Pirates notebook: 'Buying time' is the new arguing

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MILWAUKEE -- Clint Hurdle marched from the dugout Saturday night and made a bee-line to home plate umpire Bill Miller in the eighth inning.

Starling Marte had just been called out at home on a tag-up attempt from third base on a rare and wild double play that started with a popup to the catcher, and was finished with a 2-6-1 putout at home.

He didn't yell. Or kick dirt.

In another twist of this new era of instant replay, Hurdle simply bought some time for his replay crew to determine if he should challenge.

They decided not to, but what exactly does Hurdle say in those situations if he's not arguing?

"I'm buying time," is what he tells the umpire. "I'm completely transparent. Why am I going to lie to them? They know what I'm doing."

Hurdle sees no reason for a faux-argument when the situation is obvious to both sides.

"It's all part of the deal now," he said. "I do know it's going to get to a point that once our comfort levels get recreated, I think you'll see more of the old-school conversations and dialogues starting to take place."

But he also reached that comfort level at another point in the game and got into it with third base umpire Greg Gibson.

"We got into a barking match on a check swing and it just felt good again," Hurdle said. "It's a part of the game you don't want to go out and look for to happen. But this has been somewhat of a buffer early on for any of that."

Up next: Cincinnati

The Pirates head to Great American Ball Park today for a three-game series and will face the Reds for the first time since the wild-card game in October.

Hurdle said the rivalry that heated up in 2013 is among the best going.

"We did develop an old-school rivalry," he said. "Could've been a little bit of a throwback to days gone by when we were all playing on turf. It's fun."

The Pirates went 11-8 against the Reds last year, including a 6-4 mark in Cincinnati.

"It's definitely one that it's a real good blood flow. Adrenaline is ready when they say play ball," said Hurdle. "We respect them. We like playing them. We like matching up against them."

The Reds are 3-8 this year.

'Power tool' reliever

Tony Watson retired the two Brewers he faced Saturday night, stranding two runners he inherited in scoring position to get the Pirates out of a big jam in the seventh.

He has been effective against right- and left-handers.

"I think there's some challenge in picking up the angle of delivery," Hurdle said. "I think the velocity and the fact he'll move his fastball to both sides of the plate. I think everybody in the league is aware he pitches glove-side, but what he's done to counterpunch that is his changeup has become a filthy pitch for him."

Hurdle said the slider added to the fastball and changeup gives Watson options that have helped him allow batters to hit just .105 against him.

"He still has the slider, slider works really good left-on-left. He can back-foot it or back-door it. The changeup now, he's thrown it to some left-handers -- we call that speed dialing a hitter when you throw a changeup right-on-right or left-on-left," Hurdle said. "Because what they see is fastball, so they either swing through it or they hit it 450 feet foul so you get strike one. He's just continued to evolve and those are the weapons he brings to the table that has allowed him to become the power tool that he's become on the mound."

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published April 13, 2014 10:48 PM

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