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Pirates notebook: Ranking starting pitchers not on Pirates manager Clint Hurdle’s September agenda

September 30, 2018
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Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (right) and hitting coach Jeff Branson congratulate Adam Frazier after Monday’s victory over the Reds.

With rosters expanded and a playoff berth more or less out of reach, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will spend much of September figuring out where players will fit into the 2019 lineup.

He won’t spend much time, however, devising an offseason seeding chart for his returning starting pitchers.

Trevor Williams has been a revelation over the past two months, leading the league in ERA since the All-Star break. Jameson Taillon has an ace’s pedigree. Chris Archer has some of the most prolific strikeout numbers in the game over the past five seasons.

Around the water cooler, it might be fun to slot each of them -- as well as Joe Musgrove, Ivan Nova and perhaps Nick Kingham -- in spots one through five of a theoretical 2019 rotation.

But ...

“I don’t spend a lot of time around the water cooler,” Hurdle said.

“I love our starting rotation, the direction it’s taking, that all those men in the rotation have the mentality that they can go out and be the ace that day,” Hurdle said. “That’s kind of the way that we’ve framed it up for each one of them, that you’re the ace today.”

While he won’t expend much brainpower numbering his starters, Hurdle conceded the pitchers naturally will want to compete throughout September for a better place in the internal hierarchy moving forward.

“I don’t know why they need to be seeded. I don’t. But I do know men, at least the groups I’ve been in. They love to measure stuff,” Hurdle said.

Veterans’ days

If Hurdle regularly pencils younger players onto his September lineup cards, it won’t be because his older players have informed him they’re ready to get a head start on the offseason.

Hurdle said he recently huddled with the team’s veterans to discuss late-season playing time.

“All of them want to finish strong, first and foremost. There’s not a guy that says, ‘I’m good. I don’t mind missing 10 games in the month of September,’ ” Hurdle said, specifically citing Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson.

Hurdle said he will have a better idea of his lineup plans for the rest of the season after the Pirates make their final batch of September call-ups from Triple-A. Indianapolis was eliminated from playoff contention with a 10-2 loss to Louisville on Sunday, and finished its season Monday.

Right back at it

Coming into Monday’s game, shortstop Kevin Newman was 3 for 33 in the major leagues and was coming off a key eighth-inning error that led to a 5-1 Braves win the day before.

Hurdle said he felt it was important for the 24-year-old to be back in the lineup against the Reds.

“He’s going to be fine,” Hurdle said. “It’s a little overwhelming right now. The at-bats have been challenging. He’s made some plays on defense where you go, ‘Yeah.’ Then a play happened (Sunday) where you go, ‘Oops. We weren’t expecting that either.’ That’s why we got him back out there today. We’ve got confidence in him. These are hard times.”

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