12/05/12 9:15 PM ET
Walker to enter spring in 'best shape of his life'
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Hurdle coincidentally revealed that coach Mark Strittmatter has left the staff to take a job as a roving coordinator with the Rockies. Among his duties, Strittmatter had been the Pirates' unofficial assistant coach -- a position they will soon fill formally, joining a growing trend in the Majors. The aide to new hitting coach Jay Bell will not be on the bench during games, but be available in the video room or at the indoor cages. The Pirates talent mavens here know there are quite a few available players whom they like in Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft -- they just don't know whether any of them will still be on the board when it is their turn to select at No. 13. "There are some upside guys you look at and go, 'Wow, it's surprising he wasn't protected.' Maybe there are more of those guys this year than in the last few," Huntington said. The Bucs are about to rein in Starling Marte, who is batting a robust .317 with 19 RBIs in 26 games as Escogido's No. 3 hitter in the Dominican Winter League. DWL watchers described Marte as "a man among prospects." The club wants the outfielder to have some quality down-time before Spring Training, and will tell him to shut it down "sooner rather than later," said Huntington, adding, "He never wants to stop playing and feels an obligation to play down there. But we've got to protect him."
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.