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Clint Hurdle Q&A Part 2

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spoke with the media at baseball's winter meetings. Here is part two of the Q&A transcript.

Q. You mentioned the new coaching additions should help. How important is it in your mind, the people in your farm system to give coaches, instructors, a chance to know that they can advance to the big league status?
CLINT HURDLE: I think it gives a more significant pulse to your player development program. When you are a coach or a manager in the minor league system, you still have a dream that you had as a player. And if you didn't get to the big leagues as a player, you dream to get into the big leagues as a coach in some capacity and that's real. Again, the dream is real again, you might not have gotten there as a player. It's almost like okay, you got another shot.

As we went through this process and sat down, there wasn't a lot of time spent on external names. I've gotten to know these men and Bartee has eight years, Tom Prince had 23 years, I could be cutting Tom short -- somebody correct me, there is not a job Tom Prince hasn't done and Bartee has been an excellent man for us. And Joey Cora, what a good get he was for us a year ago. To have him get a year of managerial experience, he's been a third base coach, been a bench coach. He's done so many significant things.

We kind of call it Piratizing people. We have more Pirate coaches up there at the Major League level as we continue to grow this young group of players up that I think is important.

Q. What do you think the challenge would be in replacing Mike Fitzgerald. He played a huge role. And I don't know if you can replace a skill set like that. But what do you anticipate being the biggest challenge?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't know if we'll replace the personality. We believe that eventually we will get a guy in that will be able to do the things Mike was able to do the best of that man's ability. We call it next man up. We have had it all across the board, I think, in the last two years. These numbers are going to be close. They might not be exact. We have had over 40 asks externally organizations for our personnel. That's tangible evidence of an organization doing some things right, establishing a model in player development, in pitching, strength and conditioning. We broke it down the other day in the room, there have been general manager asks, there's been managerial asks, pretty much every position that goes, an organizational structure model has been asked for by the guys we have.

And Fitz was that fine line of a very smart man, very creative. Also, enough athleticism that the competition chip he carried with him was fun to watch and be a part of. We brought him into the clubhouse. He was in the coaching room. Our next man will have that same opportunity and it won't be new for the players, it will be new for the next guy up. I look forward to going into that process. We're talking to a couple of guys right now. We're confident we will get a good man in there. Will he as good as Fitz right away? Probably not. Can he grow into it? We believe so.

Q. Francisco Liriano what went wrong for him?
CLINT HURDLE: It was never for lack of effort or preparation. I think it comes down to overall execution, inconsistent execution. He pitched some of the best games we had pitched by the staff. The overall execution was challenging, we tried some line-up -- tried tweaking the delivery in the off-season coming into Spring Training and we saw early success with that.

I think the league punched back. He was a guy that pitched a lot of glove side. When he would get those strikes and those calls in there, we had a better chance of doing well. Sometimes it didn't work out that way so the counter punch wasn't as efficient as it needed to be. Sometimes the best thing for a player is a new opportunity somewhere else and he's made an All-Star Game. He's posted up in the rotation. There is experience there that he can play on and use moving forward.

So we wish him nothing but good things. But at the end of the day we have a situation, four-fifths of our starting rotation at one time had posted with ERAs over five. That makes it hard. Cole was a guy that was on there but he was hurt at times. It made it a hard place. I know he's looking forward to another opportunity this year.

Q. Do you think Jeff Benedict will help him the guy he's reunited with now?
CLINT HURDLE: I think Jeff would be the guy to ask that question. Jim had significant impact with a handful of guys just like Ray has had a significant impact with a handful of guys. Just like Scott Mitchell has or Stan Kyles.

I think the one thing that gets overlooked is our pitching package, one guy can help a guy. So Jeff would be the guy to ask on the Benedict factor.

Q. What's your understanding of John Honey's status for next year?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't have any information other than the statement that's put out.

Q. Do you dwell on past seasons, could you think about it moving forward?
CLINT HURDLE: We decompressed it, I'm trying to make sure I have my plastic bags, I live in the neighborhood, I can't have people talking bad about me not cleaning up after my dogs. I use my off-season to have an off-season, to be there for my kids and my wife, to be there for me, to not be worried about missed cut-off men, or not executed rundowns or hanging sliders or any of that. I've gone through that process, we've done it as an organization, I've done it with the new staff members, I've done it with the players. I'm almost finished up with the players. So that's the only time I buy into it then I check out of it pretty well.

Q. From what you've heard about Polanco throughout the course of the season and the training staff, did you feel the nagging injuries caught up with him at the end of the year?
CLINT HURDLE: It could be nagging injuries and it just be a man playing at a higher level that he has played in the major leagues, the length of duty, the length of service, the reps. It's all a growing process. He's got long levers. I think it's a different challenge for him than some guys. He has the ability to run, the sliding component comes into play.

I think, however, he's going to be stronger coming into this season. He was better coming into last season than the first season because he knew how to better prepare. He put on some strength, put on some weight. I don't think he lost any efficient quickness, the bat still showed up, there was no lag to the bat speed. I think this year he realizes again, better, what 162 stands for and what it means and also how can we help him navigate through the season, whether it be a full recovery day, whether it be a partial day down and play him off the bench, those types of things I think we're still getting better as an organization to help our players.

Q. How will you handle Bell at first base in Spring Training, will you get him more game action or do more stuff on the backfield once we get to that?
CLINT HURDLE: We're going to do backfield work, I'm a firm believer now he's been there over two years he needs game action. There's so many things that the speed of the game at this level is something that's still new to him, so it's that fine line of getting him a bunch of innings and reps in Spring Training without wearing him out.

I know Neil's demented about first base is more of a focus, I know the kid is always going to have the ability to run in the outfield. We asked him to do that last year based on need. That's a position he grew up playing.

I can only speak for myself, but growing up as an outfield and moving to the infield, it was never really hard to move back to the outfield. The first base part, he's doing drills now. I talked to him last week. He's got some things going on. He's had a session with K.Y., he's going to have another with Cora and Kevin Young the middle of December sometime. So he's actively engaged in finding ways to get better.

Q. How do you anticipate him in and Jaso splitting up time?
CLINT HURDLE: We'll see. John talked about the desire to get reps at third, to get reps in the outfield and we're definitely going to give him that opportunity. Again, there's a lot of speculation, who knows what can happen through the end of the season, end of Spring Training. John is going to prepare two at first base. I think John can help Bell with his development. John had limited experience walking threw last year in Spring Training and he was working with Kevin and other people and did a good job for us. As you saw a few games last year we were using him to come in and pick up a couple of innings at the end of the game. We'll see what can happen at third if there is a need over there. We'll see what can happen if we get him over to left field, right field, putting him out there, running him around.

He's an athletic guy that's very prideful in playing the game, and wearing a glove. That's the one thing I bank on. He wants to be a player. He doesn't want to DH, he wants to find a way and work his way on to the field. So I think it will be fun to watch where he's able to take it.

Q. What do you think Tyler Glasnow has learned from the struggles he had? He made his big debut last season and where do you see him fitting in the rotation?
CLINT HURDLE: We're going to give him an opportunity to make the club. I think it was a great opportunity for understanding the speed of the Major League game. The stuff is so dynamic, people wouldn't get on base for times in Triple A so there is no way to opportunity to work on your control of the running game, your slide step, your throw over, all these different things. People are going to bunt on him, there's just trying to get on.

Things change at the Major League level. The quality of the hitter at the Major League level. The understanding there is no weak pockets in a line-up. American League pitchers will tell you there are some in the National League. Our guys in Triple A go, there is no weak pockets. And he's learning that everybody that goes to the plate can do some type of damage against you.

I love the fact that he was able to get innings, made some starts, pitched out of the bullpen. There was reason for that, to not overthink, get the ball, get up, get in the game and go pitch. We showed some ability to do that. And we want him to have the mindset coming into Spring Training that it's a closer mentality every inning he takes the mound. And we're not looking for him, again, to paint the picture perfect. We want him to be aggressive and competitive off the mound and let that fastball eat, to spin that breaking ball, to utilize that change-up and see where the three pitch mix can take him.

Q. What benefit do you think you're going to see from the shortening of the DL?
CLINT HURDLE: I just caught wind of it last week. Initially I kinda like it because there is a hard decision where you look at a guy and say, geez, if we play without him for five days, is that worth not putting him on for 15? Now it's can we play with him for five or ten? Hey, we'll just give him the ten. It might help you with some recovery portions of your season for certain players when they do get dinged up because it's not a two-week absence. If they are going to miss three or four days anyway based on the injury they might have, you only ask them to miss a few more before you can plug them back in, that might in the long run actually help. That's my initial gut read.

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