Hurdle describes Morton's rehab start as 'very good first step'

Justin K. Aller

Notes from this afternoon's media scrum with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle:

Wandy Rodriguez returns

Wandy Rodriguez returns to the mound tonight for the first time since he pulled his hamstring in the second inning of the April 8 game against the Diamondbacks. "He's confident that he's ready. We'll take him at his word. If he's not ... we'll readjust" Hurdle said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch."

Charlie Morton's rehab start

The Pirates manager described the report he received on Charlie Morton's first rehab start last night as "very encouraging." Reading directly from the report, Hurdle repeated Morton's fastball velocity for emphasis, "Here we go, 92-97, ninety seven, 86-90 with the cutter, the breaking ball was 78-81, the change up was 87-89. He was amped up, spraying the ball early, first time on the mound, settled down as the outing picked up."

More excerpts from the report as quoted by Hurdle:

Sinker had some good late life to it. The changeup had very good arm speed and sink. The breaking ball may have been a show pitch a bit, slowed down his body. He threw just enough secondary pitches to complement the fastball. At the end of the day it was 28 fastballs, 22 for strikes. Then he threw 16 soft pitches, curveball, changeup, cutter. His strike ratio to pitches was very good. He made four out of five curveballs for strikes; one out of two changeups; six out of nine cutters. The fastball was 22 out of 28.

Very good first step.

Marte's five strikeouts and why he is not in the lineup tonight

Asked about how he dealt with Starling Marte following his five strikeout night, Hurdle began by pointing out that Marte's five strikeouts put him in "select company."

Excerpt:

How many people here struck out five times in the major leagues? Raise your hand. (Hurdle raised his hand.) That's what I thought. Five times in the major leagues, I'm in there with him. If you're going to strike out five times, the major leagues is a good place to do it. That's the perspective I shared with him today. Back away. Nice streak. Good at bats. Rough night last night. This is the major leagues. So we'll give him a blow and we'll get him back in there tomorrow. That's the way I thought we'd best effectively deal with it.

Travis Snider hitting to the opposite field

Early in the season, Travis Snider is spraying the ball more than he did in his time with the Bucs last year. ("Pull": 2012 47 percent, 2013 36 percent; "Opposite field": 2012 17 percent, 2013 25 percent.) Has he changed his approach? "He is trying to reacquire his best approach," Hurdle said, "reacquire the most successful approach he had in the minor leagues, [when] he was a gap-to-gap hitter."

Excerpt:

We've had conversations about it. Sometimes all the talking in the world it doesn't play out. Bill touched on it last night: I think his health is getting him in a better position, giving him a better opportunity to pull off the swing he wants to pull off. He looks much more comfortable at the plate. He's seeing the ball extremely well.

Bullpen availability

Everyone is available except Justin Wilson and Jared Hughes.

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