Pirates notebook: All-Star feeling still thrills veterans

CINCINNATI — Clint Hurdle managed the National League team at the 2008 All-Star Game and was a member of the coaching staff in 2004.

Hurdle will help coach the NL team and will be joined by reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen, utility player Josh Harrison and left-handed reliever Tony Watson Tuesday night at Target Field in Minneapolis.

It will never get old.

"I had a small conversation with [Cincinnati third baseman] Todd Frazier. He said it's a dream come true. I said kid, it's a dream come true for a 56-year-old man," Hurdle said. "Absolutely. It's a priceless moment to be a part of the festivities. It's a celebration of baseball. That locker room ... when you get in those locker rooms and you see the players ... "

Hurdle and McCutchen are used to this All-Star thing, but Harrison and Watson are first-timers.

For all, it will be an experience to remember.

"Being in the clubhouse with all those guys, it's never going to happen anywhere else for you," McCutchen said. "And the game itself, it's the quickest nine innings you're going to play, or more. You're facing elite pitchers, elite position players, one going against the other. It's a lot of fun, but it goes by really fast."

There was a steady drum beat around Pittsburgh for Watson to be named to the team for the season he's having.

But he never let himself think it could actually happen.

"There was conversation, but that's all localized, so you never know how big it really is," Watson said. "To actually be picked, it's closers and starters, so I didn't really ... honestly didn't really think I was going to go."

Harrison has had a career year so far, but as a utility player was a long shot.

"Trying to prep them up as much as you can, tell them what to expect, all the things I didn't expect," McCutchen said. "You try and tell them all those things, but your emotions and everything is going to take over. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Hurdle said he's looking forward to being able to soak in the experience a bit more than when he managed the game in 2008.

"The last one I signed up for was that 15-inning game. That was like an algebra test in a dentist chair," he said. "That was an absolute clenched fist from start to finish. To go back to the hotel at 3:30 in the morning and know you're catching a 9:30 flight to Colorado is just, like, wow. You've got pitchers, players, make sure you don't get guys hurt, trying to win the game. I think we coughed up two leads late after the seventh. Wild."

Second-half plan

The pitching rotation after the All-Star break will be: Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Edinson Volquez, Vance Worley, Hurdle announced.

Infielder Matt Hague was optioned back to Class AAA Indianapolis to make room for Liriano, who was reinstated from the disabled list before the game.

Back to baseball

Starling Marte is expected to return Wednesday. Marte has been on bereavement leave in the Dominican Republic. He will stay for a mass Tuesday, then fly back to Pittsburgh the next day, Hurdle said.

Process continues for Cole

Gerrit Cole was scheduled to throw on flat ground Sunday and is scheduled to do so again Tuesday and Wednesday. He will throw 20-25 fastballs and changeups in a side session Thursday.

"We'll regroup after he throws the side on the 17th," Hurdle said.

Must be nice to be MVP

McCutchen's second home run Saturday night came on a first-pitch slider by J.J. Hoover.

"It's what elite players are capable of doing. Not everybody can do it," Hurdle said. "When you look at those kinds of things, all of those kinds of things you draw up when you're 6 in the backyard, you want to do this and you want to do that. Elite players go do it at this stage in front of a packed house against a good ballclub. He beats No. 1s and No. 2s. He beats late-inning relievers."

Jenn Menendez jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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