When Pirates manager Clint Hurdle predicted in spring training that his team would win 95 games this season he was criticized for making such a bold forecast. After all, the Pirates hadn't won 95 games in 21 years (not since their previous playoff team in 1992) and were coming off a second-half collapse in which they won only 16 of their final 51 games.
As it turns out, Hurdle might have underestimated his team. If the Pirates take two of three against the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend they will be on pace for 100 victories at the season's halfway point.
The Pirates haven't won 100 games in more than a century, previously accomplishing the feat in 1909.
Hurdle said Friday there was a reason he went out on a limb and predicted 95 victories.
"No. 1, they asked what we had to do to make the playoffs," Hurdle said. "I said if we win 95 games we'll make the playoffs. If you look at the numbers and numbers crunch you'll make the playoffs if you win 95 games. That was my point there.
"And I do believe one of the challenges we have as men in sports is we don't set our goals high enough. I wanted to remind our guys we needed to be as good as we can be. I'm not sure I know what that is. I'm not so sure they know what that is. But that mentality of being the best we can be, getting a little bit better every day, controlling the grind, eliminating the distractions has got us to the point in the season where our record is what it is."
Outfielder/first baseman Garrett Jones said when he heard Hurdle's prediction in March it reinforced the notion that the Pirates were close to becoming contenders.
"It just shows the confidence he has in us and the belief he has in us," Jones said. "We're not shocked. We believe we can do that and more. We're confident in what we can do. He's confident in us. We've shown in the past we can win. Finishing is our goal. And that's the goal this year -- get to the playoffs, goes as far as we can go and win the whole thing. We believe we have the team to do it."
The Pirates optioned catcher Tony Sanchez back to Class AAA Indianapolis and recalled infielder Josh Harrison. Sanchez, who made his major league debut on the recently completed road trip, performed well in his role as a designated hitter in the American League parks, but Hurdle said he had no need to keep three catchers on the roster upon returning home.
Harrison was recalled in part because outfielder Alex Presley was not eligible to return to the major league roster. Hurdle said he will use Harrison's versatility and might use him more against the Phillies next week because they're scheduled to have two left-handed starters pitch in that series.
• Injured starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday, but that was pushed back until today because pitching coach Ray Searage was attending to a personal matter.
• A.J. Burnett, the other starting pitcher on the disabled list, also is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today and will be reevaluated after that.
• Jose Tabata is showing signs of improvement in Indianapolis as he rehabilitates his hamstring injury.
"Physically, he seems to be in a good place," Hurdle said. "No setbacks and he's pushing to do more."
In five games with Indianapolis on his current rehabilitation assignment (before Friday night), Tabata was 2 for 15 with three walks.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.