PITTSBURGH -- Two seasons ago, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a hard time believing that Andrew McCutchen could lead the National League in hits (194) and convert that into only 96 RBIs.
In 2013, the Bucs gained a legitimate leadoff hitter (Starling Marte), and McCutchen, in the three-spot, enjoyed a similar season at the plate to earn NL MVP honors -- and had even 12 fewer RBIs.
Obviously, the key batting-order spot is the one between Marte and McCutchen. In 2012, the collection of Pirates No. 2 hitters posted an on-base percentage of .304; in '13, they combined to hit .262.
If Neil Walker is hitting with his familiar consistency, many foresee him as a No. 2 fixture; the spot is ideal for a switch-hitter.
For the time being however, Travis Snider is making it his home. Hurdle spoke highly of Snider's condition and friskiness all spring, and he now wants to see if he can also recapture his nose for the bases.
In occasional Minor League detours (a total of 132 games) the last three seasons, Snider had an on-base percentage of .400-plus.
"We're optimistic that the OBP will play out in the Major League level close to what it was in the Minor Leagues," Hurdle said. "He had the best spring we've seen. Moved around in the outfield and on the bases the best since we've had him.
"I liked the look of it in Spring Training. We'll see how it plays out during the season."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.