Pirates Notebook: Hurdle said time running out for Overbay
July 29, 2011 4:00 AM
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Pirates first baseman Lyle Overbay.
By Paul Zeise Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ATLANTA -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday that if starting first baseman Lyle Overbay does not start producing at the plate, he will find himself out of a job.
Hurdle made it clear that Overbay, 34 and one of the most experienced players on the team, is running out of time.
Overbay, a left-handed hitter, was supposed to provide some power, but he was 2 for 17 in the five games before last night and has not driven in a run since July 16.
In 99 games before last night he was batting .230 (79 for 343) with only seven home runs and 35 RBIs. In the first three games of this series against the Atlanta Braves, he was 2 for 13.
Hurdle said that there is a learning curve for younger players, so the team can be a little patient with them when they struggle, but a veteran such as Overbay doesn't get that luxury, particularly with the Pirates in the midst of a division title race.
"That's where we are right now [at the point where a decision needs to be made]," Hurdle said. "Lyle's had a large volume of at-bats. We had a heart-to-heart conversation a while ago, back when he took three days off. He has enough experience in this game to understand there is a need now.
"Is there time to catch a spark? Yes, but we need to get something done sooner rather than later."
Hurdle said it is hard to put a finger on why Overbay has struggled so much offensively.
"We have obviously anticipated more [from Overbay, who was signed for $5 million in the offseason]," Hurdle said. "The thing I tell him he has control of is his work ethic and the ability to keep working at it. Sometimes, you just have seasons where it seems like it is a grind all year long, you are just pushing that rock uphill all year. I've had those and I probably think that is where Lyle is right now."
Next in line?
Before removing someone from the lineup, there has to be a player who can step in, and that has been part of Hurdle's problem.
Garrett Jones has played some first base, but with Alex Presley and Jose Tabata injured, he is needed in right field.
The next guy in line likely is Steve Pearce, who got the start at first Wednesday and was 1 for 4 with a strikeout.
"Very well could be," Hurdle said. "[Wednesday], he squared up a few balls. It will be particular matchups, I'd still like to give some Lyle's way when we need a lefty."
A club record
Pirates pitchers set a team record for strikeouts over a three-game stretch with 37 from Monday through Wednesday. That is one more than the record of 36 set in three games April 19-21, 2001.
The record is skewed because this stretch of three games for the Pirates included 38 innings.
Meanwhile, Pirates hitters did their share of striking out over the first three games of the series with 38.
"We've got too many strikeouts all across the board," Hurdle said. "When you are producing runs, you can live with it. But this is a combination of we got holes and they pitch well."
• Pedro Alvarez was recalled Monday and has started every game since. Hurdle said he has seen some progress in his approach at the plate. "At times, I've seen some discipline, laying off some pitches they have been trying to get him to bite at," Hurdle said, "but, at times, I'd like to see him be a little more aggressive swinging at fastballs."
• Catcher Ryan Doumit (left ankle sprain) continues to progress in his rehabilitation assignment in Class AAA Indianapolis. "He still needs to see pitches," Hurdle said. "He is a guy who needs to see a lot of pitches."
• Hurdle said Tabata (left quad strain) is not close to beginning a rehabilitation assignment.