Results tagged ‘ hitting coach ’
New Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle sat down with Trib’s beat reporter Rob Bietempfel at Pirates City where he discussed: expectations, challenges and if the Bucs can compete against the pitching heavy NL Central.
What are your expectations for this season? Have they changed or expanded over the past month, as you’ve settled into the job?
They haven’t expanded. I think we’re better now than when I took the job. (General manager) Neal (Huntington) is working diligently. He’s been aggressive and creative and is trying to spend our money wisely. What people sometimes don’t realize is sometimes it’s not about paying more money. Some players don’t want to come to Pittsburgh right now. There have been times when we put more money on the table (than other teams), but we still haven’t gotten the guys. That’s the state we’re in right now, and I understand that. We’re not the best dancer at the prom, but we can dance. We’ve got to win some more games so we get a little more attractive as this thing moves forward. It’s not about setting a number of wins. We’ll talk about winning the National League Central. People can laugh, but we’re going to start with that thought. We’re going to set some standards, the biggest one being to perform at a championship level. That’s going to be one of the mandates we throw at them at the beginning of spring training. If you’re going to be a champion, you’ve got to start that right now and hold yourself to championship standards. It’s not important to me what anyone outside of this room thinks. They’re not a part of what needs to get done here. Opinions are wonderful. I actually listen to them once in a while. But not from people who are just about criticism or cynicism. That can’t permeate in here. We’ve got guys who have been here one year, three years — but not 18.
Many fans expect you to be a difference-maker right away. Do you welcome that challenge?
One of the best lessons I’ve learned in this game is I can’t control what other people say, think or do. I can control my preparation, my energy. My goal is to make a difference in a positive way. My goal is to re-bond the city of Pittsburgh with the Pirates. When we do that, you’ll hear the roar from the four corners of the United States. It’s a tradition-rich organization. One of the things that’s galvanized me to this job is it’s the greatest coaching opportunity in all of sport. I got the information from Neal, (president) Frank (Coonelly) and (owner) Bob (Nutting) that I needed to hear. I didn’t need to manage. I left a very good job, a very comfortable job, in Texas. But it’s never been about comfort for me. I’m looking for challenges. And this is a very unique and good challenge, a heck of a challenge. One thing I hear from fans is, ‘My Dad’s got one foot in the grave, and he wants to see the Pirates win …’ I’ve heard that more than anything. That’s our goal.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing at this point, with spring training a month away?
Biggest challenge? Names. There’s a large volume of people I’m meeting for the first time. I’m big with names. I think it’s important you learn people’s names. Eye contact is critical when you’re talking to people. You can’t call everyone ‘buddy’ or ‘pal.’ You’ve got to find a way to connect. Another challenge from a personnel side is just getting eyes-on more than hands-on. Just getting these guys out on the field, running around. One of the benefits of minicamp is the entire staff can get its eyes on these guys. We want them to move around, show us some technique, swing the bats, field some balls. We want to find out where they are from a physical standpoint. And logistically I have to find my way around Bradenton. It’s been 23 years since I’ve been in Florida for spring training. And finally, I’m getting to know our player development staff. One of the things I’m most impressed with is all the work that’s been done in a three-year period with our scouting and player development programs. Everybody’s aware of the fact that we’ve spend more money the past three years than anybody else on scouting. We’ve made a transfer over — we’ve got a good group of young men coming up who we sought out and got. We have big hopes for them. There’s a lot of first-time stuff going on for me. But as far as anything daunting or overwhelming … no. It’s baseball.
How is this situation with the Pirates, a young team trying to re-establish itself, similar to what you had when you took over as Rockies manager in 2002?
I’ve got experience with the situation the Pirates are in now. It has a lot in common with 2005 when I was with Colorado. We had some guys who had some success in the minor leagues who were coming up, trying to figure out things at the major league level. We had a handful of veterans who were brought in to provide some clubhouse stability and on-field stability and leadership. But the challenges have been real. One thing you can’t control in this game is the pace and when players are actually going to pop. You want them all to pop at the same time, but that’s not the way it always happens. But I think there’s tangible evidence at the major league level of things that have been accomplished in the farm system. I’m probably as optimistic about our pitching as anything. Neal made a very gutsy call last season. Instead of dabbling in the free agent market and getting some guys who are banging the drum toward the back ends of their careers, he decided to let the young men pitch. Unfortunately it didn’t go as well as anybody wanted. The young men gained experience. Now it’s up to them to take that experience and the humility the game can bring you from time to time and use it as a positive and take it into this year. I think we’re in a good place right now with those young guys and the commitment Neal made to them. Although the numbers didn’t work out last year from a won-loss standpoint, benefits will be reaped this year.
Other teams in the NL Central have strong starting rotations. Can the Pirates compete in that regard?
They’ve probably got better names than we do, but you play the game on the field. Good pitching will beat good hitting. There are teams with more experience on the mound. I spent a lot of time in the National League West, where there always was pretty solid pitching. Last year in the American League West, Oakland threw four (good) arms at you every time you went in. The Angels threw three or four arms at you every time. Against Seattle you caught the King (Felix Hernandez), the left-hander (Jason) Vargas and (Doug) Fister. This is the big leagues.
You’ve had so much success as a hitting coach. What’s the secret?
I’ll never take full credit. You’re not going to be a successful hitting coach unless you have good hitters. When I was a player — this has been in the back of my mind since high school — when a new coach or manager came in, I always had three questions: Can I trust him? Will he make me better? Does he care about me? What’s helped me develop a relationship with hitters and get them in a comfortable place so they can play up to their skill set is that I try to answer those questions for them sooner than later. When you capture a player’s heart, and it’s not easy, their skill set will follow. I’ve been in a lot of situations where I was a skill set: left-handed bat, corner infielder/outfielder, blah blah blah. They didn’t know me because they thought it wasn’t necessary to get to know people. It’s a different society we live in now. When you can get a guy engaged a little bit, have him open up and get out of himself and plug him into a team concept … one of the things we talked long and hard about in Colorado and Texas is making good outs. Most coaches talk about getting hits. At this level I don’t think the mental side of the game in many cases is developed to the extent it can be. Not every kid out there is going to say, ‘Yeah, I want to spend time with a mental skills coach.’ I spent time with a mental skills coach, and I want to find ways to open that package. You can’t open every package the same way. Some kids need a pat on the back, others need a smack on the backside. You need to know the difference. Timing is everything, as well as presentation. So developing a relationship that is real, professional and personal is the first thing to do. Then we can work on the skill set.
Manager Clint Hurdle addressed the media on Wednesday for a 30-minute gathering. Here are some of the things he addressed:
- Hurdle was asked on the projected lineup for next season but he did not give his thoughts on it. He did, however, say he has made up a few lineups for fun. Hurdle did mention Paul Maholm, James McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf as key pieces to the starting rotation.
- Hurdle, who has spent seven seasons in the majors as a hitting coach, will work often with Gregg Ritchie directly.
“I have some ideas,” Hurdle said. “There will be days when I’ll be in the cage. It’s just something I love to do. I’m not going to get in the way, but I also think I can help make a difference along those lines.”
- Hurdle said that both Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek are still being considered for the closers role. He prefers to choose one before opening day, rather than have them share duties throughout the season.
- Hurdle has been doing extensive homework on shortstop Ronny Cedeno and has gotten mixed reviews.
“Some of the comments that have been shared with me that he has made, he understands, that he needs to be more consistent,” Hurdle said. “He’s got to get better on the field. There are a whole bunch of us that are waiting for the day we don’t have to talk about what to do, we can just play the game and start doing it. I think he would fall in that category.”
Ex-Bucco, Andy Van Slyke interviewed with the New York Mets on Monday. He is the first of four candidates for the open hitting coach position.
Van Slyke does not have previous hitting coach experience. He was the first base coach for the Detroit Tigers from 2006-09.
“I know Andy as a player,” New Mets Manager Terry Collins said. “I knew him as a coach when he was with the Tigers. I know he’s a real, real bright guy and played the game right, studied the game. So I wanted to talk to him about this job. He’s one of those guys, he’s been doing it his whole life. And even in Detroit, and even in Pittsburgh when we played, guys shared ideas and shared thoughts. And I know of a lot of players in Detroit went to Andy. Major league players, they want all the input they can get. When you have a guy that’s as good as Andy Van Slyke, and you want to hear what he had to do, what he did as a hitter and just to gain some more knowledge.”
New Pirates Skipper Clint Hurdle attended the Steelers game on Sunday night as well as the Pens game on Monday (not taking much time to win fans over).
Also in attendance at the Steelers game were Pirates Neil Walker and Joel Hanrahan, who got to meet their new manager for the first time.
“He believes in guys having their say, but he’s also going to put his foot down and demand hard work,” Hanrahan said. “It sounded to me like he’s not going to take any crap from anyone.”
Said Walker: “It seems like he has a lot of passion for his job and getting us moving in the right direction and likewise, obviously. I’m excited to see the fire in his eyes in November. It was definitely cool to see, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him more.”
Clint Hurdle also seemed to hit it off with both Walker and Hanrahan as well.
“We were watching a football game and I didn’t want to give them 20 questions, but I did engage them in conversations,” Hurdle said. “I told them how excited I was for this opportunity personally and how excited I was to be able to work with them as two of the young players that have taken steps forward.
“I do know they’re hungry. I see the disappointment. I felt it [Sunday] night. They want to engage, and they’re ready to fight right now.”
Hurdle has said he wanted to get in touch with as many players as possible whether it be on the phone or at mini-camps. Hurdle wants to be familiar with all the personnel so that they can dive right into spring training without many introductions.
“Phone calls are great when that’s all you have available,” Hurdle said. “But there’s nothing like being able to touch somebody, look them in the eye and have a conversation with them.”
“We’re going to simplify some things in some areas and we’re going to challenge them in some areas,” Hurdle said. “For me, it’s about the individual taking on his own accountability. If we can get every guy who breaks camp with us in spring training to improve in one area, our team will be better.”
Neil Walker has texted several of his teammates discussing Hurdle and how he is looking forward to working with him.
“When you’re talking about a club that’s struggling, it’s important to kind of do things in a different way and look at things in a different light as opposed to following suit and hoping the next day is better than the last,” Walker said. “He took the Rockies from the bottom to the top, and that sort of stuff obviously doesn’t happen overnight. But having a guy who’s gone through those situations makes it a little easier on him and gives us the trust and belief that he knows what he’s doing.”
Joel Hanrahan also had good things to say about Clint Hurdle. The closer is good friends with Jason Jennings and LaTroy Hawkins who played with Hurdle in Colorado.
“I told him congrats on the year they had in Texas, but that’s over with now, time to start with us, and I think he kind of liked that,” Hanrahan said. “But it’s nice having a guy who knows what it takes to get there.”
The Pirates interviewed Clint Hurdle for the vacant managerial job on Thursday afternoon. He was the first to be interviewed in the past three weeks and the eighth to be considered for the job.
Hurdle was unavailable to be interviewed until the Rangers finished their run at the World Series (He is the Rangers Hitting Coach).
Hurdle, 53, was previously the Colorado Rockies manager from 2002 until he was dismissed during the 2009 season. Hurdle lead the Rockies to the World Series in 2007 and finished with a record of 534-625 during the eight seasons as skipper.
Drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 1975 players draft, two years later made his major league debut. Hurdle’s career spanned 12 years and he played five different positions. He spent time in a Royals, Reds, Mets and Cardinals uniform and finished his career with a .259 average.
Hurdle’s managerial career started in 1988 when he managed the Class A St. Lucie Mets. He managed the Double-A and Triple-A teams for a combined four years before being hired by the Rockies’ in 1994 as the organization’s Minor League hitting coordinator. He was then named hitting coach in 1997.
Hurdle is also rumored to be interviewing with the Mets for their open managerial position as well.
The Pirates could make a decision by Friday. Jeff Banister is also still in consideration for the position. He ended the 2010 season as the Pirates bench coach after Gary Varsho was fired. Banister has been in the Pirates organization for the past 25 years.