10/3/2013 5:01 P.M. ET
Hurdle keeps pregame message simple
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- A couple of hours before the start of Thursday's Game 1 of the National League Division Series, someone wondered whether Clint Hurdle would go all Knute Rockne on his Bucs.
You know, lower his head and raise his voice. Maybe even crush an origami cardinal, for effect?
Those familiar with the Pirates and their regimen already knew the answer, of course. One of the manager's pet phrases, "The game doesn't know the game is important," is a reminder that the game itself doesn't change -- regardless of the stakes changing -- so neither should players' approach to it.
Doing something as irregular as giving a pregame speech obviously would bring the Pirates out of this sameness mode.
"No, I don't have rah-rah in me," Hurdle confirmed. "We've had a program set up all year. It hasn't changed because of the venue, it hasn't changed because of the opposition, and it's not changed because of the degree of the game or the fact that we're in postseason.
"We do prepare our men every series. We have [maybe] a 10-minute coach-up, coach-forward program. We speak one highlight from the past series, one thing we want to accentuate for the forward series. I get two minutes, the other eight coaches get one minute, and we go. That's it."
Jones, not Snider, picked as lefty bat off bench
ST. LOUIS -- In streamlining the Pirates' 25-man roster for the National League Division Series, manager Clint Hurdle apparently faced only one thorny decision.
With starting pitchers A.J. Burnett and Charlie Morton having to be added, two position players had to go from the 25-man roster that was used Tuesday night for the NL Wild Card Game.
Third catcher Tony Sanchez was an easy choice for Hurdle, who cited John Buck's experience, but noted even he "isn't going to play much," with starter Russell Martin strapped in for the duration.
The left-handed bat for the bench was more of an issue. Travis Snider has three pinch-hit homers and seven RBIs in a pinch. Ultimately, Hurdle and staff went with Garrett Jones, who was only 4-for-29 (.138) as a pinch-hitter, but offers the flexibility of being able to play two positions, the outfield in addition to first base.
Hurdle tabbed Jose Tabata as the other reserve outfielder on the 25-man roster, the likely first man off his bench, and cited the pinch-hitting success of another righty hitter, Josh Harrison, whose eight pinch-hits included four for extra bases, two of them home runs.
The versatile Harrison could also be critical for double-switches involving infielders.
"You have to prepare for five games," Hurdle stressed. "We'd be hard-pressed to replace [third baseman Pedro Alvarez] ... if Harrison isn't involved. You have [Jordy] Mercer, but [if he is needed at third] ... you don't have an opportunity to move [starting shortstop Clint Barmes].
"[There are a] lot of things to look at. [It was] not an easy decision by any means. But at the end of the day, we feel we're best suited to take on this five-game series with Harrison and Jones in play."
NLDS featuring historic organizations
ST. LOUIS -- In addressing a Division Series between two teams with as rich a heritage as his Pirates and the Cardinals, Bucs manager Clint Hurdle didn't even realize this is but a chapter of an unprecedentedly traditional Major League postseason.
Seven of the eight playoff teams are among the big leagues' 16 charter franchises. The Tampa Bay Rays are the only expansion-era crashers. This marks the first time since the 1995 onset of the Division Era that only one post-1961 expansion team is in the postseason field.
"Old-school baseball is back," Hurdle grinned.
"I've always been intrigued by tradition within the game, and these are two of the more historic organizations. I'm fortunate that I've gotten to spend time in both the uniforms," added Hurdle, who played five positions as a St. Louis utilityman during the 1986 season.
The Cards' franchise "drips with tradition, with respect, with integrity, with professionalism," said Hurdle, for whom one simple sign stood out from the raucous PNC Park crowd for Tuesday night's National League Wild Card Game against the Reds.
"It was, 'We're back,' and the sustainability [the Cardinals'] organization has proven is our next step," Hurdle said. "It's always good to get here. But the sustainability built over time truly is what separates organizations."
First number, last word
1,250: Career regular-season games played by Marlon Byrd before homering in his first postseason at-bat, in the second inning of Tuesday's National League Wild Card Game. The only player in Major League history to homer in his first postseason at-bat after a longer wait was Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, who hit one out of Dodger Stadium off Don Drysdale in the first inning of the 1966 World Series after a wait of 1,406 games.
"We left here with a bad taste in our mouths." -- Hurdle, on the Pirates getting swept in their most recent Busch Stadium visit, on Sept. 6-8
• Hurdle was confident Mark Melancon, who has been scored upon in three of his last four appearances, would have his A-list cutter back after a four-day layoff since his previous outing on Saturday. Melancon led Pirates pitchers with 72 appearances, and even with the rough finish, he wound up with the lowest ERA (1.39) in club history of anyone with 50-plus relief innings.
• Byrd said he is OK with it if people begin calling him by a new nickname, Charlie Parker. The outfielder laughed heartily when reminded that Parker, the great jazz saxophonist, was better known by his nickname, Bird. Even better, according to his biographer, Parker's full nickname, which was usually shortened, was actually Yardbird.
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.