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December 6, 2011

Clint Hurdle


Q.テつ How is this for you compared to where we were a year ago at this time sitting at this table?テつ How does it feel?テつ Different?テつ Better?テつ More of anything for you?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, it is different, but it's better.テつ I have a year's experience on the job.テつ I have a much better understanding of our organizational depth.テつ I have a much better‑‑ most importantly I have a much better understanding of the people that I'm working with, I think, the relationships that have been established in one year, and there's room for more growth.テつ But from the top, from Bob Nutting on down to the kids that work in the clubhouse, the people and employees that I meet in the hallways, all of them, so there's a comfort zone that has increased and a better understanding of who we are, establishing our identity and moving forward.

Q.テつ At the end of the year, you talked about the offense and the need obviously to upgrade and improve going into next year.テつ What the club has done already this winter and kind of the plans in place for next year, has that offense been upgraded?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, the one way we're going to upgrade efficiently is for all the players we've got in house to be a little better.テつ I mean, that goes back to one of John Wooden's principles of teamwork that makes sense.テつ You want your team to be better, everybody on the team to improve a little bit.テつ And we have guys that have room to improve and need to improve.テつ I do think the two position players we've added to this day will help us on offense.テつ It's not all about on‑base percentage.テつ These guys pretty much are who they are, Rod at 35 and Clint at 32.テつ But there's bats that are right‑handed; they're showing the ability to drive in some runs.テつ I do think there's going to be a better understanding individually of what we need to do better on offense and make those commitments in Spring Training and carry them through the season.テつ And I think we're still looking for ways to improve offensively.テつ We've got to be better.

Q.テつ How big of a piece can Pedro Alvarez be in that?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, that would make everything much more fluid to have Pedro come in and get comfortable and swing the bat the way we saw him swing the bat in 2010, to provide that run‑driving‑in ability.テつ So yes, he's working very hard to get to that place right now.

Q.テつ Does Pedro need somebody to push him maybe a little bit, whether it be ‑‑ I don't want to say competition, per se, at third base, but just something like that?テつ Could that be a tool?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ You know, it could be, but there's been enough communication right now, Pedro knows, I think, coming in that it's his job, but he's got to keep his job.テつ We'll probably search to bring somebody in that's a contingency plan.テつ I think that's something we have used internally if things don't work out for the best interest of Pedro and ourselves.
There's enough that went on last year that the pushing part of it, he's driven.テつ He's got enough professional pride that's in the right place that he wants more, he knows how important he can be and the difference he can make in our ballclub if he performs as he thinks he can.

Q.テつ You said it's a different feel because of the relationships you've established.テつ How much more vocal are you this year in some of these meetings, if you are at all?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, I am a little bit more because I have a better understanding of our personnel, but there's times when I still need to listen and I don't have a lot of input, especially when you start talking about other‑‑ when we get involved in discussions about other teams' Minor League personnel, trying to match up‑‑ I don't have a lot of help there internally.テつ They don't ask too many questions.テつ We're all respectful of each other's position and what we bring, and I haven't had to be any more than the questions they've asked.テつ That relationship is really‑‑ has really been put in a good place, the one with Neil and I working together every day, and obviously I've gotten to know Frank better.テつ He's involved in the meetings now.テつ So we're just trying to make the best decisions we can make for the ballclub and be respectful of everybody's skill sets going in and just get it right, not who's right.

Q.テつ At this point as you go into next season, you've got what appears to be an all‑right‑handed rotation.テつ Nothing was added.テつ Are you comfortable going into the season with a right‑handed rotation?テつ Do you feel like you need to add Jeff Locke or somebody from the outside to spice it up?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, not just to add, not just to make sure we've got a left‑hander.テつ We are always looking to improve our rotation.テつ I think we've got enough question marks as far as Charlie's health, we don't know where that's going to go.テつ We'd like to all think he's going to be ready opening day, but we've got to have a Plan B in place.
We were able to get a better look at Brad Lincoln and we have a better feel for Brad's situation on our ballclub, but I think we're looking to get stronger.
This time is not over.テつ They're still out there making calls and seeing potential fits.テつ If it's all right‑handed, it's all right‑handed.テつ I've been on some teams with all right‑handed guys who are really good.テつ That kind of just takes care of that.

Q.テつ Speaking of lefties, what have you heard, what have you seen of Ioshiwada (phonetic), the Japanese pitcher who's a lefty from Japan?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I'm sorry, but I've got nothing for you.テつ I know that‑‑ I don't think that's a name that's come across my desk or has been in the conversation, unless I'm not understanding you correctly.テつ I know the spelling of the names we've talked about but maybe not the right pronunciation.

Q.テつ How about the value of adding a veteran to the rotation?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I think that's also something that intrigues us.テつ We've got some guys that are in good places, and we have Kevin Correia who provides some veteran leadership and did so last year.
After that, we've got guys that are growing up, on‑the‑job training.テつ Carson took a big step forward.テつ McDonald and Norton both took big steps forward, as well.テつ There has been an opening left with Paul's departure possibly.テつ So that's something that's under consideration because the two guys we've already brought in, I think, position player‑wise, Rod and Clint, provide that kind of veteran leadership that you're looking for.
At the end of the day, we're trying to be realistic on who we add.テつ I'll be optimistic but realistic at the same time.

Q.テつ Will there be a place for Russell?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, theoretically, yes.テつ You don't close the door until the door closes, and we're trying to figure out what moves we need to make one move at a time.
Right now we're at 40.テつ Where do we go from there?テつ If we have a free agent signing, we'll have to make a countermove.テつ Where do we go from there?テつ So as you're pref'ing out your roster, those are some hard questions you've got to ask and time will tell.

Q.テつ I know Tony Watson was a lefty that was called out mid‑season.テつ Talk about how you think he dealt with the transition and what you expect of him heading into next season?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I think we're all very pleased with Tony's development last season, and actually he grew in more of a role.テつ We brought him in as more of a left‑on‑left guy, and I don't think that's real fair for him initially because it really wasn't something that he had done much of, and you ask him to do it at the Major League level, and he handled that.テつ We tried to give him more and extend his opportunity in an outing and he handled that very well.テつ I thought it was a very good step forward his first year.テつ He gained a bunch of valuable experience.テつ He knows there's work to do, but I thought he came in and really handled himself professionally, and I think one of the other things, I think at the end of the year he smiled four times while he was there, so we've got that.テつ Next year we can maybe look at adding to that number.テつ He's a very focused young man.

Q.テつ Have you been in contact with Derek at all this offseason as his deadline approaches on Wednesday?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Just in texts, and they've had nothing to do with baseball.

Q.テつ What did they have to do with?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Just nothing to do with baseball.

Q.テつ Exchanging Halloween family photos?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ You never know.

Q.テつ Do you think Justin Wilson will be able to possibly win a spot in Spring Training or is he too far away?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I think Justin Wilson is a very interesting young man.テつ We were able to bring him up late and have a conversation with him, and I think he showed some growth throughout the 3A season.テつ He did both.テつ He started for most of them and went to the bullpen late.テつ That was very intriguing.テつ We saw him pick up some velocity, and that could be an interesting dynamic, as well, as we look forward at what might be best for Justin and how to best serve our ballclub.テつ He's got a chance to be in the mix.

Q.テつ Are you confident that your bullpen can be constructed internally?テつ You seemed to have a lot of guys take a step forward last year.
CLINT HURDLE:テつ We were just having that conversation today, and one of the things that you're looking for is tangible signs of getting better as an organization, we've got much tougher decisions to make this winter than we had last year, and there's more volume of personnel and depth than we're able to talk about so far than we were able to talk about last year.テつ You talk about taking guys on the roster and you talk about the need to recreate a roster, a bullpen roster, I'm not so sure that's going to play out completely that way again this year, but we've got young people coming up, and they need to force the issue and they are making process.テつ We feel very good.テつ We can talk about Watson.テつ Moskos was able to come up and get some valuable experience.テつ You talk about Hughes that came up.テつ And you talk about LaRue, also.テつ There's more involved than just those guys, so that is one of the places I think we have got some very good depth.

Q.テつ LaRue started in winter ball.テつ Will you look at him as a starter in Spring Training?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I'm not so sure it's going to be the top of our pref list right now, but it's something we've talked about and a way for him to develop better.テつ We found an opportunity that made sense and fit for everybody.テつ It was not the whole season, it was part of the season, pick up some more innings, pick up some more starts so he could throw all his pitches, but he's a very interesting pitcher with some youth on his side, as well, that's got options that's worked himself to a very good place, as well.テつ The fact that he can do both, it always adds value.

Q.テつ Would you consider him maybe a spot supporter in April?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ We have that club in our bag now.テつ I think we're more comfortable with it because it wasn't so much there or visible.テつ We understand the value and the‑‑ I want to say the degree of success he had working out of the bullpen.テつ He was very, very effective.テつ Everybody that I talked to that saw him were very impressed with the work he was able to do.

Q.テつ Does it necessarily change his role to among of a longer guy?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I just don't know how much longer you can get than long.テつ Basically one time through the lineup, it's three innings, just because more often than not you're in a position to hit, to try and get back in the game.テつ But to build up in Spring Training, you're going to need more than five starters to get out of the box.テつ That's something we'll talk about down the road.

Q.テつ Neil said yesterday that they've been pleased with what they've heard on Pedro.テつ Have you had a chance to speak with him?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, I've talked to Pedro a couple different times, yeah, and he's been out in LA, been out there for a while now.テつ He's got a very structured routine, very regimented routine, very demanding routine, but it's a situation he's taken some ownership of and is really putting himself to task from the physical aspect of it.テつ Now, the baseball activity will start picking up.テつ But he has his mind made up where he wants to be in Spring Training, what kind of weight he's looking to target and what kind of shape he needs to be in to increase his agility, his first‑step quickness.テつ He's doing a very complex and big‑time set of training skills out there.テつ He ran, I think‑‑ explained to me what was going on.テつ But unfortunately he's got that situation that he's got into to get out of.テつ He's got to do these things, and he is doing them.
Time will tell, and we'll see how it plays out and see how the baseball skill set matches up with hopefully the increased demanding physical work that he's doing.

Q.テつ Does he seem like he's in a good place mentally?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I think he gets better every day he's away, and just every day‑‑ he just needed some time to get away.テつ I know there was a lot of conversation at the time what he should do.テつ Everybody has got an opinion about what people should do, and more often than not there's a lot of people that can always do your job better than you.テつ I think the fact once he made a decision and got away, put those bags‑‑ those emotional bags he had been carrying around all season, I think he's feeling better about himself, he's working hard.テつ Everything is in a better place.テつ Very up beat, very positive.

Q.テつ What's the next step for McCutchen?テつ What can he go from here and where do you want him to go?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I think Andrew has got opportunities for growth in a number of different places.テつ I know he'd tell you the same thing.テつ I spoke with him just a little while ago.テつ You know, there's usable power there.テつ I think that there's good news and bad news with the batting average.テつ The bad news is he hit what he hit, and the good news is I don't think he'll ever hit that again.テつ And I think he realized that risk and reward, how it plays out in the swing and characteristics of a swing, you can spike some numbers and there might be some penalty with some other numbers.
He demands a lot out of himself.テつ I think he got caught up in last year just trying to find a lot of different ways to help us score more runs, maybe got outside his own personal best suited skill set from time to time.テつ Defensively I thought he showed strides.テつ I thought him playing that center field position more as a free safety than a corner back he was moving around much better.テつ Throwing, he really understands the importance of continuing to develop his arm strength out there.
And the biggest one, I think his biggest thing for us is getting on base and becoming a force again when he's on base and stealing bases.

Q.テつ Do you envision him staying in that No.3 spot?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I don't know yet.テつ I think we'll see how the winter plays out and see if there's any addition and work with the personnel we have to work with.テつ But at the end of the day, for me it doesn't matter if he's first, second, third, fourth, it doesn't matter where he wants, I want him to run.

Q.テつ Is it important to get a veteran catcher like Barajas?テつ Your pitching staff is still relatively young.
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Johnny was one of the objectives we had in the profile of catchers that were available.テつ We wanted a guy that had some experience, has dealt with different staffs, has had to go through some experienced times with younger staffs, not just that old, ready‑made staff, and go from there.テつ Barajas caught a number of different places and has caught a number of different pitchers, and he's helped, I think‑‑ he takes ownership of the pitching game, as well.テつ We like to use the term in our club, he's married to the pitchers.テつ It's not just about you being a catcher and next year you miss your turn to hit.テつ It's taking ownership of that.テつ He's been good at that over the years.テつ Everybody we talked to when we did our research supported that.
We've tried to be very aggressive.テつ We've tried to identify people that we felt would fit.テつ We had an A, B and a C, and we went, and we haven't had to get to B too often.テつ We had most of the guys we targeted initially, and we're happy with what we've done so far.

Q.テつ What form does it take?テつ Obviously this is a guy you know very well from managing for quite a while.
CLINT HURDLE:テつ He's a blue collar worker.テつ He plays the game smart, plays the game with passion.テつ He's an excellent defender.テつ He's very dependable.テつ Offensively he's got a couple different spikes where it's a year that's better than others.テつ I think as he gets older, he understands the importance of getting on base better.テつ Hit selection has improved.テつ He's got some barrel in his bat.テつ He can hit a fastball.テつ He can drive a ball to the gap, drive a ball out of the ballpark, drive in some runs down there.テつ I like guys that are hitting‑‑ we can project guys if you look at him.テつ Could he hit at the top?テつ Yes, if you need be, but more around a seven guy that could do some damage down there.
He has been a slow heartbeat, last out of the game, tight situation, he's the guy you want there.

Q.テつ Is there any projection left in Gary Jones' career for him against left‑handed pitching or is he mostly going to be a platoon guy?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Right now I think we're looking to complement him wherever he is just because, but I've seen it happen.テつ Whether it happens with Garrett or not, I don't know.テつ I've seen guys find their way back in the middle of the season.テつ Brad Hopp was a guy that I had in Colorado that more frequently than not‑‑ the thing about these guys, they've had to hit left‑handers to get to the Big Leagues.テつ He played all those years in the Minor Leagues, he didn't platoon, he hit left‑handers.テつ There's times he's hit left‑handers in the Big Leagues.テつ The numbers are what they are.テつ Brad found a way to improve as he got deeper into his career and actually hit better.テつ For Garrett to try and help him figure it out, but he's got to take some ownership of that, as well.
I think I even showed last year, there's many times when if there's early relief, I'm just not going to yank him in the fifth or six inning when it's left on left because we might have a chance to clear something out in the seven or eighth and you give them another at‑bat, especially if the closer is right‑handed or the setup guy is right‑handed.
He's also been‑‑ I've had a number of conversations with him this winter, and he knows he's got work to do, and I think he's taken ownership of some things he struggled with last year and he's in a better place.

Q.テつ Did you see Josh Harrison work at short?

Q.テつ How did he look?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ It was a limited look, it was all the time we had, but he was there for almost two weeks, maybe it was nine, ten days.テつ I think three games, five innings, six innings at a shot.テつ He'll get an extended look in Spring Training.テつ We'll even create situations.テつ We've got to get him on the field at shortstop.テつ And that being said, it's just looking for more playing time and seeing if he can help us.テつ Him being able to play shortstop would help us.

Q.テつ Are you comfortable with Presley as your starting left fielder?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ As we sit here today, Alex has done everything we've asked him to do.テつ He did nothing to think that he wouldn't be able to pull it off.テつ He went down and also spent ten days in the instructional league program to work on some specialty items.テつ I mean, that's not a make or break thing for anybody but you ask these young men to go down to the instructional league, it's not something that's done much anymore in Major League time.テつ Although Lenno (phonetic) went down and worked very hard for ten days while I was there with Alex and was working on his base stealing again, working on his bunting, small ball type things.
Everybody has got the projected where you want power on the corners, you need to be strong up the middle.テつ Sometimes those options aren't available and you've got to recreate it.テつ If we have to recreate it with an outfield of Presley and McCutchen and Tejada, so be it.テつ It's not all about homers.テつ We've got many more things to worry about than power right now.テつ You can score runs a number of different ways without‑‑ it's nice to have that home run potential, but we've just got to get better in a lot of different areas.

Q.テつ Did McKenry go to instructional, as well?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ He actually went with me.テつ He went down for five days, he's also come up to Pittsburgh for five days, and I think next week we'll spend another five‑day session together.テつ We'll spend an hour, hour and a half together a day, try and fine tune some things, get him in a better position to hit.テつ Time will tell on that.テつ It's all cage work right now with some velocity and some spin added as we go along.テつ But he has been very receptive.テつ It looks different now, a little bit different.テつ Not something you're going to go, wow, what did he do, but we're just trying to get him in a more comfortable position because we did see some early succession out of him and we aren't able to revisit that the last month.

Q.テつ You were able to get a good scouting report on Clint.テつ How much more comfortable is it to have players here you've worked with before and cement your relationship with them?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ Well, I think there's times in a game where it was just‑‑ he was the right guy.テつ I mean, when you look at who we're able to get and who we're not able to get, you tier the guys that are out there on where they fit, and one thing I think we have done, we've gotten more credibility in doing is going out in the winter and getting more people involved, at least more people interested in our ballclub, in our program.テつ Also I think it works both ways.テつ It's nice to know there's some players out there that can make the team better that might have some interest in playing on your team for the right reasons and being a part of this team for the right reasons.
And Clint, his makeup is one of his strongest assets.テつ But he can play shortstop, and he can swing the bat, and he's a baseball player.テつ He was looking to be a part of doing something that he feels could be very significant here, as well.

Q.テつ The parts of the new CBA that deal with the new on field stuff haven't gotten as much attention, but if you look at the expansion to the instant replay to deal with fair and foul trap calls that's pending, how do you see that affecting the way the game is played?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I haven't given it one minute of thought so far.テつ I really haven't.テつ We'll wait and see what happens and we'll go accordingly.テつ We'll just be smart, do the right things for the game, make the right adjustments along the way.テつ But I really haven't given it any thought.

Q.テつ Are you in favor of expanded replay at all?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I'm good with what they decide.テつ I just work here.テつ I can conform.テつ I can adjust.

Q.テつ Did you pass your driver's test?
CLINT HURDLE:テつ I did pass my driver's test.テつ Funny story I'll tell local people about trying to get my tags, but yep, I've got a Pennsylvania driver's license.

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