PITTSBURGH -- On a day his club demoted an effective, young reliever to make room for a veteran returning from injury, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was reminded just how difficult it can be to effectively manage a bullpen over the course of a season.
The club announced on Sunday that it had reinstated Juan Cruz from the disabled list, and that his return had forced the decision to option Jared Hughes to Triple-A Indianapolis. Before Hurdle addressed the move, though, he admitted that handling the relief corps is one of his more trying duties.
"That has been one of the most challenging parts every year, is constructing that bullpen and going through the season with the different guys that might be coming and going, whether it might be injury, whether it be lack of performance, however it works," Hurdle said.
"You've got seven working men out there that all have individual responsibility from day to day," he said. "That can change. They are going to always want to represent the bullpen and take the ball. So, you've got to develop relationships that are transparent and trusting, because you need accurate information."
Because too few relievers are completely honest about needing time off, it's to a manager's benefit to get to know each man individually, and that includes understanding his body language. Hurdle said he makes an effort to spend time with his players that goes beyond routine health checks.
"If it's all mechanical, your relationship becomes mechanical," Hurdle said. "It's just part of managing people, and developing that relationship, and each one's individual, and each one has its importance. They all matter out there.
"Now, it's getting the read of how much work you believe they can handle and stay effective, because they'll all take on more. It's hard for them to get to that point in their career where they'll say, 'I need a day.' Usually, it's an older guy, a veteran guy that knows he needs a day."