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• Octavio Dotel is the most media-friendly and approachable player that's come through the Pirates clubhouse in the PNC Park era. Plus he always seems to have something interesting to say. He doesn't give canned, clich'd answers and he's never in a hurry to end the conversation. That gentleman is a delight.

• The problem with signing most free agent starting pitchers to long-term contracts is the back end, not the front end. Two examples: Kansas City gave Gil Meche a five-year, $55 million contract prior to the 2007 season. His combined record that year and in 2008 was 23-24. He slipped to 6-10 last season and this year he was 0-4 in his first eight starts with an ERA approaching 7.00. Milwaukee signed Jeff Suppan to a four-year, $42 million deal prior to the 2007 campaign. He went a combined 22-22 during the first two years of that contract. In 2009, he was 7-12 and this year he's working out of the bullpen with an ERA near 6.00. So for all that money, Meche and Suppan were .500 pitchers the first two years of those deals — and downright bad after that.

• Pirates prospect Starling Marte is out of action right now after having surgery on one of his hands, but here's what Bradenton Marauders manager P.J. Forbes had to say about the promising 21-year-old outfielder recently: He gets unbelievable jumps on balls and he makes throws to throw out guys at home plate that are head high. He throws the ball in from center field on a line and you just stand there with your mouth open. The tools are there for him to be a special player. There's no question about it. He can run. He can throw. The ball comes off his bat differently. It's just a matter of how he develops. Baseball sense-wise he's still really green, but his skills, they show everywhere.

• Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts died last month and I read this in his obituary, and it blew my mind. In September of 1950, right after he turned 24 years old, he pitched the Phillies to a pennant-clinching 4-1 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers on the final day of the regular season — and it was his third start in a span of five days. That was a much different era, I know. But that's still just a ridiculous accomplishment. That season was also the first of six straight where Roberts pitched at least 300 innings, with the high being an incredible 346.2 in 1953.

• San Francisco's Tim Linecum made $405,000 when he won the National League Cy Young Award in 2008 and $650,000 when he repeated the feat last year. So the Giants got back-to-back Cy Young seasons out of him for just over a million bucks. But Lincecum, who was the team's first round draft pick in 2006, cashed in big time when he signed a two-year, $23 million deal this February.

• This is probably just a coincidence, but still interesting to note: In his first nine starts of 2010, Kansas City's Zack Greinke, last year's American League Cy Young Award winner, was winless in the eight games that Jason Kendall started at catcher. In the only game Greinke won during that stretch, Brayan Pena was behind the plate. Kendall, who will turn 36 years old this month, went over the 2,000 games played mark for his career earlier this season.?His only previous experience in the A.L. was with Oakland (2005-2007).

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Josh Bell had not hit a walk-off home run since he was a member of the Altoona Curve in 2015. He changed that Friday with a soaring shot for the left field loonies.
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