Pirates notebook: Defensive plan different at Coors Field


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DENVER — The baseball just does things differently at Coors Field.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle would know.

He spent 13 seasons with the Colorado Rockies organization, including seven as manager from 2002-09, and learned firsthand what the thin mountain air can do.

"You need to overplay the ball from a defensive perspective. Just continue to get back," Hurdle said. "Get back and try to catch everything moving in. The balls hold their angles down the line here different than many ballparks."

Gregory Polanco made his debut Friday night at Coors Field, and third baseman Brent Morel returned for just the second time since he played three games in the 2011 season as a member of the Chicago White Sox.

"You don't see balls spin foul out of play. You can think a ball off the bat is going to go foul and very many times it'll surprise you and stay fair," Hurdle said. "So you've got to cover the lines, don't give up on balls down the line."

The dimensions of the park also are formidable, with a 415-foot distance to straightaway center, and another 390 to left.

"And then, just, there's a lot of room to cover so communication is critical to cover as well," Hurdle said.

Hurdle led the Rockies to the National League championship in 2007, and said he allows himself a moment of nostalgia when he returns here.

"A lot of great memories. I always go out and the first thing I look at is that flag on top of the scoreboard -- 2007 National League Champions," said Hurdle. "I remember how many people told me that we'd never win it here. And then I move on."

Cole outing in Indy

Gerrit Cole will make a rehabilitation start Monday with Class AAA Indianapolis. Cole said earlier this week he would be amenable to a start or two in the minor leagues to get ready for his return to the rotation.

Cole threw a 60-pitch bullpen session Friday with Indianapolis, according to Hurdle, and will shoot for 80-85 pitches Monday.

Cole has been on the disabled list with right lat soreness since July 9 (retroactive to July 5). He was eligible to come off the DL July 20 but the Pirates have been pretty clear there would be no rush.

Alvarez nearly ready

Pedro Alvarez could be nearing a return to the lineup. Alvarez went through some workouts Friday without issue and Hurdle was hopeful he could be available off the bench. Morel got the start at third base.

"So far he went out and shagged for early batting practice. He's hit in the cage," Hurdle said. "We're waiting for him to get on the field to work on some defensive mobility things and hopefully he'll be able to be a player off the bench."

Left-handers II

By the end of this three-game series, the Pirates will have seen two Colorado left-handers in back-to-back games on back-to-back weekends. Brett Anderson started Friday night for the Rockies, and will be followed tonight by Tyler Matzek. It was the same drill July 19 and 20 at PNC Park.

Familiarity can help, Hurdle said, but only so much.

"I think there can be from the aspect, at least we know the guys. We know what it feels like to see their pitches from the box," he said. "If they pitch and execute like they did at our place it's going to be challenging. Our focus needs to stay the same. We don't change our focus for a ballpark or anything else. We need to work counts, try and stretch the starters out, see pitches."

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

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