Cutch, Cole will be catalysts heading into 2017

PITTSBURGH — The morning after the Pirates’ disappointing 2016 season ended in St. Louis, veteran reliever Jared Hughes took to Twitter to thank Pittsburgh’s fans and posted a sentence that could serve as a motto of sorts for 2017.

“This setback is the platform for our comeback,” Hughes wrote.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to our fans for supporting us this season. This setback is the platform for our comeback. Eyes on 2017.

— Jared Hughes (@locatejared) October 3, 2016

A heartfelt thank you goes out to our fans for supporting us this season. This setback is the platform for our comeback. Eyes on 2017.

The Pirates will head into next year intent on proving that this past season, when they fell far short of preseason expectations, was simply a setback — a down year amid a run of postseason appearances.

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The Bucs made the postseason three straight years from 2013-15, and they followed that up by going 78-83 in 2016. What does ’17 have in store?

The competition won’t get any easier. Within their own division, the Pirates must face the defending World Series-champion Cubs and the reloaded, perennially contending Cardinals.

“Obviously, we respect the Cubs. They are the defending World Series champions,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “It’s not the first time we’ve had the defending World Series champion in our division. It’s not the first time we’ve had the defending National League champion in our division.”

But the Pirates’ greatest concern is themselves. The Bucs’ collective …

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