Pirates Notebook: Hurdle changes routines to keep players in focus

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ST. LOUIS -- Perhaps, it is change for change sake.

"Doing some things differently," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You become a slave to routines and, on the road, you can get into some bad ones. You get home late, you eat late, you sleep in, you get up, you go right to the park and eat ..."

That is why he has changed the team's routine as the Pirates are coming off a season in which they won just 17 road games.

So, on this first, six-game road trip to Chicago, then here -- there have been flashes of disrupted routines,

Consider this: Monday, the players and staff had an advance scouting meeting at the hotel at 11:30 a.m. to go over the Cardinals.

"Rather than jam it into the afternoon here [at Busch Stadium," Hurdle said.

After the Monday meeting, there was a workout geared to defense at the stadium before batting practice.

Tuesday, many players participated in an early batting practice session at Busch. Has the schedule been unusual? Sure.

There is a sense that Hurdle will change things up regularly on the road, not allowing this team to settle into routines.

"It's different," Hurdle said. "So what it will do is stimulate [the players'] thought process. But I said to them, 'If you've got a better plan, go ahead and share it.' "

Hurdle on Walker

Hurdle has heard what second baseman Neil Walker can't do. And it puzzles him that some negative talk remains about the former first-round pick who went into the Tuesday night game leading the National League with seven RBIs and hit safely in the first four games.

"I do hear comments, from time to time, that he can't do this and he can't do that," Hurdle said. "We live in a society where we are so quick to try to point out how smart we are and what someone can't do.

"Does he have work to do, can he improve? All of us can. I just like the way he embraces the game and he's embraced this opportunity."

Why are some people so quick to point out Walker's shortcomings? Is it because this is his first full season at second base or his body type isn't prototypical for the position?

"I don't know," Hurdle said. "I think sometimes we are just way too quick with judgments. We want to be right. But you are never going to say, 'You know what, I was the first one wrong.' Everyone wants to be right in a hurry, we want to get something out first, but is it correct?"

Hit the ground running

The Pirates have 10 consecutive games to begin the season with the first off day Monday.

Hurdle mentioned of the heavy workload in his pregame comments, saying that he did not remember a season in which he was involved in 10 consecutive games to start the campaign.

The 2006 Pirates played 17 consecutive games to start the season before enjoying a day off.

Buried treasure

Catcher Chris Snyder, on the 15-day disabled list with a back injury, started a program where he began catching Tuesday, according to Hurdle. He will work up to where he catches camp games and at-bats. ... Just as Hurdle said would happen, Matt Diaz got his occasional start against a right-handed pitcher, facing the Cardinals' Kyle McClellan.

Forecast: The opener

The weather forecast for Thursday's home opener vs. Colorado at PNC Park calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 62.

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com


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