DENVER (AP) – Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has found a winning formula – regular rest for his players combined with a few other ingredients.
All of his players received a little bonus rest Thursday after their game with the Colorado Rockies was postponed due to rain and snow mix.
Hurdle was going to sit outfielder Starling Marte, even though he’s always hit well at Coors Field. The skipper gave Andrew McCutchen a day off earlier in the series.
Pittsburgh is hitting .294 with 119 runs, a dramatic improvement over last season’s season’s start – .230 and 89 runs in 22 games. It is the team’s highest April batting average over the last decade, according to STATS.
But rest isn’t the only integral component in Hurdle’s blueprint.
“It’s lineup construction. It’s on-base percentage. It’s matching up slugging percentage. It’s trying to pocket different hitters in different spots so you’re not soft in any one area,” Hurdle explained. “It’s connecting a strong chain where there’s no weak link.”
The players have bought into a strategy that was developed during the offseason.
“Conversations were had, so they were understanding of it – what we were trying to build, what we planned on building. They were asked for their input,” Hurdle said. “Then we put the whole package together and ran it in spring training. … believing it was going to give us an opportunity, more consistent coming out of the gate, as well as the entire season.”
Pittsburgh has won eight straight games at Coors Field.
Then again, this kind of weather descending on the city doesn’t surprise Hurdle. He’s seen it all too often.
“It’s always interesting,” said Hurdle, who spent eight years managing the Rockies. “I left a pair of shoes in hotel room, as my wife pointed out to me. Can use it as snow shoes.”
There wasn’t that much snow – just some random flurries. This is simply spring time in the Rockies.
Pittsburgh headed home after a 6-3 trip and opens a homestand today against Cincinnati, which has lost four straight.
There were no complaints from Colorado manager Walt Weiss with the postponement. His overtaxed bullpen can use the rest.
The starters haven’t exactly been stellar the last two days for the Rockies, lasting a combined 6 2/3 innings. Given the Rockies played 12 innings Wednesday, their relievers have thrown 14 1/3 innings over the past two games. That’s a lot of tired arms.
“I’m not going to kick and scream if we don’t play, quite frankly,” said Weiss as his team finished a 1-5 homestand.
In this day and age of shifts, right fielder Carlos Gonzalez really wouldn’t want to see the Rockies employ a fourth outfielder at expansive Coors Field even against notorious fly-ball hitters.
“It’s just not the right way to play. I mean, who are you going to play in the outfield?” Gonzalez said.
How about moving, say, rookie Trevor Story from shortstop into left-center and shifting third baseman Nolan Arenado closer to second.
“I’m not surprised if they start doing that. That’s how the game has changed,” Gonzalez said. “If I see four outfielders, that won’t surprise me.”
Pirates’ pitcher Juan Nicasio (2-2) didn’t face Colorado due to the postponement and will instead take the mound today against the Reds.