BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) – New manager Clint Hurdle vows to fix the Pirates, one problem at a time. And the way Pittsburgh pitchers hit last year, that definitely was a problem.
So Hurdle now has a plan: His team isn’t going to use a designated hitter in spring training, even when it can. More at-bats, he figured, might lead to more success at the plate.
Starter Kevin Correia took advantage Saturday. He singled twice off Red Sox star Josh Beckett, including a bases-loaded hit that capped a five-run fourth inning and sent the Pirates past Boston 7-5.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Correia said. “When you look back over a season, you’d be surprised at how many times what a pitcher did at the plate was the difference in a big inning.”
That coming from a career .126 hitter, incidentally. Correia got to test his legs, too — his two-out single drove in two runs and a wild throw on the play let another run score and sent him scampering to third base.
“I just got my bat on the ball. I’ve played in the National League my whole career and I like hitting,” he said.
Pirates pitchers hit a woeful .090 (25 for 279) last year. Hurdle, the hitting coach for the AL champion Texas Rangers last season, was sure they could do better.
After the first week of exhibitions, Hurdle started putting his pitchers in the batting order. The Pirates had the option of using a designated hitter in this game — Mike Cameron was Boston’s DH — but Correia hit for himself.
“One thing you can’t replicate is getting the pitcher on base and having to run bases, then go out and pitch an inning,” Hurdle said. “That’s going to pay dividends down the road.”
Beckett noticed. A pitcher getting a hit can make or break a game, depending on where you’re sitting.
“It was kind of a joke in the dugout and I started the joke,” Beckett said. “If you got a bat up there, you’ve got a chance.”
Beckett was pulled after 4 2-3 innings with the Pirates ahead 5-3. He has allowed 12 runs in 14 1-3 innings this spring.
“I got to stay away from big innings,” he said.
Correia gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings. The Pittsburgh newcomer has been shaky in all five spring starts.
There had been a feeling Correia would start on opening day. Hurdle said either Correia or Paul Maholm will pitch it April 1 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“We’re going to watch Paulie pitch Monday and go from there,” Hurdle said. “We’ve looked at a lot of different things. We’ve categorized all the numbers –trajectory ERAs, history in ballparks, history against hitters. It’s not so much (who’s) our No. 1. It’s what is the best way to set up our rotation as we move forward.”
Lyle Overbay lined a two-run double during Pittsburgh’s big burst and also singled. He picked on a familiar victim — he’s faced Beckett more than anyone in his 10-year career and is a career .342 hitter against him.
Coming off a down year with Toronto, Overbay is hitting .405 this spring.
John Bowker hit a two-run homer off Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves.
NOTES: Boston LF Daniel Nava made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Andrew McCutchen of extra bases in the first inning. Minutes earlier, McCutchen’s mother, Petrina, sang the national anthem at McKechnie Field. “She’s always good,” he said… Pirates LHP Garrett Olson is set to throw a bullpen session Sunday and then pitch Monday vs. Minnesota. Pittsburgh claimed the reliever off waivers from Seattle on Friday. … Pirates C Chris Snyder (sore back) took 15 swings off a tee. He expects to play in a minor league game Tuesday. “Right now, there’s no pain,” he said. … Three dozen seagulls landed in right-center field late in the game and stuck around for a couple of innings. Boston’s Drew Sutton lined a double that missed one of the birds by several wingspans.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)