Clint Hurdle Has Pirates Focused on a Strong 2nd Half, Believes Pittsburgh Will Add Pitching at Trade Deadline
The Pittsburgh Pirates are closing in a very impressive first half of the season, but Clint Hurdle has his team thinking about the big picture. Last year Pittsburgh fell off in the last two months of the season, but the Pirates skipper believes his squad is mentally stronger this season to make a playoff push.
With the combination of a strong bullpen and the dynamic play of Andrew McCutchen the Pirates may indeed be a buyer at the trade deadline this season. That’s a statement that baseball fans in Pittsburgh haven’t heard in quite some time.
Clint Hurdle joined ESPN Radio with The Scott Van Pelt Show to discuss the Pittsburgh Pirates being poised to make a playoff run this season, the Pirates having an excellent bullpen, the progression of Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates being buyers at the trade deadline.
How does this team benefit from what happened to them a year ago?
“Lessons learned in the first four months of playing good baseball and how you win games that are close then the last 2 months when you don’t execute and your depth gets challenged. When you are physically worn out because maybe you never been in this situation before maybe a little mentally tired because you have never been in this situation before. I think our guys knew coming in they had to prepare a little bit differently. There had to be more mental toughness. There had to be more physical toughness. We also felt we had to add some more personnel from the outside. We solidified the defense up the middle with Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes. The pitching rotation with Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett. Now these men have played better in close games. They’ve had a slower heart beat. There’s no panic. They understand it’s all about execution. They’ve handled themselves much more professionally and the fun thing about it is they go out there and still have some fun.”
When did you know you would have a real good bullpen?
“Well you don’t know. I knew we had the arms. I knew we had guys on paper that had done good things. It was up to Ray [Searage] and myself to piece it together. One of the nice things here that we shared with our bullpen guys early on was roles. I said we’ll clearly try to help develop roles, but at the same time I have a policy that we don’t pitch more than two days in a row. We have violated that two or three times this year. Twice with Joel [Hanrahan] and once with Jared Hughes, but by not pitching that third day your role is going to change. Some of you guys will pitch the 6th. Some will pitch the 7th to the 8th. Long guy may not be the long guy. Somebody will have to pitch a couple of innings, so at the end of the day we want you to bond up and rally up and get the ball to Joel [Hanrahan]. That needs to be the mindset out there. Our guys have done it. They were so efficient getting strike one and then pounding the zone and putting people away. The one thing that has been excellent is the strike-to-walk ratio. It’s been really good and the ability to not have balls put in play late in games has really helped them in locking games down.”
Where is Andrew McCutchen’s ceiling going to be?
“I don’t know, but I am enjoying the ride watching it. I hate to put expectations on a player. I don’t know if he can have a better season statistically than the first half he has had this year. But I’ve watched it from last year I think now for him it also is what we are all talking about here and finishing the season. He had a great first half last year and made the All Star team and then he fell off in the second half. All tools are in play. The run tool is in play. The glove tool is in play. The arm tool. The power and the ability to get a base hit. They are all in play. We need him to back up the first half with a very professional second half.”
Is it a possibility that this team will go out and get an arm at the trade deadline?
“It is. It is. We’ve had internal discussions and it’s been quite pleasing for a lot of people around because for 18 years those weren’t the topics of discussion at the All Star break. It was kind of what do we need to maybe shave off, but now we are definitely looking in a couple of different places to be frank with you to add some strengths, so we can be in this thing until the end and win it.”
Listen to Clint Hurdle on ESPN Radio here