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Pregame: Clint Hurdle talks situational hitting and outfield positioning

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

More discussion about hitting with RISP

Clint Hurdle spent much of this afternoon's press meeting talking about the Pirates' slow start hitting with runners in scoring position.

"It's like building sentences in English class," Hurdle said. "You turn them into paragraphs, and the paragraphs into a book. Right now we're building sentences."

The Pirates are averaging 3.9 runs a game, which is over a half of run less than league average. They have the second highest on-base percentage in baseball (.377), but have scored only 12 percent of baserunners, which is fourth lowest in the National League.

Hurdle said that the players just need to stick to the approach that is getting them in scoring position to begin with.

"From my standpoint, what we're doing to create these innings, we need to do to finish them," Hurdle said. "What you need to do is look at the quality of the at bats when we get in those situations. What pitches are we firing at? And are we showing the same discipline?"

Get Nelson up

Tonight's starter for the Brewers, Jimmy Nelson, has had success against the Pirates, posting 2.48 ERA and 0.991 WHIP in 36 1/3 innings pitched.

Hurdle said the plan is to force Nelson to up in the strike zone.

"We need to get the ball up," Hurdle said. "He's going to try to establish the fastball early. Both sides of the plate. The big thing for us is to get the ball up and over the plate."

McCutchen's positioning

The Pirates are playing Andrew McCutchen noticeably shallower this year. In the fourth inning of yesterday's game, they paid a price for that positioning for the first time this season.

Nick Castellanos drove a high double over Andrew McCutchen's head. The ball landed at the base of the wall and scored two runs. It's not often that high drives land behind McCutchen.

Hurdle said the play "definitely got our attention."

"We were playing noticeably deeper all these other years," Hurdle said. "We moved in for a reason. We've already taken a handful of balls away. That was the first ball that's gotten over our head."

Masterson signing

Hurdle said that the Pirates had their eye on Justin Masterson all offseason. He remembers seeing the right-hander pitch effectively in 2010, when he was the hitting coach with the Rangers.

"He's got good sink and can spin it a little bit," Hurdle said.

Masterson will head to Pirates City and begin a return to pitch program.

Hurdle comments on Jackie Robinson Day

"This isn't just an African-American celebration. This is about the opening of doors for everybody. I still believe firmly there is going to be a day where there is a female player in the big leagues. I don't believe I'll be in the dugout to see it."