The world, a Penguin and a smaller ESPN crew

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — Maybe something good will come from the World Baseball Classic after all.

The Pirates’ entire starting outfield is participating in the international tournament, so that opens some playing time for prospects like Austin Meadows.

They’re only exhibition games, but it’s a chance for the major league staff to get a look at some of the Pirates’ minor league talent.

Meadows got his first taste of Class AAA competition last season and struggled. He’s ticketed for Class AAA Indianapolis this season. Ideally, he’ll spend the entire season there and be ready for the major leagues next year. Not coincidentally, that’s also when Andrew McCutchen won’t be with the team.

Meadows isn’t the only prospect who will get some extra at bats, but he’s the one projected to be a significant major league player. He’s only 21, and there’s still work to be done.

It can only help him to get some extra work in spring training with the major league team.

Valuable spare

Turned out it was pretty handy for the Penguins to have Marc-Andre Fleury available to come in and relieve on Sunday.

The listless team fell behind 3-0 to Buffalo at home, and coach Mike Sullivan made a goaltending change. It wasn’t starter Matt Murray’s fault, but coaches will often switch goalies to wake up their team.

Fleury had two shutout periods, and the Penguins rallied to win the game 4-3. The crowd loved it, and so did Fleury.

He hasn’t had a lot of chances to be relevant this season, so Sunday’s opportunity was important to him. His teammates felt the same way.

This is a bittersweet season for Fleury. He knows it’s his last in Pittsburgh, and he knows that Murray is clearly No. 1. He’s around for insurance.

The schedule is crowded this month, and Fleury will get some chances to start. The goal is to have both goalies sharp and ready heading into the playoffs.

If the Penguins can repeat as Stanley Cup champions, it would be a perfect sendoff for Fleury.

Cable turmoil

There have been reports that ESPN will be cutting its budget, and some familiar faces could be disappearing.

Television viewing habits are changing rapidly because of technology. This seems to have hit ESPN especially hard, and the cable channel is losing subscribers.

ESPN has major money tied up in rights fees for the NFL, NBA and MLB. Fewer viewers means the balance sheet gets out of whack, and that sets off alarms.

Thanks to technology, nobody has to wait for “SportsCenter” to find out what happened.

There was a time when people anxiously waited to see the halftime highlights on ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” It often served as the first look at Sunday’s big plays.

Thanks to “SportsCenter,” nobody had to wait for Monday night to see Sunday’s highlights.

Now things are even faster, and it’s “SportsCenter” that seems stale.

Happy birthday

Kent Tekulve turned 70 the other day.

Does that mean his nickname should now be “An-Teke?”

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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