BRADENTON, Fla. -- Spring Training in any Major League camp has its staples, chief among them batting practice. Position players spend endless time in the cage, alternately hitting off teammates and coaches.
It's part of the routine. But it doesn't have to be routine
, and the Bucs have a couple of wrinkles you may not see outside Pirate City. Manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage both like to think outside the batter's box.
Pirates pitchers take their BP turns in two shifts of 20 and 15 pitches, sitting on the bench in between. The intent is obvious.
"It simulates pitching two innings," Searage explained. "I don't know if a lot of teams do it this way, but we started this last spring and it works for me."
"It builds up stamina and endurance," Hurdle said. "We're trying to be aggressive with everything we're doing, and this gets pitchers off on the right step."
Hurdle has his own contribution when it comes to breaking up the Spring Training routine, as the session against batting-practice pitchers becomes a competitive drill of situational hitting.
"The feedback I've gotten from players," Hurdle said, "is that they always get more out of work where there is a goal, something to aim for. It adds the element of competition. It's a situation that takes them to a very good place."