Hurdle keen on Bucs' 'fun' spring matchups

Hurdle keen on Bucs' 'fun' spring matchups

BRADENTON, Fla. -- During the portion of Spring Training held at Pirate City, Clint Hurdle likes to stroll from field to field, observing drills and standing behind "turtle" batting cages. When the manager's around, the thinking goes, the level of intensity picks up.

"That's why I try to move around, just in case there's something to that," Hurdle said, grinning. "I'm not saying there is."

But there was little need for additional concentration Friday morning, the start of live batting practice for the Bucs. The annual rite of Spring Training pits clubs' pitchers against their own hitters, and it's often the first time position players face live pitching all year.

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What better way to start than the matchup on Field 1 around 11:20 a.m. ET: Gerrit Cole on the mound, Andrew McCutchen in the batter's box and Francisco Cervelli behind the plate.

How about watching a handful of hitters -- many of them relatively new to the organization -- face Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow back-to-back, stepping out of the box with wide eyes? Or seeing outfield prospect Austin Meadows, in his first big league camp, step in against closer Tony Watson?

The Pirates don't deliberate over every live BP matchup, but Hurdle smiled as he admitted they have created a few interesting matchups "just to see how it plays out."

"Yeah, to watch Meadows have to face Watson on Day 1, you can't draw that kind of stuff up," he said. "It's not like we said, 'Hey, let's do this to Austin today.' Just going through the process, it works itself out, you see some of the things that happen and it's fun.

"It gets everybody's attention to some degree. It gets the pitchers' attention if they didn't throw enough strikes, if a couple balls get barreled. Hitters, it gets their attention. 'Am I getting down on time? Am I going to have to do some other work?' It's fun."

Overall, Hurdle has been impressed with the Pirates' work early on. He specifically praised McCutchen, who finished atop the leaderboard in the hitters' first execution game on Friday.

"Guys are pouring in," Hurdle said. "That's a guy that could go roll out there and go through it. No, he's out getting things done."

Around the horn

• While every other pitcher threw two innings during live BP, Cole only pitched one. That was part of the plan, Hurdle said, adding: "No hiccups or setbacks."

• One early and wholly unexpected surprise from the first few days of camp: reliever Antonio Bastardo's bunting.

"Bastardo might be one of the best bunters on our team. I didn't have that," Hurdle said. "He just kept smiling and kept doing it. We kept adding velocity, and he just kept doing it."

• Last spring, the Pirates tweaked their Spring Training schedule in an attempt to better prepare their hitters for Opening Day. The changes worked, as April was the best offensive month of the season for the typically slow-starting Pirates, and the Bucs have kept most of the 2016 program in place.

• The Pirates announced their Spring Training broadcast schedule. Every scheduled game will air online, on television via ROOT Sports or on the radio via KDKA-FM and the Pirates Radio Network. ROOT Sports will carry 12 games this spring, and 93.7 The Fan will air 16 games.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.