I attended the press gathering in Clint Hurdle's office before last night's game. I've expressed this before, but I will say, while I have occasionally questioned Hurdle's in-game tactics, he is a very entertaining guy to listen to, and I think the environment he has created has had a huge impact on the team. He answers questions from the media as directly, honestly and candidly as anyone I have come across.
Here are some notes from yesterday:
"Yes, he still is unavailable today. I know Wednesday we have a plan to get him on the field to see what he is capable of doing at that time. Then we'll know if we're close, can we get this done or is it time to go in another direction."
I asked if Chase d'Arnaud would be the likely candidate to fill the roster spot.
"He would be a man that we've talked about, yeah."
It's worth noting the d'Arnaud started at third base for Indianapolis last night. Obliques generally take longer than a few days to heal. I imagine d'Arnaud is going to get the call.
-P- When asked about the designated hitter situation for the Cleveland series starting Friday he said the team's plans for DH have been firmed up, but
"We're not going to share it. We've got some options to take care of that, maximize our outfield defense as well as our infield defense. It will be a good opportunity for us to take a look at some different things, different personnel probably in some different spots."
My opinion which I have shared many times now, is I'll be shocked if Alex Presley isn't starting in one of the corner outfield spots on Friday night in Cleveland.
-P- Andrew McCutchen's day off was scheduled in advance. Hurdle was well aware that Cutch was 6-for-12 against Mike Pelfrey, but he feels that a player knowing in advance he is getting a day off is very different than coming to the ballpark and not seeing his name on the lineup card and getting a day off in that fashion. He said the players joked that it was a guaranteed win last night because they were 2-0 in games Cutch didn't start.
This makes sense, but it is obviously tough to take Cutch's bat out of the lineup when he's the only guy hitting. Fortunately it worked out last night.
-P- The Pirates would still like to improve their depth at catcher.
-P- The Pirates were 0-9 in Houston last year.
"It's another things we can knock off our 2011 to-do list, which is quite extensive by the way. We're just trying to take them one at a time."
-P- I asked about Neil Walker's struggles the last 20 games (.492 OPS) and whether they saw anything in his swing that they were working on:
"Walker has to hold his backside better. He's getting a steady diet of soft and spin."
He went on in some detail talking about the mechanics of hitting and Walker in general being a bit "handsy" as well.
-P- I asked about Matt Diaz's struggles and the lack of righthanded options off the bench.
Hurdle said they don't have a lot of moving pieces and commented specifically about Steve Pearce not being available. He said they are exhibiting patience in a variety of areas and sometimes it takes courage to have patience.
The reality is the team has no righthanded options even at the AAA level, so this isn't likely to change in the short term, so there really isn't much for Hurdle to say in response to the question.
I find it pretty amazing that Friday 20 percent of the Pirates roster might be made up of Alex Presley, Chase d'Arnaud, Mike McKenry, Tony Watson and Tim Wood. None were with the team 10 days ago. It is quite a testament to the pitching that a team with Ciriaco, Harrison, Brandon Wood, Xavier Paul, Diaz, Lyle Overbay, Dusty Brown, etc. is 32-33, nine games better than last year.