Pregame Notes: Upbeat Hurdle talks Martin, Lohse

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Martin bats second

After getting on base four times last night, Martin is back in the two hole again tonight. During Spring Training Martin often batted second in order to get him quick at bats. This afternoon Hurdle said that there is a "give and take" involved in batting him so high in the lineup during the regular season. It is a question of balancing how hard to push a catcher on the offensive side while keeping him plugged in on the defensive side. "I believe he can adapt to that situation," Hurdle said, "he embraced it (last night)."

Kyle Lohse's pitch mix

The Pirates' face another good command, pitch-to-contact, starter tonight. Lohse's game is about inducing weak contact, and since 2011 he has been very good at it:

  • 2001-2010: ERA, 4.79; BABIP, .309
  • 2011-2014: ERA, 3.19; BABIP, .272 (8th lowest among qualified starting pitchers)

According to Fangraphs, since 2011 Lohse's changeup and slider have both ranked in the top-quarter of all qualified starting pitchers in terms of runs saved.

He also throws a two and a four seam fastball with excellent command.

Finally, Lohse features the relatively rare 12-6 curveball. He doesn't throw it often, mostly as a chase pitch, but it is always fun to watch a pitcher who throws it.

"It's the plane, the tilt, the frequency. You don't see many guys that have them," Hurdle said of Lohse's curveball today. "It's the old high school drop, is what it is. With that much tilt down, it just makes the fastball that much better. It's an optical illusion but that fastball at 91 mph, looks 94, it just jumps on you quicker. He's got good command, he knows how to pitch," he added.

Tattoo you, Kyle Lohse

Viewers will undoubtedly notice the very visible tattoo on Kyle Lohse's right forearm tonight. The Brewers' starting pitcher got the tattoo in the winter of 2011 in order to distract from a surgical scar on his forearm. Here is a description of the tattoo taken from the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Lohse said the baseball near his wrist is peeling away to reveal a globe underneath it. The purpose of the baseball shedding its hide is "to remind me there's something else besides baseball." The wings that sprout from the top of the baseball and run the length of his forearm to his elbow draws from a Native American inspiration for "power." Lohse is a member of the Nomlaki tribe.

Lohse (Nomlaki) is one of only three active American Indians currently playing in Major League Baseball. The other two are Joba Chamberlain (Winnebago) and Jacoby Ellsbury (Navajo).

Clint Hurdle a Michigan Man

A short anecdote from yesterday's press meeting:

Clint Hurdle was born in Michigan and is an avid University of Michigan sports fan. Evidence of his fandom is spread throughout the Pirates' clubhouse. In his office, Hurdle has a U-M football signed by Brady Hoke. In a room just off to the side of the clubhouse, a University of Michigan football helmet sits prominently on display for anyone visiting to see.

It's all a little jarring to me - a Michigander, a MSU alum and a serious Spartan fan since I can remember.

Anyways, last year a fellow MSU alumnus in the Pittsburgh press corp asked Clint whether he would be willing to add a football signed by MSU head football coach Mark Dantonio to his collection. Hurdle shook his head and patiently explained to everyone in the room that when you grow up in Michigan you choose your allegiances early, blue or green, and that's it.

Well, yesterday the same reporter asked Hurdle the same question. And, like last year, he slowly shook his head and politely, but firmly, declined the offer. Then, he added, "I'm happy when Sparty does good." (Ugh, we do hate being called Sparty!) "They're just not at the top of the list. What a year you had! Football, basketball, can't complain. You can't lead and complain at the same time. Remember that."

So, Clint Hurdle remains a true blue Michigan Man and, as much as I can't understand any part of that, I do begrudgingly respect that he won't mix the two schools together. Besides, things could always be worse, he could be a Notre Dame fan.

#Hurdledisms

Hurdle was in a noticeably upbeat mood during this afternoon's press meeting. It began by him playfully, but loudly, telling the press to hurry up and ask him questions because he's "got places to be!"

In the middle of the presser, while discussing whether strikeouts are just another out, no worse or better than any other type of out, Hurdle said: "The only time a strikeout is good is when you think you're going to hit into a double play." Pausing for a beat, Hurdle looked around: "And that should be funny, there should be way more laughter in this room right now. (Laughter starts.) A bunch of stuffed shirts in this room right now, by the way."

Near the end of the meeting, Hurdle was asked if he has ever told a player to "choke up" and have the player not understand what he meant: "Well, yes, I've had one tell me he's not an emotional player. And I said, ‘okay. Okay, we're good.'"

Finally, at the end of the press scrum, Hurdle jumped out of his chair and grabbed a bat to demonstrate how backyard baseball teams are picked. It involves tossing a bat to the captain of the other team, and then alternating hand grips until you get to the bat handle. Hurdle said that he once tried to do this with one of his teams on a free day, but the player he tossed the bat to jumped out of the way. "Catch the bat!" Hurdle told his player. "What?" the player responded. Hurdle looks around with a look of disbelief: "It was like me in Latin class! ‘What!?'"

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