NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We just wrapped up with Clint Hurdle. Here is a video and the full audio. I'll have some notes shortly.
Here are the highlights.
***Hurdle on the poor job stealing bases: "We backtracked last year. We trimmed it down dramatically. We were caught stealing the same amount of times in '12 that we were in '11, but with a reduced number of bats. It's the mentality first and foremost. They call it a stolen base for a reason. You're taking something that's not yours, and you've got to have that mentality.
"We've got to help our guys find their way there, then we have to ‑‑ we're going to implement some new ideas in Spring Training to increase the reps, increase the focus, and to recreate as much as we can the game type situation as far as them working to get better and working to get cleaner breaks when they do decide to go."
The Pirates stole 73 bases but were caught 52 times, well below the 65 to 70 percent threshold where the risk becomes justified. Andrew McCutchen stole only 20 bases in 32 attempts.
***Mark Strittmatter has left the Pirates to become a roving coordinator for the Rockies. Hurdle said he was considering adding an assistant hitting coach to the staff in light of Strittmatter's departure.
***Hurdle on the consecutive collapses: "We weren't good enough. I think the sting of not being good enough and knowing where we were at one point in time, that we are good enough to play good baseball. It's up to each man to find out how they can improve, whether it be mentally, whether it be physically, whether it be mechanically or fundamentally to sustain the success that we did show through 120 games."
***Hurdle has met with new hitting coach Jay Bell here. The Pirates brought Bell down so he could meet the scouting staff.
***I asked Hurdle if the Pirates felt they needed to add a starter from outside the organization: "We're working our way through a lot of different branches. The biggest branch was cut a little less than a week ago. If we're able to acquire a catcher, first critical point, we're going to go this way. If we didn't get Russ Martin, we're going to go this way. So we're following a different avenue now that Russ is with us and a part of our organization.
This is vague, but it sounds as though they may have gone harder after starters if they had not been able to sign one of the top free agent catchers. It's possible that was the other "way" Hurdle referred to.
"We understand the depth and the importance of pitching; everybody does. And experienced pitching can also have a tremendous benefit. It's tough to break in two young starters. Sometimes that's what you need to do. That can be a challenge."
Hurdle and Neal Huntington sound like they're OK with Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson battling for rotation spots. That's what they say, anyway. But if history is any indication, they're not. Last year they carried more pitchers than they needed, and they ended up needing all of them, between A.J. Burnett's fractured orbital bone, Charlie Morton's elbow surgery and Jeff Karstens' injuries. I believe will add someone, at some point, to give them six or even seven pitchers for five rotation spots.
***Hurdle has talked to free agent reliever Jason Grilli this offseason and said the Pirates would still like to re-sign him.
"We have interest in bringing Jason back, most definitely," Hurdle said. "Jason has been a very good pitcher for us in a Pirate uniform."
***Hurdle said the Pirates have already sent Russell Martin film of their pitching staff so he can prepare.
***I asked Hurdle if the Pirates have internal options who can close if the Pirates trade Joel Hanrahan.
"For me it's as much about opportunity, it's not so much about having a bona fide guy," Hurdle said. "We've got big arms, I think, that play swing and miss stuff. So I think we have those guys available to us."
It's possible Hurdle was talking about Bryan Morris or Duke Welker, two people who would make sense.
***Hurdle said he thought having Travis Snider for a full season and spring training would be beneficial.
"We like Travis. There's a lot to like about Travis. I felt bad for the kid because it was almost two weeks into his time with us and we actually thought he was getting to a pretty good place and he hurt the first leg. He basically played without a foundation from the waist down the entire time he was with us."
Unprompted, Hurdle mentioned Gaby Sanchez and implied that he would see a decent amount of playing time along with Snider.
"He just had a sideways year last year for whatever reason, it didn't work in Miami," Hurdle said of Sanchez. "I thought he was working to a much better place toward the end of the season with us. Those are two guys you can plan in your lineup that have shown the ability to dig in with some at‑bats, to stretch out at‑bats, to see more pitches, their hitting awareness might be a little bit longer than some of the guys we've had. So I think you plant those two in the lineup, it gives the lineup a chance to grow, as well."
It continues to seem like Snider will start in right field, Starling Marte in left. If the Pirates bench follows precedent, it will contain Michael McKenry, Josh Harrison, Sanchez, Jordy Mercer (or someone of that ilk) and either Alex Presley or Jose Tabata. To keep both, Hurdle would be left with only one utility infielder, so one of them could start the season in Indianapolis. Tabata is out of options while Presley has one remaining, which may make the decision easier.
***Neil Walker is done with his rehabilitation for the herniated disc in his back and has started his strength and conditioning program, Hurdle said.
***Hurdle said Pedro Alvarez was on the preliminary roster for the Dominican Republic's team in the World Baseball Classic but he is not sure if he wants to play. Hurdle won't stop players from playing in the WBC but wants to hear from them why it's important that they do so.
I'm off to meet with Huntington now and will have updates shortly.
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