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Pirates notebook: Hurdle insists he's still 'having fun'

| Saturday, July 8, 2017, 4:12 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle watches from the dugout during the ninth inning against the Giants Sunday, July 2, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle removes reliever Antonio Bastardo from the game during the sixth inning against the Giants Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.

CHICAGO — Clint Hurdle insists he is not certain how much longer he wants to manage the Pirates.

“I don't know,” Hurdle said Saturday. “I just love where I'm at right now. I'm in the best physical condition I've been in a long time. I love the energy this team has and this organization has, the time spent, the players, the people I'm working with.

“I've had a blast here. As long as I'm having fun, I'd like to stay engaged. When it becomes no fun, I need to go home.”

Hurdle, who will turn 60 on July 30, is in the final year of his contract. The deal includes a club option for 2018.

“I haven't had any conversations about that to this point, and I'm not going to have any now,” Hurdle said. “I have a contract. It's not a topic that I really spent a lot of time (on).”

During spring training, chairman Bob Nutting declined to say whether Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington, who also is under contract through this year with an option for 2018, will be extended.

“The contact extension is not something that's top-of-mind for me,” Nutting said Feb. 20. “It's not an issue at this point.”

Nutting has not responded to a request from the Tribune-Review to discuss whether Hurdle and/or Huntington will be retained after 2017.

Recently, team president Frank Coonelly also was coy when asked about the status of Hurdle and Huntington.

“We intend to keep both of them around for many years to come,” Coonelly said, without elaborating.

Going into Saturday night's game against the Chicago Cubs, Hurdle had a 549-509 record in seven seasons with the Pirates. He went 534-625 over eight years managing the Colorado Rockies.

This past offseason, Hurdle shook up his coaching staff and brought in Tom Price as bench coach. Prince is seen by some as Hurdle's likely successor.

Hurdle no longer has an agent and instead negotiates for himself. He said Baltimore-based attorney Ron Shapiro is “an advisor who I speak with (about) different situations.”

Bastardo DFA'd

Reliever Antonio Bastardo was designated for assignment, ending a disastrous second stint with the Pirates.

Infielder Phil Gosselin was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he batted .287 with one home run in 43 games.

Bastardo, 31, spent nearly two months on the disabled list with a strained quad. In nine games with the Pirates, Bastardo had a 15.00 ERA and a 2.78 WHIP. The left-hander served up 16 hits, including five home runs, in nine innings.

“He put so much work in … and then we couldn't find a spike in velocity or crispness to his pitches,” Hurdle said. “For both parties, it's time to move on. There'll be a clear landing spot for him, hopefully, somewhere.”

Bastardo is making $6.625 million this year, about half of which is being paid by the Pirates.

In 2015, Bastardo made 66 outings with the Pirates and had a 2.98 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the New York Mets before the 2016 season.

The Pirates reacquired Bastardo last August in exchange for disappointing starter Jon Niese. That move came eight months after the Pirates traded second baseman Neil Walker to the Mets for Niese.

Pitching plan

Hurdle reset the order of the starting rotation coming out of the All-Star break. Gerrit Cole will start Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals, followed by Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova.

“We wanted to get Cole back out, based on the physical place he's in right now,” Hurdle said. “He needs to be the first guy back.”

Hurdle said his plan was to give each starter two or three days' extra rest.

Nova, who started Saturday, will have nine days off before his July 18 start against the Milwaukee Brewers. He wrenched his left knee in late May and pitched just five innings June 28 vs. Tampa Bay and six innings in a loss on July 3 vs. Philadelphia.

“With Nova, it's about more rest,” Hurdle said. “This is the most he's pitched … you'd have to go way back. He hasn't missed a start since he's been here.”

Going into Saturday's game, Nova, 30, tossed 114 innings over 17 starts this season. Last year, he tossed a career-high 162 innings in 32 starts with the Pirates and New York Yankees.

Prayers for Francona

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona is resting at home after being discharged from a Cleveland hospital following a procedure Thursday to correct an irregular heartbeat. Francona, a New Brighton native, will not manage the American League team Tuesday in the All-Star Game in Miami.

“I understand he's doing better now,” Hurdle said. “We're saying prayers for him.”

Hurdle half-laughed, but his tone was serious when someone mentioned that a high-stress job will lead to heart trouble.

“This is hard stuff, managing,” Hurdle said. “At times, it can wear you down. There are times when I do feel that my blood pressure probably spikes.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him or via Twitter @Biertempfel_Trib.

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