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Pregame: Hurdle has 'hardly given any thought' to giving Kang reps in Triple-A

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Morton update

Charlie Morton was scheduled to pitch in an extended spring training game today against the Yankees. However, the game was cancelled due to a "lack of participation," which means that for whatever reason the other team couldn't, or didn't, want to play the game.

Morton ended up throwing a 55-pitch simulated game that Clint Hurdle described as a "step forward" for the right-hander. He added that Morton's delivery is "synching up."

"There is some work being done that is turning into positives, and there is more work to be done," Hurdle said. "It was a good day for Charlie."

Two ways that the hit-and-run manifests for Bucs

The Pirates led the majors with 365 swings-with-runners-going last season. This year, they've only swung 11 times with the runner moving. Hurdle said that the declined pace is due to a lack of opportunities so far, and that swinging- and-running will continue to "part of our game."

Hurdle explained that there are two ways that the Pirates execute the swing-and-run play:

We have green lights that will be on [for the runner]. And there will be circumstances where runners take off and now the hitter has an option to hit. The runner is trying to steal a base, if the hitter sees a pitch he likes, then he'll swing at it.

We also have the blue-collar hit and run, where it is a must-swing situation. You're trying to get runners moving and open up a lane and manufacture something.

Hurdle hasn't give much thought to demoting Kang

Before yesterday's game, Hurdle said that he was trying to "piggyback" Neil Walker's off days.  Yet, in the bottom of the eighth, Walker was inserted as a pinch hitter and then played second in the bottom half of the inning. One alternative was to insert Jung-Ho Kang and play him at second, or shuffle the defense around by moving Harrison to second and playing Kang at third. Of course, there was also the option to simply starting Kang over Sean Rodriguez.

Obviously, it is not a big deal that Walker didn't get his full day of rest, and Hurdle's decision to start Rodriguez is hardly controversial. But it does raise the larger question of whether both the Pirates and Kang might be better served by sending him down to Indianapolis so he can get consistent plate appearances.

The Pirates still don't know what they have in Kang. Some suspect that the timing mechanism in his swing will be exploited by major league pitchers. As the roster is currently constructed, and with the way Hurdle is allocating playing time, there just doesn't seem to be many available plate appearances for him. As such, what is the benefit to keeping him around as one of the last guys off the bench?

Hurdle was asked today whether the team had given any thought to either changing the way they were using Kang, or possibly sending him down to Triple-A to get some reps. He responded that it was probably a better question to ask Neal Huntington.

"[Neal and I] have conversations daily how we're going to use [players] and where we're going to use them," Hurdle added. "I wouldn't go there, I wouldn't take it there. I've given that [issue] hardly any thought right now."

Different status; same place

The Pirates activated Jaff Decker from his rehab assignment with Indianapolis and optioned him to Indianapolis, which is to say that they optioned him to the same level.

Liz's click

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt from a wide-ranging conversation I had with Radhames Liz. Over the next few days I will dedicate to the last note of the pregame posts to some of the topics we discussed.

Fans sitting close to the field at PNC Park on a night that Radhames Liz pitches may be surprised to hear a clicking sound coming from the mound when the lanky right-hander releases the ball.

"I don't know what it is," Liz said while laughing. "I used to never pay attention to it until people told me about it so many times."

The noise comes from Liz's shoulder area, and neither he nor Ray Searage know exactly why it happens. "I have no idea what causes it, and I didn't sleep in a Holiday Inn last night," Searage said.

Fortunately, Liz has never felt any pain associated with the click and he's not even aware of it when he is pitching, unless someone mentions it to him.

"Some people say they still hear it sometimes and it's loud," Liz said. "Like when my friend was doing my chart in the stands while I was in the (2014) winter league, he said he could still hear it."

Ray Searage said that he's heard elbows click but nothing like Liz's shoulder.

"All I know is that he's had it over the years and even five or six years before that to," Searage said. "It's just DNA and a part of him. Obviously it doesn't bother him or hurt him when he throws, so I'm not going to try to fix anything that isn't broken."