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Pregame: Pirates prepare to face Jose Quintana, Ke'Bryan Hayes introduced to Pittsburgh media

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Flying slightly under the radar

The Pirates mound opponent tonight, Jose Quintana, has quietly been one of the better pitchers in baseball the past three years. Nothing about his pitch repertoire or his peripheral walk-to-strikeout numbers particularly jumps off the page. But his 9.9 fWAR ranks 12th out of 106 qualified pitchers.

"That's the beauty about the ability of being able to get in the box and feel a pitcher, rather then just looking at a piece of paper with just numbers on it," Hurdle said. "There's guys in this game, and I've seen them, I hit against them in the minor leagues, you look at them warm up and you're like, 'Ok, I got this.' At the end of the night you're going, 'I got nothing. But I can't wait to face him again.' Then you wait to face him again and you're like, 'I got this.' And you got nothing again. And all of the sudden you don't like the guy."

Quintana has induced a league average rate of ground balls, while benefitting from a  very low 7.5 percent HR/FB ratio, which ranks 12th out of qualified pitchers. He works from ahead often, ranking near the top of the league in first pitch strikes each year since 2012.

"The fastball is real, it's a four-seamer and two-seamer," Hurdle said. "He probably pitches left-handers inside more than the normal left-hander. We got to cover away. We got to be ready for hard out over the plate. Changeup, fastball guy as well. He is crafty, but there is some arm strength there, as well. He throws a lot of first pitch strikes."

Cervelli blocking runs

Francisco Cervelli takes a 42-inning scoreless streak into tonight's game. While Hurdle credits Cervelli's pitch-calling and growing familiarity with the pitching staff as an important factor in the recent success, today he pointed to his catcher's blocking ability.

"Last night that man blocked 14 balls, and all he wanted to talk about was the one that got away and put a runner in scoring position," Hurdle said. "That's how a good catcher's wired. How many blocks has he had where runners have not advanced and then we turned double plays? I know the number. You like numbers? Hunt that number. That's the difference he is really making."

Cardinal intrigue

Hurdle had very little to say about the Cardinals hacking issue:

"I don't know anything, and I'm not a big guy on throwing my opinions around here until all the facts are in," Hurdle said. "See how it plays out. I don't need to be out [front] first with opinions and thoughts. We'll just see how it plays out. [It's] interesting."

Hayes introduced to the Pittsburgh media

The Pirates newly-signed supplemental first-round selection (No. 32 overall), Ke'Bryan Hayes, was at PNC Park this afternoon.

"We love the way he swings the bat, he's got tremendous barrel to the ball for a young hitter," Neal Huntington said. "We think there's power coming as he matures. We want him to continue to be a great hitter first and foremost."

Hayes' father, Charlie, who played a season with the Pirates, accompanied his son to Pittsburgh.

"It's definitely special having my dad already play in the major leagues and just to follow his footsteps," Hayes said. "And then it's just very special that the Pirates drafted me because he also played for the Pirates which is a great honor ... Having my dad play 14 years just makes me want to have a better career than him."

The 18-year old infield prospect identified Hanley Ramirez as one of his favorite major-league players.

"I just like the way he goes about his business on and off the field," Hayes said. "I like how he can hit for average as well as power, kind of like how I do. I just like him as a person."

Hayes will begin his professional career with the Gulf Coast League Pirates.

"Ever since I was a little kid this has always been my dream," Hayes said. "Especially with them getting me out here within a week to sign and get ready to start my career is awesome. I can't wait."