BRADENTON, Fla. -- Manager Clint Hurdle is not ready to commit to a lineup just yet, but he does expect to have one tentatively set by about this time next week.
Hurdle has been experimenting with a variety of batting orders all spring, paying close attention to how Andrew McCutchen fits in the No. 3 hole. With McCutchen batting third and Jose Tabata in the leadoff spot again on Wednesday, it's appearing more and more likely that Hurdle will keep the two outfielders in those spots for the regular season.
Hurdle has said he likes the idea of slotting McCutchen into a run-producing spot in the order, even though the majority of McCutchen's big league at-bats have come from the leadoff spot. What Hurdle particularly wanted to see over the last few weeks was whether Tabata could show more patience while hitting at the top of the order.
"I've really liked [Tabata's] approach leading off," Hurdle said. "He's shown some discipline. He's had some walks. He can hit the ball the other way. He's got speed when he gets on. He looks like that's something that he's able to do."
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One of the bigger questions about McCutchen hitting third -- if that is indeed where he ends up -- is how that might affect the Pirates' ability to capitalize on McCutchen's speed. Stealing more bases has been a focus of McCutchen's all spring, and no matter where the center fielder hits, the Pirates want him to run.
"We've got to take some chances," Hurdle said. "[Likely No. 4 hitter] Pedro [Alvarez] is a power hitter in growth. It's not like we're running with [Albert] Pujols up at the plate. It's a whole different complex, a whole different dynamic. We want to keep this mindset of going, of being aggressive, especially with Andrew. I do think that's a part of his game that he can continue to open up more and we don't want to take that away at all if he ends up in the three spot."
When Hurdle does announce his lineup, he anticipates that it will stick, at least for a while.
"I want to try and find something that works and commit to it for a period of time and let it play out," Hurdle said. "I do think one of the things with a younger club, as far as Major League experience goes, is continuity. We're taking a lot of different looks right now. That will slow down a little bit soon."