PITTSBURGH-When the Pittsburgh Pirates broke spring camp, it appeared as though Gaby Sanchez would get most of the work at first base.
Yet Travis Ishikawa started the first four games, including Friday night's series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I wanted to get Ishikawa involved and in the lineup, based on how he swung the bat in spring training," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We want to see if we can continue with some traction along those lines."
That factor also enters into Hurdle's reasoning in starting Travis Snider in right field over Jose Tabata.
First base and right field are really the only positions among the Pirates' starting eight that require a daily decision.
Turn the page
The Pirates and Cardinals met in the National League Divisional Series last October, but the players have consigned that experience to the memory banks.
"It's a new year and a new start," center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "I don't think anybody is thinking about last year very much."
The teams wound up meeting 24 times last season and postseason, and they split those games.
The Cardinals won the Divisional Series, three games to two, on their way to the National League championship.
"There might be a little bitter taste, but not a whole lot," shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "It's a new year, a new season. We know we were right there with them last year and we're looking to get over that hump. We're excited to get this thing going."
There's been a lot of discussion in recent days about players taking paternity leave.
New York Mets' infielder Daniel Murphy missed the start of the season to be present for the birth of his first child.
His absence touched off a talk radio controversy in New York.
Hurdle, a father of three, said Murphy did the right thing, and offered an emotional defense of that decision.
"You have an opportunity to have other opening days," he said. "You don't have another opportunity to witness the birth of your child. I'm pretty clear cut on that. I've heard people say, well, this is how he makes his living. Yes, it is. This is how his kids are going to college. Yes, they are.
"It's the birth of a child. It's a miracle. I think we all need to look inside ourselves and revisit what a miracle is. To witness one is like the coolest thing in the whole wide world. So that's where I'm at with it."
Under the labor agreement, players can take three days for paternity leave. Murphy used two of those days. His son was born on Monday.
Proceed with caution
Friday's starter, Gerrit Cole, got better as his season progressed as a rookie last season.
As he begins his first full season, Hurdle said that Cole is still a work in progress and could experience some setbacks along the way.
"I think there are some people who think every time out he's going to get better," Hurdle said. "There's going to be a time where the game will push back. The other teams might push back. There will be some more growth and some more experience to be garnered."