Clint Hurdle offered some strong praise for the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates when talking about the depth and the number of options that this team has.
“We definitely, I believe right now on paper, it’s the strongest club that we’ve had [going] into Spring Training,” Hurdle said during his press conference with the media today.
“Every year you get results, and you look at where your strengths were, and the areas that you can close some separation in places. The evolution of our position players also helps. But then the added depth we’re able to create off our bench.”
Hurdle pointed to Jung-ho Kang and Sean Rodriguez as two guys who could play multiple positions, and Corey Hart as another example of a versatile option off the bench to fill that depth.
The Pirates had a lot of success last year with another versatile option — Josh Harrison. The Super Utility player stepped up in a big way, filling in at right field when the regular right fielders were struggling, taking over at second base when Neil Walker was injured, subbing for Jordy Mercer at shortstop when needed, and eventually finding a home at third base due to the struggles of Pedro Alvarez. Harrison was a big reason why the Pirates made the playoffs for a second year in a row, and it’s no surprise that they responded by adding more potential Josh Harrison’s.
“We talked about it for a few years, and then you’ve got to make sure you find the right fits, and you find the right personnel to add like them,” Hurdle said on whether the off-season plan was a direct result of Harrison’s success. “But it’s definitely a plan. We saw the benefits of what Harrison was able to do, even before last season. There were stretches where he came in and would play for a straight week and spot up at three or four different spots. The value, I think our entire game, our industry has understood that you can find that Super U guy, or you can find a couple of guys on your bench if they can play multiple positions. It’s the way the game is trending.”
**Jameson Taillon worked with his pitching group today, doing every activity except bullpens. I reported a month ago that Taillon will only be doing bullpens on Tuesday and Friday. He is still on that schedule, and will throw his next session this Tuesday. Meanwhile, to give an idea of where other pitchers are in the process, Tyler Glasnow told me that he will throw his first live batting practice on Tuesday.
**Hurdle was asked whether the team planned to give Andrew McCutchen more of a break. He talked about how McCutchen, and all players, just want to play, but the team has to find a balance. Then he discussed what could be an interesting source to try and find that balance.
“I read an interesting article awhile ago about the Golden State Warriors, how they’ve maximized production off their players,” Hurdle said. “They’re actually playing less, they’re playing better collectively as a group. So you try to find that right equation as you work forward.”
Hurdle said that the Pirates watch other sports like the NBA, NFL, and NHL — highlighting the last one as a sport that really excels at knowing when to give guys breaks.
“We’re looking for how it can apply to baseball,” Hurdle said of the other sports. “You have to continue to try and be creative, to look for different ways to do things, and the model that we have here. And there’s a lot of different ways to learn. And a lot of different examples to learn from.”
**Tomorrow is the day for position players to report to camp. That’s almost a technicality, since most of those players have already reported. By my quick count, there are probably less than five players who haven’t reported yet, and those players are NRI guys. Hurdle said that this is probably the most populated camp in the early stages since he’s been with the Pirates.