DETROIT -- In their first of three Heritage Days this season, the Pirates proudly took the field Saturday in throwback Pittsburgh Crawfords uniforms and opposed the Detroit Stars in a tribute to the tradition of the Negro Leagues.The Crawfords were an enduring Negro League legend, particularly the 1935 champions that included Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Satchel Paige and Oscar Charleston. Josh Harrison, who missed out participating in this tribute last season despite spending four months with the Pirates, eagerly tried on the Crawfords' No. 5 hanging in his locker Friday afternoon, hours before delivering the ninth-inning single that broke up Justin Verlander's no-hitter. "It's exciting to be able to put on this uniform. We're going to go out, and be proud to play in this," Harrison said. A game reenacting the Negro League heritage of Detroit and Pittsburgh adds another layer to the rich, competitive tradition between the teams, all the way back to the 1909 World Series between the Pirates and the Tigers. "It's a great way to honor the history of the game," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "The Negro Leagues belonged to a special and significant era passed over by many, and I'm glad we're revisiting that as a society, and as a game. "It's neat to have these two teams with a lot of tradition, taking it all the way back to Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner." Pittsburgh and Detroit will pay tribute to the Negro Leagues again on June 23 in PNC Park, where the Bucs will be outfitted as the Homestead Grays. In between, for the June 2 game in Milwaukee against the Brewers, the Pirates will wear Pittsburgh Piratas uniforms on Latin American Heritage Day.
Hurdle has yet to witness no-hitter
DETROIT -- In case the relative frequency of no-hitters the past few years -- 13 since 2009 -- has distorted one's appreciation for how unique the performance is, here's Clint Hurdle to offer a reminder.The 54-year-old baseball lifer has spent 28 years in Major League dugouts as player, coach, manager. He has never witnessed a no-hitter. In fact, he hadn't witnessed even a legitimate close call -- eighth inning on -- until Friday night, when Justin Verlander was within two outs before Josh Harrison singled up the middle. So while he has no personal experience with how teams recover from near-infamy, Hurdle in the past has consulted peers and said, "From what I've been able to gather, I haven't heard of any collateral effect." Starting with both of 2011's Cy Young Award winners, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw having preceded Verlander, the Pirates have faced a forest of pitching redwoods. In truth, that may still be a big part of their depressed offense. But they have also recovered well enough from those humbling games to remain within a mild streak of the .500 mark. "We're real good at showering well," Hurdle said. "We washed it off, and we're here today." Implied within the concept of "bounce-back" is the notion that what Verlander had done to the Pirates constituted embarrassment. "There's no shame in what happened to us last night," said Hurdle, taking another bow toward Verlander's supremacy. "Greatness is created by being good for a long time, and he has been. He has skills you don't see, maybe a couple times in a generation."
Michigan native Hurdle fondly recalls Harwell
DETROIT -- Born and raised in Big Rapids, 150 miles from here, Clint Hurdle grew up as a Tigers fan for whom Tiger Stadium was heaven and Ernie Harwell was the voice emanating from it.
When he carved his own career in baseball, the lines of course got blurred. Still, one of Hurdle's fondest memories remains the day the Colorado manager and his batting coach, Don Baylor, got a private tour of the Ernie Harwell Museum."We went to the Detroit Public Library with Ernie, and for two hours he took us into the Ernie Harwell Museum," Hurdle recalled. "Without a script, he walked us through every program and every photo and every card from memory, and then we had a nice lunch. "That was probably one of the most memorable experiences I've had in the game, with a guy on whose every word I used to hang." In hindsight, it becomes even more special. That visit was in late May 2009, when the Rockies were in Detroit for an Interleague Series. Three months later, Harwell publicly revealed his diagnosis with incurable bile duct cancer. He passed away on May 4, 2010, less than a year after taking Hurdle on that memorable museum tour.
Daniel Cabrera (1.89 ERA in his last three starts) has joined lefty Jo-Jo Reyes (5-1, 2.01) as Major League vets putting up nice numbers with Triple-A Indianapolis. If there continues to be no room or need for them in Pittsburgh, GM Neal Huntington suggested they are more likely to be released to seek spots elsewhere than get dealt."The trade value there is limited; those guys [vets on the comeback trail] typically don't bring you a lot in return," Huntington said. "You don't want to hold somebody hostage, so if there isn't a great opportunity for them here, the right thing to do is try to place them elsewhere." Jeff Karstens' rehab start on Monday in Double-A Altoona has been set for either 45 pitches or three innings. It will be the right-hander's first competitive outing since going on the DL with shoulder inflammation on April 18. Chris Leroux (strained pectoral muscle) sailed through a 31-pitch bullpen session early Saturday and is scheduled to throw another early next week.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.