4/8/2014 9:09 P.M. ET
Hurdle reflects on relationship with Aaron
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Clint Hurdle was 16 years old when Hank Aaron launched the home run that passed Babe Ruth and disarmed an army of critics.
The Pirates manager does recall listening on the radio in his Florida home when The Hammer pealed against Al Downing, but otherwise couldn't share in the Aaron nostalgia that took over Tuesday, on the 40th anniversary of his milestone.
Hurdle, however, was able to relate to Aaron in a more recent, more meaningful way.
"I've been fortunate enough to have spent three, four events with Hank -- once an entire weekend, at a camp held at Old Dominion," said Hurdle, seated in his Wrigley Field office prior to the start of the series against the Cubs. "I've spent a lot of time talking to the guy about all kinds of things I was never aware of.
"Everybody has heard about the challenges Jackie Robinson went through, and rightfully so. Hank has never been very vocal about it, but he shared a lot of those things. It's incredible what he had to push himself through [27 years after Robinson's breakthrough], and what he had to deal with.
"He's a fantastic guy," Hurdle added of Aaron, with whom he most recently shared the dais at the January awards banquet of the New York Baseball Writers' Association, where the Pittsburgh skipper picked up his 2013 National League Manager of the Year Award. "At that dinner, he challenged everyone to make a donation to the Hall of Fame because of what it stands for. He's a thoughtful man."
Lack of interest in Mazzaro surprises Bucs
CHICAGO -- Speaking to reporters on Sunday, as the clock was running out on Vin Mazzaro's 10-day limbo period, general manager Neal Huntington said he was "very surprised" that a trade had not yet materialized for the right-hander.
The Pirates viewed Mazzaro a valuable relief pitcher for whom they simply had no room, and they designated him for assignment on March 29. Without any movement within the 10-day period, the team would then have to expose him on waivers.
Mazzaro passed through those waivers Tuesday -- to the even bigger surprise of the Pirates, who subsequently outrighted him to Triple-A Indianapolis. Mazzaro has three days to accept the assignment, or decline and hope to land a big league job elsewhere.
Manager Clint Hurdle did not sound optimistic that Mazzaro would accept -- and thus endow the Bucs with a valuable relief arm in reserve.
"I'll give him a call [Wednesday]. He'll have a decision to make shortly," Hurdle said. "Yeah, if he stayed, it'd be excellent for us. I just want him to get an opportunity. It's kinda hard to figure out why he doesn't have a big league job."
In 2013, when he made the full-time conversion from starting to relief, Mazzaro posted a 2.81 ERA in 57 games and 73 2/3 innings. He also averaged a career-best 93 mph on fastballs.
During that 10-day holding period, Hurdle went to bat for Mazzaro.
"I reached out to a few people," said Hurdle, implying other teams' personnel, "and spoke to what he was able to do with us. I tried to help him along. For whatever reason, there wasn't a fit anyone was comfortable with. Not everything in this game you can figure out; you can put this one in that box. We'll move on and wish him well."
Hurdle gives hitters cold-weather advice
CHICAGO -- By the time Edwin Jackson delivered his first pitch to Starling Marte, the Tuesday night temperature in Wrigley Field was in the 40s -- not accounting for the wind-chill factor from the breezes always rippling the flags atop the center-field scoreboard.
Advantage, pitchers. Jackson, as well as the Bucs' Charlie Morton.
Manager Clint Hurdle, who in a previous life buttered his bread from the batter's box, gave them that.
"Most pitchers developed in the United States prefer to pitch in cold weather," Hurdle said. "I do think they think they have an advantage, and there's probably something to that."
As a Florida-reared prospect who began his professional career in such places as Waterloo, Iowa, and Omaha, Neb., Hurdle had to be a quick learner when it came to dealing with cold conditions. He imparted some of that wisdom to his Pirates prior to Tuesday night's game.
"Get the barrel on the first ball you swing at, and the day will play out much better," Hurdle said. "Look for a fastball, and hit it hard where it's pitched. Otherwise, it can be challenging.
"It's a frame of mind," continued Hurdle, drawing on his own experiences. "I'd have to trick myself [into thinking it was warmer]. I needed to go up there, get ready, get some kind of adrenaline warmth going ... and I needed to hit that first ball hard. Because if I got blown up that first at-bat, [hit one off the handle], there seemed to be some collateral damage that played out the rest of the game."
First number, last word
.373: Andrew McCutchen's career average in Wrigley Field, entering Tuesday night's game; in his first 38 games in front of the ivy. McCutchen had five homers and 20 RBIs.
"It's who they are. It's what they do. They're the best." -- Morton, on the Pirates' bullpen, which, picking up where it left off last season, has allowed five earned runs in its first 25 1/3 innings of 2014.
• Catcher Chris Stewart (right knee surgery on March 19) has gone 1-for-4 in his first two rehab games with Bradenton; more significantly, Stewart caught about half of each game, and on Tuesday even threw out a runner attempting to steal.
• Lefty Jeff Locke (right-side strain) is targeting 100 pitches for his rehab start with Bradenton on Wednesday.
• The Pirates were 12-5 in 2013 following an off-day, and went into Tuesday night's game already 1-0 under those circumstances, with the 4-3, 16-inning victory over the Cubs two days after their 1-0 walk-off win on Opening Day.
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.