Locke's rough night
In an otherwise completely empty and quiet clubhouse, Jeff Locke stood alone in front of his locker as the press entered. While the media formed a semi-circle around him and a few players walked in and quickly dressed and left, the left-hander, who said earlier this season that no one ever "wants to feel like the weak link," quietly explained what went wrong following one his worst starts of the season.
"Tonight was poor, real poor," Locke said of his performance. "I didn't really ever get settled in. I just never really got into any kind of groove."
Locke got hit hard and often over his five innings pitched. He allowed 11 hits and six runs, walked one and struck out two.
"Too many mistakes over the plate," Clint Hurdle said of Locke's troubles. "Fastball location [was a problem] and breaking balls didn't find their spots."
The Giants struck early against Locke, as Marlon Byrd golfed a two-out, two-run home run into the left field bleachers in the first inning.
"He's hit the ball all over the ballpark and out of the ballpark against us," Hurdle said.
Madison Bumgarner helped his own cause, crushing a 3-1, middle-middle fastball in the second. The two-run home run put the Giants up 5-1.
"Go back and look at where the pitch was," Hurdle said. "If you throw the pitch there a lot, it's going to get hit a lot."
Locke hasn't made it to the sixth inning in six consecutive outings. He has a 6.39 ERA over that period. In his last 11 starts, he has made it to the sixth only twice.
"It's no one's fault but [mine]," Locke said. "They're not the kind of ball club that give a lot away."
Hurdle discusses changes ahead
With Josh Harrison's return from the disabled list and Jordy Mercer set to re-join the team any day this weekend, Clint Hurdle suddenly has some difficult decisions to make. Simply put, the Pirates have too many talented players for too few starting positions. From the perspective of overall team strength, this, of course, is a problem that any manager would welcome. But it does also mean that some players may not be thrilled to find their roles changed.
"Making people happy, that doesn't even get on my radar," Hurdle said when asked about the challenges a manager faces in a situations like this. "I'm not out to make people mad, but I'm definitely not about to make everybody happy. I need to do what's best for the club."
Hurdle doesn't anticipate any problems in the clubhouse and that is partly because of the personalities on the team.
"What I'm probably most proud of this team about — the sacrifices they've been willing to make for the greater good," Hurdle said. "That's why I'm confident. We'll have conversations and everyone will be prepared to help."
Winning, however, does help make what otherwise might be uncomfortable conversations, easier.
"It's received better at different times," Hurdle said. "It all comes down to players understanding the benefit of having a common goal, and nobody cares who gets the credit. ...When seasons flip, then it becomes an independent contractor mentality. It's not that 6-year-old in the backyard anymore, it's a grown man making a living. You want to keep these guys engaged, and I believe they are - because their heart is in it. Not their wallet."
Harrison to see plenty of time at second
While there are no outward indications that any of the players are anxious about their playing times or roles, Neil Walker didn't seem particularly eager to discuss whether he might be sharing more time with Josh Harrison at second.
"No, I assume I'm playing every day," Walker said flatly when asked if he'd had any conversations with Hurdle about playing time.
It is widely speculated that second base might become more of a platoon situation going forward, with Harrison playing against left-handers. Hurdle didn't do anything to dissuade that speculation this afternoon.
"That's definitely an option that we have," Hurdle said. "We like [Harrison's] defensive play at second base. We like the bat against any left-hander at multiple places."
There is about a 100-point difference in career OPS vs. lefties between Walker (.659) and Harrison (.751).
For his part, Harrison sounded upbeat about returning to what appears to be his 2014 role.
"I always knew there was the opportunity to move around," Harrison said. "Even before I got hurt I was spending a little bit more time in the outfield and second base. I'm just glad to be back, and if it calls for me to bounce around I'm ready. I have my gloves and everything."
"I don't know. " "Third Base!"
The biggest logjam figures to be at third base, where Josh Harrison, Jung-ho Kang and Aramis Ramirez will remain in the mix. Hurdle shed some light on how he'll handle the situation when he made it clear that Aramis Ramirez "isn't going to be an everyday guy."
Hurdle indicated that Kang will likely continue to flip between shortstop and third base with days off "here and there." The fact that Kang will apparently continue to see substantial time at shortstop is an issue Hurdle said he will address with Jordy Mercer when he arrives back in Pittsburgh.