Pirates' Hurdle wants more stealing
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- One of the stated objectives for the Pirates during spring training has been to run more.
Whether it be a straight steal, taking off after a pitch hits the dirt or not breaking stride and going from first to third on a base hit to the outfield, manager Clint Hurdle has said -- numerous times -- this edition of the Pirates will put a heavy emphasis on taking extra bases.
Or, at the very least, trying to take extra bases.
This spring, the Pirates have stolen 21 bases and been caught stealing 16 times.
There have also been a handful of instances when a runner at first base has gone to third on a single to the outfield in a situation that definitely could have been classified as risky.
The man charged largely with the task of facilitating the run game is Luis Silverio, the club's first base coach who is also responsible for baserunning instruction.
The Pirates stole 87 bases last season and were caught stealing 36 times, both 10th out of 16 teams in the National League.
"We are going to run smart," Silverio said. "We are not just going to tell everyone to run just to do it. We have to run smart. The emphasis has to be on making the right decision, not running just to run."
One interesting decision for the run game will come in the construction of the batting order. For much of the spring, Andrew McCutchen, who led the team with 33 steals last season, has been batting third in the order.
If McCutchen stays at third in the order and isn't shifted to the leadoff spot, would he be more apt not to steal knowing Pedro Alvarez is hitting behind him?
"It is not going to change my approach. It is not going to change his approach," McCutchen said of himself and Alvarez. "I'm still going to be going."
What is the thought behind such a strategy with the staff?
"If [McCutchen] is running, we want Pedro to swing the bat," Silverio said. "Then a double scores him. If [McCutchen] is in motion, we are not taking the bat out of Pedro's hands. We are just trying to be more aggressive."
Two pitchers facing uncertain roles -- Jeff Karstens and Brian Burres -- threw effectively in a B game Thursday at Pirate City. Karstens worked three innings and struck out six without yielding a hit, and Burres pitched four innings, giving up two hits and striking out five. Neither gave up a run.
Karstens is a certainty on the big league club, as it is just a matter of what his role will be. He could be a reliever or, if the side injury to James McDonald lingers, he could be a starter.
Last season, Karstens appeared in 26 games for the Pirates, starting 19.
"I have no idea," Karstens said when asked if the club is preparing him to start this season. "Just like last year, I go about my business and whatever they tell me happens, happens."
And how difficult is that situation?
"For other people it is probably hard," Karstens said. "But for me, I am used to it. I just kind of roll with it."
Burres is a different story, a non-roster invitee and far from a certainty to make the big league roster.
Asked of his stated goal, however, the left-hander firmly said: "Pittsburgh."
Burres has yet to give up a run this spring and also is able to work as a starter or reliever. He was 4-5 last with a 4.99 ERA with the Pirates last season, starting 13 games and appearing in seven others in relief.
"It is easier for me now than it once was," Burres said. "Now, I just take it as, 'What do I have to do?' And I do that to the best of my abilities. Before it was new to me."
The Pirates lost, 13-3, to the Orioles in a game Thursday at McKechnie Field. Baltimore had 20 hits and scored six earned runs in the third inning against Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, whose spring ERA is 10.24.
"I feel like I kept the ball down," Ohlendorf said. "The results really weren't that indicative of that. I would have preferred to have thrown more [innings] but I think I should be OK.
"I would like the results to be good, but I am much more concerned with how I am throwing. ... I feel like I made good pitches for the most part."
Scott Olsen gave up a home run, three earned runs, three hits and walked three in 11/3 innings.
• Catcher Ryan Doumit, on the mend from after a minor oblique strain, went 3 for 4 with a home run and double in a minor league game at Pirate City.
• In a B game at Pirate City, Pedro Ciriaco played center field for the first time and Steve Pearce played third base. Also, Garrett Jones played first.
First Published March 18, 2011 12:00 am