PITTSBURGH -- In the seventh inning of Friday night's game against Miami, catcher Rod Barajas straightened from his squat behind the plate and began strolling toward the PNC Park mound and pitcher Jared Hughes.
Nothing unusual about that: It was an optimal time for a battery to get on the same page, with the Pirates clinging to a one-run lead and Marlins runners at the corners with two outs.
But then came the unusual: Barajas waved around the infield and within seconds all four infielders were crowded around Barajas and Hughes. You simply don't often see such a gathering without the pitching coach or the manager calling for it.
A thought striking at least one observer: What a perfect time to revive the lost art of the hidden-ball trick. That thought was reinforced as first baseman Casey McGehee returned to his base with Emilio Bonifacio already into his lead. Bonifacio extended his lead as Hughes straddled the mound and ...
... No tricks. Hughes did retire Carlos Lee on a liner to right, on the way to the Bucs' 4-3 win.
"I probably haven't seen [the hidden-ball trick] in 15 years," said manager Clint Hurdle. He slightly raised his eyebrows and added, "There's another thing that might show up before the end of the season."
Hurdle intimated that baserunners do not like being victimized by the hidden-ball trick, which can lead to hostilities.
However, McGehee pointed out that even though the Friday night situation seemed ideal for a little gamesmanship, the Pirates in fact could not have engineered the play since time had been called for the mound meeting. To sell the play, the pitchers has to go through the motions of being ready to deliver. But the umpire does not call time back in until the pitcher's spikes touch the rubber -- and doing so without the ball is balk.
"So you can't do the hidden-ball coming out of a time out. Simple as that," McGehee said.