ARLINGTON -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he and Jeff Banister, the former Pirates bench coach who now manages the Rangers, still trade texts and e-mails nearly every day -- but exchanging lineup cards Friday night was a long-awaited, once-in-a-lifetime moment for both skippers.
"It's a great opportunity to bring closure to another part of this," said Hurdle, for whom Banister worked as bench coach for four-plus seasons. "I've spent 41 years in the game and I've met a lot of really good baseball people, developed a lot of relationships, developed some friendships and Jeff Banister would be at the top of that list as personally and professionally."
Banister spent almost three decades with the Pirates' organization, beginning as a 25th-round Draft pick in 1986, as a player through 1993, a Minor League manager from 1994-98, and a coach with Pittsburgh from 1999-2014. Hurdle said he's certain Banister brought some of the Pirates' organizational philosophy to Texas.
"There's things that have become important to him over time, I'm sure some of those had to do with the Pirates' organization and things that he learned while he was there," Hurdle said. "He'd been there 29 years, so there's a whole big database to pull from."
Hurdle said losing Banister to the Rangers after the 2014 season was a blow to the Pirates' coaching staff. Among many roles, Banister was the brains behind the club's program to control the running game, but the pain of losing the "savvy, hard-nosed, gutsy baseball guy" was blunted only by Hurdle's joy at seeing Banister get his chance to manage in the Majors.
"You're so happy for that man -- I mean, how could I want to keep him as my bench coach when he's got a chance to be one of 30 managers?" Hurdle said. "I will get a big kick out of looking over at that dugout and seeing him in it, because I'm proud of him."
• Friday's game against the Rangers was only their third this season in an American League park, allowing Hurdle to pencil in Jung Ho Kang at designated hitter for the first time in his Major League career, though he did DH during his nine seasons in the Korean Baseball League. Matt Joyce had been the DH in the Pirates' previous two games with the rule this season in Detroit.
"Jung Ho is in a position right now where it might benefit him a little bit by keeping him off the feet and still swinging the bat," Hurdle said. "We've got Joyce to look at maybe [Saturday] in some capacity, whether it's in the outfield or to give [right fielder Gregory] Polanco a day off his legs."
Kang hit .369 (24-for-65) with three homers and eight RBIs in 17 Interleague games last season. He has hit safely in each of his last games against AL teams, with multiple hits in each of the last five contests.
• Though pitchers won't be hitting again until the Pirates play in Miami on Monday, Hurdle is pleased with the way his pitchers are swinging the bat. After Gerrit Cole homered and doubled in the Pirates' win over the D-backs on Thursday, Pittsburgh pitchers lead the National League with a .196 average, a .229 on-base percentage and a .479 OPS.
"We've heightened our awareness and attention to our pitchers' hitting -- it started in '15 in Spring Training," Hurdle said. "They play a significant role, especially if they pitch well, they get three at-bats a night -- the worst-case scenario, if they can see 15 pitches, they've taken an inning away from the other pitcher. Once we started approaching them with numbers like that and reasons for the importance of it, it started to get their attention in a different way. It wasn't about hitting .300."
• Left-handed reliever Tony Watson remained on paternity leave Friday, but is expected to rejoin the team on Saturday. Relievers Rob Scahill and Kyle Lobstein were both called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday and one may return there to make room for Watson when he returns.
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Pirates on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.