Pirates' Hurdle says it's time

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New Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, when asked to encapsulate his feelings about the past history of the organization he now helps lead and the vision it should have for the future, came up with a quick answer.

"It's time," he said.

Then he stopped -- the applause wouldn't allow him to continue.

Hurdle's comments came at the signature event Friday of the opening day of Piratefest, as Hurdle, team president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington fielded questions from fans in a question-and-answer session. Tickets Friday to Piratefest -- which continues today and tomorrow at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center -- were distributed to season-ticket holders.

While most of the exchanges were cordial, with Hurdle seemingly already firmly yanking the support of many of the Pirates fans by cracking jokes and drawing applause on numerous answers, there were a few pointed questions directed at the panel.

One of the toughest in the hour-long session was one of the first, and centered around a report that recently surfaced in the publication Pirates Report. The report stated that Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, "had ballooned in excess of 240 pounds, at least 15 pounds more than he finished last season."

Huntington challenged the report.

"Pedro is much stronger than he was a year ago," Huntington said. "Pirates Report is not completely accurate in terms of pounds. He's not where we'd like him to be, but it isn't where it has been reported. That is the case."

Another sharp question posed to Huntington was about the status of Ryan Doumit, whose playing time appears to be blocked because Chris Snyder is the regular catcher and the offseason acquisitions of first baseman Lyle Overbay and right fielder Matt Diaz. Doumit is due to make $5.1 million this season, an exorbitant amount on this team for the role he most likely will undertake.

"It is something with Ryan that we have to come to a decision about where he helps us most," Huntington said. "We've explored some areas for him and if it is the right fit for him, we will move him [in a trade]. If the best role is for him to stay with our club, that is what we will do. If it isn't that, that is what we will do."

Another fan took the Pirates to task for their road woes last season, as the team went 17-64 away from PNC Park. It was the second time, since baseball introduced the 162-game schedule, that a team won 17 or fewer games on the road.

How will that change this season?

"When we go on the road, it is going to be good, hard, smart baseball," Hurdle said. "It won't be, 'How are we going to lose tonight?' ... The road will be a big challenge and big opportunity. That's the way we are looking at it, we aren't going to sit around waiting for something to go wrong."

It wasn't much of a surprise that Hurdle's answer, like most of them he offered with succinctness and a direct truth, drew stirring applause from the crowd.

Beimel signs deal

Left-handed relief pitcher Joe Beimel signed a deal Friday with the Pirates. It is a minor league contract but includes an invitation to major league spring training. Beimel will make about $1.75 million if he makes the Pirates' opening-day roster, but has an out clause where, if he doesn't make the opening-day roster, he can become a free agent.

Beimel, 33, a Duquesne University product, pitched for the Pirates from 2001-03 and, since, has pitched for Minnesota, Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington and most recently Colorado.

Beimel, a free agent, is not guaranteed a spot on the major league roster but most certainly will battle for a spot in the bullpen for an organization that has just two left-handed relievers (Daniel Moskos and Tony Watson) on its current 40-man roster.

Beimel, a St. Marys, Pa., native, has a 22-31 lifetime record, a 4.16 ERA and has struck out 315 batters while walking 233.

Pirates announce charity run

Pirates Charities, the philanthropic arm of the organization, will hold a 5K race April 9 on the North Shore, starting on Federal Street and finishing at home plate inside PNC Park. To register or find out more information, fans can log onto pirates.com/5Khomerun, or pick up registration forms at DiBella's Old Fashioned Submarines, participating Bob Evans locations or the Pirates Administrative Offices at PNC Park.

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com .


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