Pirates eager to put another dismal season behind
After the Pittsburgh Pirates hired Clint Hurdle as manager in
November, the team’s players picked up their cell phones and went
They called other players who had worked with Hurdle during his
recent stints as manager of the Colorado Rockies and hitting coach
for the Texas Rangers. Both teams went to the World Series during
The Pirates, shell-shocked after losing 105 games last season,
wanted to know if Hurdle really could make that kind of a
difference with their club. The overwhelming consensus was, yes, he
”Everybody had nothing but great things to say about Hurdle, so
I’m excited to work with him,” catcher Ryan Doumit said.
After finishing below .500 the past 18 seasons, the longest
losing streak in North American pro sports, the Pirates can use any
sign of hope.
”I asked (Rangers slugger) Josh Hamilton and he said Clint’s
the loudest individual you’ll ever be around,” pitcher Paul Maholm
said, grinning. ”Clint is energetic, he expects a lot out of us
and he’s going to kick us in the rear when we need it. I think it’s
going to be a positive thing for everyone in the clubhouse.”
Hurdle’s arrival seemingly has sparked some enthusiasm – all 62
players had reported to camp by Friday, a day before the deadline.
Saturday morning, the team assembled for a talk with president
Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington before beginning
its first official full-squad workout.
”We were getting rumblings that a bunch of them were going to
show up (early) and they did,” Hurdle said. ”It’s another sign of
them taking accountability and responsibility for what’s in front
The Pirates were minor players in the free-agent market over the
winter, but did try to shore up one of the league’s worst starting
rotations by signing right-hander Kevin Correia to a two-year, $8
In other deals, outfielder Matt Diaz, who’ll give some
much-needed offense against left-handed pitchers, got a two-year,
$4.25 million deal to be a platoon player in right field, and first
baseman Lyle Overbay, who hit 20 homers last season with Toronto,
got a one-year, $5 million contract.
All three said the presence of Hurdle, an outgoing and
player-friendly skipper, helped sway them toward signing with the
”Signing here just felt right from the very beginning,” Diaz
said. ”Especially after they laid out their plan for the future,
it was really easy to get excited about it.”
Four players at the center of that rebuilding plan are
outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, second baseman Neil
Walker and third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
The 24-year-old McCutchen is going into his third season. The
MLB Network recently rated him the best active center fielder in
the game. He hit .286 with 16 homers, 56 RBIs and 33 stolen bases
Both Tabata, who hit .308 last season, and Walker, who hit .296,
got a vote for rookie of the year. Walker was a first-round draft
pick in 2004 as a catcher, but last season blossomed at second
after Aki Iwamura was sent to the minors.
”It’s amazing what Neil did,” Huntington said. ”He played 21
games in his life at (second), then not only competed, but did well
at the major league level. And he got better as the season went
The starting rotation went 34-84 with a 5.28 ERA last season, a
big reason the Pirates finished last in the NL Central for the
fourth straight year.
The likely opening day starter is left-hander Paul Maholm, who
went 9-15 with a 5.10 ERA. Correia, a right-hander, replaces lefty
Zach Duke, who was traded to Arizona.
”It’s going to be fun to be on a team that is transitioning
from a young team that’s just trying to figure it out to a good,
competitive baseball team,” Correia said. ”I think I can make a