Martin, Wandy click in first game together
Batterymates hadn't teamed up before lefty's season debut Wednesday
PITTSBURGH -- The perceived value of a catcher's familiarity with his pitcher took a beating Wednesday night -- along with the Cubs.
When Wandy Rodriguez threw two-hit ball for 6 2/3 innings of the Pirates' 3-0 victory at PNC Park, he was throwing to Russell Martin for the first time, with the exception of sideline bullpen sessions early in Spring Training.
"Shows you how important that is," Martin said with a chuckle Thursday morning.
Before Rodriguez departed preseason camp for World Baseball Classic play, Martin was nursing a sore shoulder. Upon his return, Rodriguez's game appearances were limited to Minor League games at the Pirate City complex, so he and Martin never got together in a game until Wednesday night.
More attention was paid Martin's similar separation from A.J. Burnett -- but they had a previous connection as members of the 2011 Yankees.
Rodriguez, however, was a complete mystery to Russell -- partly explaining why the catcher chose to pay him a mound visit in the most critical point of the game. Trailing, 2-0, the Cubs had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh, and Rodriguez had a full-count on Brent Lillibridge when Russell came to him to ask what pitch he wanted to throw.
"I thought it was awesome that Russell went out there," manager Clint Hurdle said. "As much as you want to just hit the 'play' button, it was important to get it right. Then -- boom! -- he threw it. It was pretty impressive."
"I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. It was a big moment in the game," said Martin, who returned to his crouch knowing the curve was coming.
The breaking ball caught Lillibridge looking at strike three.
"Great pitch," Martin said. "He was looking for something else. Buckled his knees."
McCutchen's aggressive baserunning pays off
PITTSBURGH -- At about 8:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Andrew McCutchen might have been regretting having spoken so openly about being more aggressive on the bases in 2013.
Hector Rondon, or someone giving the reliever directions from the Cubs bench, seemed fixated on that promise. McCutchen drew a leadoff walk and spent most of the rest of the inning on his stomach, diving back to first base to survive pickoff throws.
"My legs were getting tired. All that on a cold night," McCutchen said.
At the time, McCutchen also had a thought: "I am going to get to second, so he can't throw for me anymore."
After Pedro Alvarez and Gaby Sanchez had both struck out, McCutchen did take off. Lowering himself into the headfirst slide he now uses, he again found himself on his stomach, but this time looking at Starlin Castro's knees. The Chicago shortstop had moved in front of the bag for catcher Welington Castillo's short throw.
The ball and McCutchen both reached the bag about the same time.
"Not good when all you see in front of you are the guy's legs," McCutchen said. "I just curled up and went in with my arms folded. Then I saw the ball just laying there so, 'OK, I'm in.'"
The steal was No. 100 of his career, and made him 2-for-2 in this young season.
"Small sample, but very encouraging to see," manager Clint Hurdle said of McCutchen pushing the envelope on the bases. "Actions speak louder than words. In the winter, we talk about a lot of things, and his intent is to make the words jump off the paper and become real."
• Charlie Morton (recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery) threw 28 pitches in a two-inning simulated game Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla., on top of 40 warmup pitches.
The report manager Clint Hurdle received on Morton was that "everything went very smooth. He's working on repeating his delivery, but everything else is in good shape. It was a good outing for him."
• Pedro Alvarez's 18 day-game homers last season were the most for the Pirates since Willie Stargell hit 19 under the sun in the World Series season of 1971.
First number, last word
2006: The last time the Pirates took a series in Dodger Stadium, where they will open their first road trip of the season on Friday; the Bucs are 4-16 at the Dodgers' home since then.
"It amazes me how much you guys ask me about guys not in uniform. You guys are killing me. But you won't catch me off-guard; I've got it all." --Hurdle, reacting to reporters' queries about rehabbing Pirates pitchers Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano
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.