Hurdle says team veterans want to finish year strong

By John Mehno

For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH — The Pirates are essentially out of the postseason races, and they’re currently playing another non-contender in the Cincinnati Reds.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit the regulars and fully experiment with minor leaguers called up for the last month.

Manager Clint Hurdle made it clear before Monday’s 5-1 victory over the Reds that fans should expect to see the regulars fairly often.

Hurdle said he recently met with most of his veterans and none of them are looking for extended time off.

“They all want to finish strong, first and foremost,” he said. “There’s not a guy who says he wants to miss 10 games in September.”

Josh Harrison is likely to sit out to protect a lingering hamstring issue. Catcher Francisco Cervelli is another candidate to miss some games because of the concussions he’s sustained this year.

Hurdle said he’ll have a firmer plan when the Pirates make the remainder of their call-ups after minor league postseason play ends for Indianapolis and the Curve.

He did make a point to start Kevin Newman at second base one day after he made an error that led to Atlanta breaking an eighth inning tie and beating the Pirates to take two of three in the weekend series.

Newman has also struggled at the plate, carrying a 3-for-33 mark into Monday’s game.

“He’ll be fine,” Hurdle said. “It’s a little overwhelming right now. The at-bats have been challenging. He’s made some plays that make you go, ‘Yeah!’ Then there’s a play like yesterday where you go, ‘Oops.’ That’s why we got him back out there today. We have confidence in him. These are hard times.”

Who’s No. 1?

A lot of people are trying to put the Pirates’ starting pitchers in a particular order.

Hurdle isn’t one of them.

“I love our rotation and the direction it’s taking,” he said. “They all have the mentality they can go out and be the ace that day. I don’t know why they need to be seeded.”

On a roll

With Monday’s 6 ª scoreless innings, Trevor Williams has a 0.69 earned run average over his last nine starts.

That’s the best mark a Pirates pitcher has posted over that stretch in record keeping that goes back to 1913.

He’s done better than Steve Blass (0.70 in 1968), Zane Smith (0.80 in 1990), and Vernon Law (0.83) in 1965.

Like Williams, none of those pitchers had overwhelming velocity. But they were able to consistently throw strikes in all parts of the zone.

“It’s fun to get use all four quadrants,” Williams said. “It’s been a great learning year for me.”

Williams was acquired in an all-time steal of a trade. The Pirates demanded compensation when the Miami Marlins hired away pitching coordinator Jim Benedict. The Marlins sent Williams.

The Marlins’ new ownership fired Benedict last year and he now works in the Chicago Cubs organization.

Nova returns

Ivan Nova was back in uniform Monday.

He was given permission to attend to a personal matter and missed Sunday’s scheduled start in Atlanta.

Mehno can be reached at: johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com