By John Mehno
For the Mirror
PITTSBURGH-It's not early any more.
That's what manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday after the 2014 season passed the quarter mark. After 43 games, the Pirates were 18-25 and eight games behind first place Milwaukee in the National League Central.
Last season the Pirates were 25-18, in third place and 2 and 1/2 games out of first.
"When you flip over the hourglass and start the season, you can never recapture games," Hurdle said. "Now (43) are gone. We have (119). It needs to start today. We've talked from the opening of the season until now about our consistency.
"There comes a point in time when you can't think it's early. You can't say it's early any more. We have to find ways to execute at a championship level and be more consistent across the board. It starts tonight."
Hurdle thinks there's been some improvement in recent weeks.
"We set the bar really too low for ourselves in April," he said. "But we've been much better in May. All we have is now. You can't go back and redo what's been done. The awareness has been heightened."
One in, one out
Two outfielders, Starling Marte and Jose Tabata, left Sunday's doubleheader in New York with hamstring injuries.
Marte was in Tuesday's starting lineup, and Hurdle said Tabata was available off the bench. Josh Harrison started in right field.
Both injured players were seen by the team's medical staff on Monday's open date.
Jason Grilli, who is on the disabled list with a oblique strain, pitched a simulated game Tuesday's game.
One of the hitters he faced was Russell Martin, who is on the DL with a hamstring injury.
Grilli is scheduled for another simulated game today, and Martin will catch him.
"The catching component is what's most critical right now," Hurdle said. "He's shown the ability to swing the bat. He's ramped up the running portion of it."
John Russell is back in town as the Orioles' bench coach, the job he landed after the Pirates fired him following three seasons as manager.
Russell was let go after the 2011 season and replaced by Hurdle.
"It hurt. It did," Russell told the Baltimore Sun. "Because I felt like I gave it everything I had for three years. It's something I took a lot of pride in, and to get it taken away was something that hurt a little bit. But it's four years later, and it's time to move on."
The Pirates are using the visit from the Baltimore Orioles to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the 1979 World Series championship team.
The alumni will honored in an on-field ceremony before tonight's game.
Those expected to attend are: Matt Alexander, Mike Easler, Tim Foli, Phil Garner, Grant Jackson, Bruce Kison, Lee Lacy, Bill Madlock, Omar Moreno, Steve Nicosia, Ed Ott, Dave Parker, Don Robinson, Jim Rooker, Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennett, Kent Tekulve, coaches Al Monchak and Bob Skinner and trainer Tony Bartirome.
The only living members of the 1979 team not scheduled to attend are John Candelaria, Bert Blyleven and Enrique Romo.