Pirates notebook: Martin bats in No. 2 spot again

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Russell Martin batted second again Friday night as part of a restructured lineup that manager Clint Hurdle hopes will improve the club's on-base percentage.

Martin batted second for the first time Thursday night against the Milwaukee Brewers and went 2 for 3 with two walks and an RBI.

The Pirates, who undertook a team-wide effort in spring training to improve their offense after a below-average output at the plate in 2013 and no significant offseason additions, entered a game Friday with a .304 on-base percentage, ranking 10th in the National League. Their .231 team batting average ranked 13th.

"That has been the priority No. 1 through the winter and into spring training," Hurdle said. "For everybody. Fight, find a way to get on base. We've got to continue to work hard for each individual to work and improve their on-base percentage. We need to get on base more."

Hurdle batted Martin second in spring training to give Martin more at-bats when he was only catching five innings at a time, and Hurdle liked what he saw.

"We didn't get out of the chute quite the way we wanted to so [bench coach] Jeff Banister and I talked," Hurdle said.

"There was some continuity in spring training. I thought, well, if we're going to make a change, the first one I want to make is a comfortable one and one that's not a big jam job, moving everybody around, moving four different people around."

Martin has a career .349 on-base percentage and had a .327 mark in 2013. He had a .353 OBP this season entering Friday.

"The give and take is how hard you want to push your catcher offensively," Hurdle said. "I believe he can adapt to that situation. I actually think you saw a little bit of a different approach last night from him for whatever reason. He embraced it."

Travis Snider started 12 games batting second and Jose Tabata hit second three times. Snider's on-base percentage in the early going was the exact same as it was in 2013: .281.

Martin's move does not guarantee an improvement for the offense. Neil Walker's on-base percentage is .273 and Gaby Sanchez is at .310. Hurdle thinks Martin can maximize the opportunities offered by the No. 2 slot, which combines a high number of plate appearances with the chance to bat with runners on base. Recent statistical analyses suggest teams should bat their best hitter second, though there is no indication Andrew McCutchen was a candidate to do so.

"The most optimum position to hit in our lineup is No. 2," Hurdle said. "Hitting in front of McCutchen. They don't want to walk you."

VP hired

Drew Cloud, who previously worked as a vice president for the NBA, joined the Pirates as their executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer.

Cloud was the vice president of team marketing and business operations for the NBA. Before that he worked for Madison Square Garden Sports, leading ticket sales for the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and New York Liberty. He also worked for the Phoenix Suns and Tampa Bay Rays.

Cloud, a Pittsburgh native, replaces Lou DePaoli, who joined the New York Mets in 2013.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.


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