Hurdle excited to see Hart step into box for Pirates

Bucs hope veteran can help in outfield and first base after overcoming injuries

Hurdle excited to see Hart step into box for Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Corey Hart can be a polished first baseman. Balky legs permitting, Hart can also handle the outfield.

But on Hart's first day in the Pirates' Spring Training camp, manager Clint Hurdle saw him at his best position -- legs slightly spread, arms belt-high, in the batter's box.

Seeing Hart lather batting-practice pitches took Hurdle back to 2012, when Hart, one of the many Milwaukee Brewers who were hard on those Bucs, clubbed .400 against Pittsburgh. Those memories had something to do with the Pirates signing the free agent for $2.5 million.

"We've seen the ability. He put the barrel to us the first two years I was here," said Hurdle. "He feels good, healthy ... re-energized, looking forward to this opportunity. We felt he was a good player to take a risk on. He's got the offensive potential to be a very productive player for us."

Principally because he was in Milwaukee the same time as Prince Fielder, Hart has seven times the experience in the outfield as he does at first base -- where he might best fit with the Bucs, platooning with Pedro Alvarez.

Hart is optimistically listed among outfielders on the Bucs' 40-man roster. The leg problems that have limited him to 68 games the last two seasons may have something to say about that.

"We know he can play the outfield," said Hurdle, meaning in a skilled, not physical, sense. "He has high expectations for himself. We'll see how it plays out."

From 2007-12, Hart smacked 143 homers and drove in 468 runs for the Brewers. He can also be quite dangerous in a pinch -- his career average off the bench is .320 -- but the Bucs hope to be able to make greater use than that of his bat.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.