pointed them toward the postseason.
McPherson couldn't even put up a good fight. He battled elbow problems in the spring and into the early Minor League season before getting shut down and undergoing Tommy John reconstruction surgery.
Not the best place to be, but at least McPherson is in a good place now: In the Pirate City locker room, 15 feet from Charlie Morton, who underwent the same operation a year earlier and has already made an emphatic comeback.
"Having someone who's been there, done that to talk to is huge, to help you through the ups and downs of rehab," McPherson said. "There is a bit of a bond there. At the beginning of rehab last year, I was texting him and he would reach out and encourage me along the way."
McPherson said he is about to begin the flat-ground throwing phase of his program, and after two weeks of that would try the mound.
"Getting on the mound again is what I'm looking forward to," McPherson said.
Morton made it back to the Majors on June 13, 2013, one day shy of the anniversary of his surgery. A similar timetable would have McPherson pitching for the Bucs this July 9.
Martin's No. 12 retired by Chipola College
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Russell Martin became the latest member of the Pirates family to experience one of the spoils of a 94-win season that ends in the playoffs: Having your uniform -- or even your name -- immortalized by one of your stepping stones to the Majors.
Martin's No. 12 has been retired by Chipola College, located in Marianna, Fla., about 280 miles northwest of Bradenton. Martin stopped off for the Feb. 8 ceremony on his way to Pirate City.
He became the second Pirates player to receive that honor within the past few weeks. Brandon Cumpton's uniform -- also No. 12 -- was retired by Greenbrier (Ga.) High School in late January. Manager Clint Hurdle's alma mater Merritt High School rededicated its baseball field in his name.
Hurdle's reaction to that honor: "It just means you're getting older."
Sure enough, Martin turned 31 on Saturday.
"It was weird," Martin said of the uniform retirement. "Stuff like that usually happens after you finish playing. But it was definitely special -- especially since that part of my life shaped my mentality. Coach [Jeff Johnson] was tough -- no excuses. It made everything else after that easier."
One of Martin's 2000-01 Chipola teammates, who joined him in numerous photos chronicling the school's annual alumni weekend? Jose Bautista.
First number, last word
78: The highest number seen on the back of a player in Pirate City, worn by Omir Santos, the former Cleveland catcher signed to a Minor League contract.
"This year, I'll be better." -- Starling Marte, a finalist for the National League Gold Glove for left fielders, on missing out on the award that went to Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez.
• The 15 pitchers taking bullpen turns on Saturday (with the exception of recovering Wandy Rodriguez, the pitchers in camp are on an every-other-day schedule) included Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez and Locke.
• Adam Wilk, a 26-year-old non-roster righty, is one of the most avid golfers in camp. After a sign-up sheet was posted for an upcoming charity golf tournament, Wilk wasted no time getting his name and his 12-handicap at the top of the list.
• Postion players continued to trickle into Pirate City on Saturday, two days prior to the mandatory reporting day, with Andrew Lambo and Marte joining workouts.
• Martin, who turned 31 on Saturday, is the Pirates' oldest projected starting position player (first baseman Gaby Sanchez turned 30 in September).
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.