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4/5 From 1985: Gregory, Pablo, Lloyd, Littlefield Sign; Big Bats, Big Arms, Big Crowds On Opening Day; RIP Larry; HBD Lastings

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  • 1985 - OF Lastings Milledge was born in Bradenton, Florida. A first-round pick of the Mets, he played for NY and then Washington. He was traded to the Pirates by the Nats in 2009 with RHP Joel Hanrahan in return for OF Nyjer Morgan and LHP Sean Burnett. From 2009-10 he hit a respectable .282 for Pittsburgh but was playing behind Jose Tabata in LF and Garrett Jones in RF with Andrew McCutchen in the pipeline. He left for free agency, but all he got was a cup of coffee with the White Sox, spending the past five seasons in Japan and Mexico. 
  • 1987 - IF Jung-Ho Kang was born in Gwangju, South Korea. After a winning posting bid of $5,002,015 for Kang from his Korean team, the Nexen Heroes, the Bucs signed the infielder to a four-year, $11M contract with an option year. He became the first KBO position player to make the jump to the MLB. Jung-Ho made the transition in style, hitting .287 with 15 HR while playing SS & 3B before he broke his leg in mid-September. He started 2016 late while recovering and then landed on the DL again with a shoulder injury, batting .255 with 21 dingers. His career was short-circuited by the debris left by a DUI conviction during the off season. He won a reprieve in 2018, missing a lot of time due to injuries, and was re-signed for 2019, reclaiming the third base spot in camp. During the year, his 10 homers couldn’t overcome a .169 BA and JHK was released in August, returning to Korea the following year.
  • 2004 – Kip Wells scattered five hits and struck out seven over six scoreless innings as the Pirates beat the Phillies, 2-1, on Opening Day at PNC Park. Chuck Tanner hurled the opening pitch, with a ceremonial toss by Mr. Rogers’ widow, JoAnn. The Anthem was sung by the Ebenezer Church Choir. Jose Mesa earned his 250th career save while Craig Wilson hit the first home run of the year for the Pirates. The bigger news was before the game, when Kevin McClatchy extended the contracts of GM Dave Littlefield and manager Lloyd McClendon. Littlefield was inked through 2007 and Lloyd was guaranteed through 2005 and given a club option for 2006. 
Kip Wells – 2004 Topps Heritage
  • 2010 – A trio of Buccaneers had big days to begin the 2010 campaign in front of 39,024 PNC Park faithful. Garrett Jones homered (one a splash-down in the Allegheny and the other an oppo field blast) in his first two at-bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers during an 11-5 win, becoming the sixth Pirate to hit two long balls on Opening Day. The Ryan’s had a big outing too, as Doumit and Church added three RBIs each, with Dewey chasing his runs home via a fifth-inning blast while Church plated his gang with a bases-loaded, pinch hit double. Zach Duke got the win with five relievers coming on to get the final 12 outs. 
  • 2011 – Ex-Bucco manager Larry Shepard passed away in Lincoln, Nebraska, at age 92. A minor league pitcher, he joined the Bucs in 1953 as a farm coach, topping out with a six-year run at AAA Columbus. He left to join the Phils in 1967 before returning to the Pirates as skipper from 1968-69 (he went 164-155, finishing 6th and 4th) before being replaced by Alex Grammas late in 1969. He was then the pitching coach for the Big Red Machine from 1970-78 and the Giants in 1979. After Shepard retired, he served as an unofficial pitching mentor for the Nebraska Cornhusker nine. 
  • 2012 – MLB Opening Day drew the largest crowd to date in PNC Park history, 39,585, as the Bucs Erik Bedard lost a classic pitching duel to the Phil’s Roy Halladay 1-0. The Bucs threatened in the first, but a Cutch 6-4-3 DP short-circuited the frame. Neil Walker took the ball to the track twice, but both drives died at the fence as Halladay tossed a two-hitter. 
  • 2012 – The Pirates signed Pablo Reyes, 18, of the Dominican as an amateur free agent for $90K. After two strong DSL campaigns, he was sent stateside in 2014 and continued to improve his game although often lost in the shuffle of more highly-projected prospects. The play-where-there’s-room dynamic worked to his advantage as he made the 40-man roster and debuted in the majors in 2018, and was on the Opening Day roster in 2019 as a utility guy, batting .203 in 71 games. He was released in camp in 2020 and soon afterward given an 80-game suspension by MLB for PED usage. Pablo is now with the Brewers.
Gregory Polanco – 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini
  • 2016 – The Pirates officially announced they had signed RF Gregory Polanco to a contract extension that would carry him through arbitration and a year of free agency (2017-2021) worth $35M guaranteed with two team options, bringing the total contract value up to $58M. The particulars: $3M signing bonus, $1M – ’17, $3.5M – ’18, $5.5M – ’19, $8M – ’20, $11M – ’21. $12.5M option/$3M buyout – ’22, $13.5M option/$1M buyout – ’22. The 24-year-old Polanco’s first full MLB campaign was 2015 when he hit .256 with nine home runs, 52 RBIs, 35 doubles, six triples and 27 stolen bases in 153 games. He also ranked second among all NL outfielders with 13 assists, trailing only teammate Starling Marte’s 16 throw-outs. He’s shown flashes and hit bumps throughout his career, missing the end of 2018 with a bum shoulder that required surgery after he dislocated it during an awkward slide. Polanco came back too soon in 2019, got into just 42 games and hasn’t fully recovered yet.


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