Pittsburgh, Pa. — The Pirates will have the opportunity to expand their roster to 26 on Wednesday for the doubleheader at PNC Park against the Colorado Rockies.
According to the new baseball collective bargaining agreement, teams will be allowed to have 26 active players for day-night doubleheaders. The roster expands before the game, and goes back to 25 after the second game.
Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said they will take advantage of having an extra player for Wednesday. Both the Rockies and Pirates will be making history by becoming the first two clubs to use a 26th man of the 2012 season. According to the new rules, they must be scheduled with a day’s notice in order to give clubs time to bring up someone from the minor leagues.
“We’ve talked around internally,” Hurdle said. “MLB with the new union agreement has a new opportunity to take advantage of a 26th player and I’m sure we’ll do that. It’s a good idea.”
Hurdle wouldn’t elaborate, however, on whom that player could be. The skipper made it known recently that he would like to have an extra lefty in the ‘pen.
“It’s out there, but right now, it’s not the top of his wish list,” Hurlde said on whether the 26th player would be left-handed. “The top of our wish list here is to score more runs.”
Low Runs Not Just in Pittsburgh
The Pirates will enter game action on Wednesday with a .211 team average, which ranks 29th in the Majors this season. They have combined to score 35 runs over their 16 games, which is also last in the majors.
“It’s not just a Pittsburgh centric issue that the run environment is decreasing, it’s an industry impact where the runs environment is decreasing,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said. “It just happens to be a lot lower here in Pittsburgh than elsewhere. But it’s not just Pittsburgh. As an industry, we’re seeing lower run environments. The ability to handle the baseball defensively, the ability to continue to get hitters out. The ability to move runners. The ability to do little things to score runs, to be creative in scoring runs. It’s going to be that much more important as the run environment becomes lower and lower as we move forward…We’ve got to score runs. We’ve got to be balanced one through eight. We’ve got to have legitimate threats in the lineup as often and frequently as we can.”
While the Bucs have had trouble scoring runs, their pitching has been solid in 2012. Entering Tuesday, the Pirates 2.63 team ERA ranked second in the National League, trailing just the Washington Nationals (2.34). The strong pitching again this season has led to 2012 being dubbed another ‘year of the pitcher.’
“I think there’s the unspoken reason: the drug testing policy is arguably a reason for it,” Huntington said. “There’s a great group of young arms coming in. The technology may have swung to the pitchers advantage, and how to explore hitters weaknesses, the technology in terms of tendencies and strengths and weaknesses. We’ve got a figure a way to turn that, and figure out a way to attack pitchers again.”
Starters Looking to Pitch Deeper
Over the Pirates 15 games this season, only once has a starting pitcher reached the 100-pitch mark. Left-hander Erik Bedard threw 102 pitches over his 7.0 inning outing on Sunday.
While it’s still early in the season and the organization is most likely not looking to rush the starting five’s pitch count in order to be cautious with injures, Clint Hurdle said it is a goal to get the starters to start pitching deeper into games.
“That’s one of our goals –to extend pitch counts, get them up over 100, keep pushing them forward,” Hurdle said. “Just the importance of our starting pitchers pitching deeper into games.”
Hurdle Reflects on Managing with Colorado
Before Clint Hurdle became Manager of the Pirates, he spent over 15 years in the Colorado organization, serving as a minor league hitting coordinator, Major League hitting coach, and manager with the Rockies.
Hurdle was the Manager from 2002 until 2009 when he was relieved of his duties. He complied a 543-645 record — the most wins of any Manager in Colorado team history. The most special moment Hurdle had while with Colorado was capturing the first National League pennant in franchise history in 2007.
Although it is the second time that the Rockies have been to PNC Park since Hurdle became a Pirate, seeing his former club is always a special moment.
“I don’t have a CR tattoo anywhere but there’s a part of my heart that will always hold a great affection and a great degree of appreciation for the time that I was able to have in Colorado,” Hurlde said. “The one thing that I always got a kick out of last year, and I’ll continue to get a kick out of, it just puts a little smile on my heart when I see that Championship flag flying out in left field. To be a small part of something that was significant and had so much joy for so many people.”
“There’s not many days that go by that I truly don’t think of [Former Rockies President] Keli McGregor in some point in time. I still have his picture up here. He was as implemental than anybody that I’ve come across in the game, as far as helping me grow up and be a man, understand the importance of balance in life, things of that nature. There’s a General Manager over their that believed in me when not a lot of people did and gave me my first opportunity to manage in the big leagues, which I don’t take lightly…There’s a bunch of players over their that I’m happy for and proud of. The opportunity here is significant, it’s special, it’s building momentum in a positive way as well. I tried to make a difference over there, that part has moved on. I’m trying to make a different here. I’ll always wish them well.”