I had the opportunity to speak with Clint Hurdle this afternoon. We discussed a wide range of topics:
Question: While Lyle Overbay's offense has been the primary topic of conversation, it appeared to me that Overbay's defense wasn't as advertised either. I asked specifically about Overbay's lateral movement, as it seems a lot of balls are getting under his glove when he dives or are just out of his reach. It was particularly noteworthy in the Indians series, in my opinion.
Answer: Hurdle said that the team was concerned about his defense and it hasn't been as good as they hoped. While noting that Overbay helped the team a great deal at the beginning of the season fielding throws in the dirt, his lateral movement is of great concern.
They have gone so far as to film him and break down his movements, and they are focusing on the fact that he isn't getting set early enough on each pitch and isn't getting a good first step.
As for Overbay at the plate, Hurdle feels that there has been a disconnect since Spring Training and, while Spring Training isn't the best place to evaluate, pitchers are still trying to make pitches.
He told Overbay that he isn't going to start these three games against Baltimore, but hasn't made any firm decisions past that point. There is no set timetable. The team will do all the necessary physical checks to make sure nothing is wrong with his eyes, and so on.
At some point Lyle will be back in the lineup and will get another chance. But if he, or anybody in that situation, doesn't produce at that point, it is difficult for him to keep his place in the lineup, and they will explore what options are available.
My take: This is all pretty straightforward. Overbay will rest and work on his swing and his footwork. He'll get another chance, but the leash probably won't be very long.
Question: Hurdle then fielded a question about whether the situation was Overbay was similar to that of Garrett Jones in late May.
Answer: Hurdle said Jones' strong performance in April, along with the fact that he is five years younger than Overbay, made the two situations different. He pointed out that Overbay had never really had a hot streak like Jones had and said he wasn't happy with Jones' swing. (Update: I don't think I was very clear here. He wasn't happy with Jones' path to the ball when he was benched in late May. Too much movement with his head, etc.)
My take: Hurdle has had each of these guys in his office over the past month and they know exactly where they stand. There are different issues with each guy, but he wanted to talk with each and allow them to get everything on the table and clear their head. That obviously has worked well with Jones. Well see how things play out with Overbay.
Question: Hurdle was then asked about balancing the development of guys like Eric Fryer, who might not be ready defensively to be a catcher at the major league level, but may have a better bat than the Pirates' current catchers. You have stated a desire and committment to win at the ML level and to put your best team on the field, but Chase d'Arnaud may be better served by playing two more months in Indy. How do you balance these things?
Answer: I have to rely a fair bit on the people in the organization. We talk about Presley, Bowker, Fryer, the pitchers, virtually every day, but obviously I can't see them play.
My take: Clint had a much longer response, but this is clearly the most difficult thing confronting the organization right now. They obviously don't want to bring d'Arnaud up and have him sit. Cedeno has been great defensively and terrible offensively. When do you make changes? The team is still in contention and only two games under .500. Are you playing for tonight's game or focused on development? This is a rock and a hard place for the Pirates.
Question: How do you make a decision on older players like Overbay, Diaz and Beimel who have a proven ML track record, but their performance, now all most half a season, is not up to standard?
Answer: Each case is different. Lyle and Matt are different. Also, Matt has had about half the chances, only 140 at bats. Did we completely whiff on five years of history? There were a half dozen teams interested in Matt in the offseason. Would they have some lukewarm interest now? Possibly, the contract is for two years so that would effect their decision-making.
I had Dante Bichette in Colorado and he was terrible and then went on to have 2-3 more excellent years. You do your best to stay absolutely on top of it so you have as much information as possible and can make an informed decision heavily weighted to the present, but not ignoring the past.
My take: Again, not easy. I think you can make a case for releasing all three players, but that decision is irreversible and the team isn't loaded with capable replacements. If and when all these players come off the DL, it will be interesting to see who gets discarded.
Question: Was Josh Rodriguez acquired primarily for organizational depth or should we expect a corresponding roster move?
Answer: Josh Rodriguez was reacquired from Cleveland primarily for organizational depth.
My take: That isn't particularly surprising as he put up an OPS under .600 playing for Columbus and didn't play shortstop at all.
Question: In discussing possibly skipping Charliet Morton in the rotation, do the off days mean you don't have to bring someone up or is it likely Brad Lincoln will be up before the all-star game?
Answer: We'll see how Charlie is. The innings pitched is a concern because he hasn't really been here before. He has shown us that he is the first guy we need to be concerned with, but Kevin (Correia) may be next. We are monitoring this all very closely, but remember we now have a doubleheader in Washington on July 2.
My take: I would bet Lincoln start one of the games of the DH and possibly more. It would seem Moskos would be the obvious guy sent down, but we did not discuss that.