BRADENTON, Fla. -- One of Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle's favorite expressions is "swing-and-miss stuff."
In his first season as the Pirates skipper, Hurdle did not get to use that enough with the Pirates on the mound -- and had to use it too much with the Pirates at bat.
Bucs hitters had the third-most strikeouts in the National League, at 1,308; maturity and experience of young core players will have to cure most of that.
At the same time, Pittsburgh pitchers were last
in the league with 1,031 strikeouts. That called for a bit more proaction: Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett can be part of the solution.
Burnett led the American League in strikeouts in 2008 (231), and even in what has been portrayed as a horrible 2011 season for him, he fanned 173. Bedard posted 221 K's with the 2007 Orioles and, despite all the injuries that have marred his career, is averaging nearly a strikeout an inning.
The Pirates haven't had even a 180-strikeout pitcher since 2004 (when left-hander Oliver Perez punched out 239).
"Our goal is to help him improve his consistency," Hurdle said of Burnett. "He's still got plenty of fastball and other swing-and-miss pitches, the breaking ball and changeup."
Hurdle and his newest pitcher met for the very first time Monday morning.
Burnett, on Hurdle: "He already made me laugh. Which is good; you need that. Otherwise, only word-of-mouth, but nothing but good things."
Hurdle, on Burnett: "He's invigorated, for all the right reasons. I know he's a driven man. There's more in front of him he wants to accomplish."