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December 8, 2010

Clint Hurdle


Q. Just for fun, what will the top of your lineup look like opening day? Come on, just for fun.
CLINT HURDLE: No. I've already made a couple lineups out though.

Q. You have?
CLINT HURDLE: Yeah, sure I have.

Q. How about your leadoff guy?
CLINT HURDLE: I've already made a couple of lineups.

Q. Pedro fourth, right?
CLINT HURDLE: I've already made a couple of lineups out. Don't you think, let's just for fun, if you were a player and the manager was going to make lineups up, wouldn't you like to be the recipient of that lineup first? I mean, let's just for fun think about it that way. So I am going to Bradenton tomorrow, so I'll probably be able to talk to a couple of players. At least one of them might be in that lineup.

Q. What is the best way to describe your enthusiasm right now for the job?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, it's significant, and it's real for all the right reasons I have always embraced an opportunity. I had a career that wasn't without challenge or adversity. I've been able to find ways to battle, to scratch, and to claw myself personally as well as professionally. I think this is an opportunity that all of those things are going to be in play. I've never been afraid of a challenge. I've never been afraid of rolling my sleeves up and putting in some hard work, building something.
I'm most energized by the fact that I've got a group of guys right alongside me in the front office and the development and scouting department that are right there. They've been there. They've been on point for three years doing it.
I'm probably most energized by the reaction and conversations that I'm having with the players internally. But the point in time I'm at right now I'm not finished, maybe halfway through. I've had enough talks with players. I've been a player. It's easy for a player to grab and scratch, make an excuse, point the finger somewhere else. It just happens. I've had none of that with one player so far, not one player, not one excuse, not one distraction, not one coaching issue, anything. That has been very energizing.

Q. You've gotten to evaluate what's here a little more in the last couple weeks. What do you see are the needs that need to be addressed going into next year?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, Neil and I and the rest of our player development staff and front office staff, we've got to get better off the mound first. We've got to get better off the mound first.
I've been in organizations where we've tried to outscore people. Just came from an organization that historically had some success, a lot of success offensively, but never really had the team accomplishments they wanted to have. Their focus went to pitching and defense. They won an American League championship.
In Colorado, our focus switched from playing an offensive brand of baseball, it was high-powered, potentially tried to outscore people all the time. We put our focus on pitching and defense and won a National League Championship. So we've got to start off the mound.
We've got to play 27 outs on defense. Nobody can -- we can't have a weak link. We need to be challenged individually on improving in one facet of their game on defense. Whether it be a pitcher or a fielder, we're going to challenge ourselves to improve one facet of our game offensively, each of the individual position players. What can a pitcher do besides pitch better? Can he hold runners better? Can he quicken his time of release to the home plate? All the little things that we don't need external talent to make us better, that's where our first focus is going to be.

Q. With pitching being such a big concern or focus coming in, how important and how do you get in sync quickly with Ray Searage? Have you worked much with him?
CLINT HURDLE: No, we haven't worked much. We're talking a lot, and we're going to get together in January and do some things on the field together, but -- just communication. He's watching tape right now. I want him to watch all the tape he can get his brain and arms wrapped around and we'll compare notes. We'll have discussions. He's seen some of these guys, worked with some of these guys. He'll see some of the guys maybe he hasn't worked with. And I'll catch you up on that, and we'll have other priorities right now and combine our notes. So we'll have an understanding going in.
We've already established or talked about his pitching philosophy, his plan, his hands-on ideas, where the team was last year from a pitching standpoint, what was in the bullpen, what he saw throughout the course of the season. He's giving the opportunity to the pitching coach. What happened? What did he see there? What different approach did he take with some of the pitchers? My understanding from the outside and asking questions internally, their pitching staff took steps forward the last few weeks of the season. I think Ray had his place and part to play in that. We've talked about that.
In my individual conversations with players never was a question asked is it okay if we hire Ray? It was what can you bring better. And Ray's name continually would come up as a difference maker. So we've hit the floor running. We'll try to do as much as we can, and as much as we both can handle at the same time. And a lot of it will be in spring training. There's no way around that.

Q. How much will you be involved in hitting?
CLINT HURDLE: I will be involved. I have so much confidence in Gregg Richie going in. We've also had two or three very engaging conversations, a very extensive interview process with him. I have a passion for hitting, been a hitting coach for several years. I have some ideas. He needs to take ownership of this opportunity to be the best coach he can be.
I'm so confident number one because he has history with this young group that's come through the minor leagues and now has gotten a foot in the Major League level. His new opportunity to work with some of the men that have been at the Major League level.
My opportunity is to catch up and watch some things, very similar situation I was going through last year in Texas, watching tape, talking to people that are here, identifying areas that we need to improve at immediately, then talking to players and see how honestly they can evaluate their strengths and the areas they need to improve. That's going on right now from the offensive standpoint. Gregg's doing his homework, and I'm doing mine. But there will be days when I'll be in the cage. It's just something I love to do. I'm not going to get in the way, but I also think I can help make a difference along those lines.

Q. The club is obviously associated with pitching acquisitions, whether you can or can't comment on them. Will there be corresponding moves whether it's guys expected to be starters going to the pen or maybe even a trade?
CLINT HURDLE: We are exploring -- the blanket statement -- we are exploring every opportunity to improve our staff, whether it be free agency, whether it be a Rule 5 opportunity tomorrow, whether it be internal shuffling, whether it be a trade, we're trying to make sure that we're going to be right about our own guys first. I catch up to speed on a lot of the people that we've got in place, a lot of the cusp guys that are on. We want to create depth in the starting rotation. We want to create depth in the bullpen. We want to find a way to shorten the game from the back end forward.
We know we've got to get better across the board. Just look at the numbers. So we're well aware of that. I do think we're taking the steps to get some guys that are going to pitch more meaningful innings from a starting perspective so we can go to our bullpen and use it when we want to. You heard me say when we want to, not when we had to. There was a lot of pitching out of the bullpen last year because they had to. That's never good. That doesn't end well.

Q. What do you see when you look at your rotation now?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I know we've got a pitcher in Paul Maholm, who is challenging himself. I mean, he wants -- there's more there. I would say looking forward to this next opportunity. He's not happy. Nobody I've talked to is happy. They're happy and excited about next year, but what they've been through, they all feel there are areas of improvement they can make.
I've seen the kid McDonald pitch before. He excites me. I think he had a very competitive run while he was here after the trade. I got to believe Ohlendorf's the best one of 11 pitchers in baseball. From the tape I've watched and seen those things happen. Again, it goes down to that doesn't mean that's who he is. That was his record. Your record doesn't mean that's who you are.
His stuff's going to play out. He has -- obviously all the young pitchers will have a year of experience. The challenge for them is do something with it now. Do something with it. The numbers are over. Your numbers will revert back at the start of the season. You'll have an opportunity to create a new road map throughout the season.
The other options we have, we're going to add some more pieces here that I think will help set the bar high as far as pitching competitive innings, pitching the volume of innings. The bullpen, the two guys that I know are in place that I saw a lot and was impressed with last year are Meek and Hanrahan. They'll be hard to hit, very competitive. To add a couple of other pieces out there, whether we can add a couple of left-handed pieces or players, it will be a nice dynamic to have.
It's a work that's down on paper. We've got the people that -- we think right now we're much better than we were last year at the end of the season right now. We anticipate on being better before spring training starts than we are right now. We do feel like we're making advancements.

Q. With Meek and Hanrahan, what discussions have you had about that closer's spot? Are you coming to some conclusion?
CLINT HURDLE: No, I'm not coming to any conclusion. We don't need to figure out our closer in December, on December 8th. I know both of them can pitch late. Both of them want to help the team do the best things they can to win ballgames. I've not got to Meek yet. I've had a conversation with Hanrahan.
It really comes down to having a conversation with every player and what are you willing to give up personally or sacrifice individually for the betterment of the team if we get there? If it's still all about you, that might not work. We need to find the right players to put in the right positions. Go with that and see what kind of run we can establish with that. Then if we have to adjust, to adjust.

Q. Do you prefer one closer?
CLINT HURDLE: I do prefer one. I think you've got to have another one that's capable. I do have a plan that I've used in pitching, that nobody pitches more than three days in a row. Just doesn't happen unless we're running hot late or it might be a situation before the end of the first half or maybe before an off day. And the pitch total was significantly low for the third day. But I'm talking about using a guy on Friday. If I get him up twice on Saturday, and he doesn't pitch but he got hot, that counts. If we used him again on Sunday, that's three. No pitch the next day; that's just the way it is.
All of them will hem and haw a little bit. For the ones that haven't experienced it, it's my experience over the course of the season that they comprehend it as we move forward and realize the benefits to it. But we didn't have a lot of arm injuries out of the bullpen in Colorado when I was there. I'm not saying that's the reason why. But I do know that I've played for managers that sometimes from a manager's perspective they don't pitch. They didn't pitch no matter how many times they got hot in the bullpen, it doesn't count. I've been assured by pitching coaches that, no, that counts.

Q. A few days after your introductory press conference, the talk was the phrase "all in." Few days later, Josh Hamilton, the MVP press conference was talking about you and the toe tap, and he kept citing the phrase "all in." How did that make you feel?
CLINT HURDLE: It humbles you when a player would feel that you've been able to help him make a difference in his career. I've been fortunate in my coaching career and my managing career to have some very good players, to have some young players that we were able to hook up. Todd Helton -- I will hold Todd in very high esteem for a long period of time just because we kind of broke in together. He was able to do some things. We were able to develop a relationship that was meaningful, I think the true value of that coach-player relationship, and it's not about getting your name in the paper. It's looking a player in the eye when it's hard and it's not working. When people aren't writing nice things and the fans aren't clapping and saying I believe in you, here's what I think you need to do. Here's my observations. Do you trust me enough to work through this together?
As I told Josh going in, every player I've ever coached or managed, there will be a time for conversation when I said from your perspective looking at me, whether I was the coach or manager, there are three questions that I would have if I were you. Do I care about you? Can you trust me? And will I make you better? My job is to answer those three questions sooner than later for him. We get those questions knocked down, we're good to go.
I think Josh and I were able to get those questions knocked down. I think Todd and I. There were a number of players. Too often in today's game, at least from my experience as a player, a focus is put on a skill set. Sitting on a plane, sitting in first class, they call you by name. You sit in the back of the plane, they call you by seat number.
It's the same as a coach and a player and manager. Capture, I try and find a way to help capture their heart. Capture their heart, the skill set's going to come. If you can't capture their heart, you're just trying to capture the skill set, you just end up all over the board. So that's really the way I go at it in my relationships with players.

Q. Following up on that, because you've had success as a hitting coach, were you concerned that teams would only view you in that role? And what do you do to remain viable as a managing candidate?
CLINT HURDLE: First question, no. I learned a while ago I can't control what other people say, think or do. People's view of me is their view of me. I know this, that I had a blast last year as a hitting coach. I had an absolute blast. One of the most fun years I've ever had in the game.
I know this, there are seasons in Colorado I had an absolute blast. It wasn't just the '07 season. I'm not worried about external perception.
My job now is to lead this club. There are enough men in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and position leadership that chose me to lead the club. I don't take that lightly, so that's my job now.
Will I dabble in the hitting side of it? Most definitely. But I've got a very qualified coach that's going to be fun to watch him cut his teeth at the Major League level and do that this year. So I'm looking forward to the opportunity. The biggest reason any time in life you get an opportunity to do something the second time, shame on you if you don't do a better job at it.

Q. What do you bring now that is from your experience in Colorado that you think will be helpful?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, hopefully, good judgment. I've got more experience, whether it be developing a team, building a team, raising the bar, winning, tangible evidence of winning a championship, then dealing with the expectations and challenges that come with that. Not fulfilling those.
I've dealt with success, failure, disappointment, elation. There are not many things this game can throw me right now that I haven't already been through. So that gives me an ability to rise through challenging times and not get too high when things go really well.
Good judgment is critical. People say how do you get that? You get that through experience. How do you get experience? Through bad judgment. So you learn.

Q. What is the best way that you can begin to relate to the people in Pittsburgh and what they've gone through in basically two decades now?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I think getting out publicly, as I've a little bit already. Listen to the voice of the city. There is raw emotion. I've already heard it. There are people who care less what the manager is. I understand that. There are some people who care who the manager is.
At the end of the day, what they care about is the Pittsburgh Pirates win baseball games. There is still a large volume and truly passionate group of baseball fans out there. To put the number on the turn style they did last year for the season they had, that's impressive.
Pittsburgh fans are not afraid to come to a game. You look at the other two arenas and the histories that the Penguins and Steelers have in place. Every one of these players I'm talking to now externally and internally, I'm reminded there is not a greater sport opportunity available to anybody in rebonding this city with a baseball team. That to me is a luxury.
I grew up in a small town in Michigan. I've been a fan of Detroit sports a long time. I think there are some similarities. Hard working people that go out and earn their money. They don't want any BS. Tell them the truth. When you're right, you're right; when you're wrong, you're wrong. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Admit it, don't repeat it, and learn from it.
We want to develop, and it's already in place in a lot of areas in a no-excuse ballclub. Don't make excuses. I'm the manager, we will not use excuses. We will not use injuries. We'll play the game. We'll be respectful of our opponent and respectful of the league. We can't fear anything, we have to respect everything.
I truly think the people of Pittsburgh value guys that roll their sleeves up and get some dirt in their cleats and play smart, good baseball and win games. That is the plan.

Q. Last year you had a first row seat watching Cliff Lee pitch. What makes him so great?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, there are a number of things. His level of commitment to excellence. It's as good as anybody I've ever seen. He doesn't make excuses. He's worked hard to repeat his delivery. He knows his strengths and he'll continue to pound the ball in certain areas until pitchers show the ability to make an adjustment. He's relentless in his pursuit of excellence.
He's more surprised when he doesn't do well than when he does well. Doing well is just part of it, and I think that's a mindset that every team, you've got to have a lot of players thinking that way to have a good team. But it starts with thinking it. It starts with believing it, starts with saying it internally. Not being afraid to talk about being good and the desire to be great.
Cliff Lee, all of those things are on the table with him. He's very transparent. Through the work ethic that he backs all of that up with, if you're a pitcher in the starting rotation and a guy's having that kind of success and you watch him work, well, there are a lot of times that really good players work really, really hard. He's one of those.

Q. Have you had an opportunity to communicate with Jim Tracy since he had to leave the meetings?
CLINT HURDLE: Yes, we have communicated. Yes, we have. He's in good enough shape that we're able to have some spirited dialogue.

Q. How much do you know about Ronny Cedeno, and are you comfortable with him as your starting shortstop if that's the case?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't know that much about Ronny Cedeno. He's still on my list to call. I have gotten shared views with people in our organization. I've made some outside calls from other teams, other people, their views of Ronny Cedeno. He's a very skilled player.
Many players can get in that lane right now. Consistency has been his biggest challenge whether it be with the bat or the glove. There are a lot of guys in that lane. He's not by himself.
Some of the comments that have been shared with me that he has made, he understands that. He's got to get better on the field. There are a whole bunch of us that are waiting for the day we don't have to talk about what to do, we can just play the game and start doing it. I think he would fall in that category. And if we had to start tomorrow and Ronny Cedeno is our shortstop, we're going to go.

Q. Is there an a analogy in your mind with where you are with the Pirates now as where you were with the Rockies five or six years ago?
CLINT HURDLE: That time line is pretty accurate too. Yes, we were going through the stage where we got ourselves in a position financially where there was no more external look. We were going to have to scout, develop our own players, especially starting pitchers. Be creative through a bunch of different ways with acquiring talent. Maybe shifting our focus from just bashing the ball to pitching it better and fielding it better.
So that '05 year for me was probably the one that we, okay, enough's enough. We've got to change our direction and change lanes. That is that young group of players. Guys like Atkins, Barmes, Halladay was the next one in that group. Helton was a little bit older, but we had just enough old guys that the young guys actually energized the older guys that have been around. They were tired of losing. The young guys kind of energized the older guys and got them excited about playing the game again.
I see that same dynamic in place here to some degree.

Q. How do you run a clubhouse with that in mind? With a team like this that has fewer older guys, do you make your presence felt a little more early on until you're confident you can turn it over for the guys?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, I think the team does need to understand what's important to the manager, not through the coach's mouth or the media or anything else. You need to look them in the eye and tell them what's important to you.
I think a manager spends a lot of time in the clubhouse, it doesn't bode well. It's their clubhouse. They need to take ownership of the clubhouse. They need to have ownership of the dugout and the bullpen. I need to help steer, direct or guide when appropriate and when it's time. I think those conversations will be held early, and I will encourage our team to take ownership of some things from the git-go.
Right's always right, whether you're 20, 25, 30, 35, if you've got a right thought or right idea or right observation, you need to get out there. And we've got some young men that, whether it be through just they feel inexperience playing the game on their side, you know, their leadership, want-to didn't come out of that dynamic. But I told them true leadership doesn't have to have a home run total tied to it or an ERA tied to it. You lead by example.
Jimmy happened to be in Denver in 2007. If you would have picked Josh Fogg in spring training as one of the leaders of that ballclub, you would have said, what, Josh Fogg's going to be one of the leaders of that club? By the end of the year Josh Fogg was a leader of our ballclub in a significant way. He showed up every day with intent, purpose, focus. He had as much fun as anybody. He called out pitchers when they came up short. If it was lack of effort or lack of preparation. He called out position players. He was the one guy that could go ahead and throw a lasso around Helton or challenge a Halladay. It wasn't about his ERA. This is what he took upon himself.
It slowly filtered out. We had the emergence of a 22-year-old kid at the time, Troy Tulowitzki, who in his own way took upon some of those abilities throughout the season. I mean, Todd obviously is a force. But the clubhouse dynamic, there is not one way to get it done. And I do believe we've got some young men in there that have done some growing up.
One thing losing will teach you is how much more you appreciate winning. I think we've got some young men that are in that lane right now. They realized throughout the course of the season that there were so many more games to be won. It's not like they never had a chance 105 times.

Q. Going back to your experience with the Rockies and how it relates to the Pirates. The Rockies changed direction dramatically when you were there. It had to be about more than just a bunch of players making a bunch of money. You had to instill a certain attitude and integrity and character and all that kind of thing. You reaped the benefits of that in Colorado. How much do you think that impressed the people in Pittsburgh? How big a factor was that in you getting the gig?
CLINT HURDLE: There is no doubt in my mind that Neal Huntington, and Bob Nutting, and Frank Coonelly did a lot of research on me. They made a lot of calls. They told me as much. I do think that might have been one thing that we actually had some conversation about. It didn't occupy a large portion of our time. But I think they saw similarities themselves.
The models were similar. The personnel was somewhat similar. The markets are somewhat similar. So I do think that it had its part in the eventual hiring.
I also think they were looking for somebody to come in and -- unfortunately, many times in my life I've led with my chin. It's a boxing term. Not real smart always. But I'm not going to back down. I'm a Pirate. I'm proud to be a Pirate. We're going to be Pirates. We're going to scratch, we're going to claw, and that's what we started with there.
We've had the joke for years. Young kids would go to school in Rockies shirts and get beat up. For a period of time it just wasn't cool. It's pretty cool now. But it all kind of starts with a thought, and then comes the belief, and then the action that follows that, and that's where we are right here.
These men have it. My conversation that I'm having right now, that is probably the biggest energizer I'm getting is listening to the players talk about what they're doing to prepare. What they're going to do better for next season and how they're going to do it together. I think I'm a very fortunate guy to be in the position I'm in it right now with this organization.

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