Pirates notebook: Penguins jerseys in fashion for road trip

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

As a nod to Pittsburgh's quest for a fourth Stanley Cup, Pirates players and coaches will wear Penguins jerseys this weekend on their road trip to Milwaukee and Detroit.

“It's a special time of year,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's hard to beat playoff hockey. The last few nights, I've stayed up later than I anticipated, watching games. It's a wonderful time of the year, and our team's in.”

A handful of Pirates players are serious hockey fans. When a street hockey goal was set up in the clubhouse. Russell Martin and Brandon Inge grabbed sticks and fired shots. Jeff Karstens gets tickets to Penguins games whenever he can.

“During spring training, I tweeted that I went to a (Tampa Bay) Lightning game and somebody was like, ‘Oh, so now you're a Lightning fan?' ” Karstens said. “I never said I was rooting for the Lightning. But they were playing the (Washington) Capitals, so I guess I did want the Lightning to win, right?”

For the upcoming road trip, players could request a particular Penguins jersey, if they wanted. Travis Snider asked for a retro Mario Lemieux sweater.

“I was never really a hockey fan growing up (in Kirkland, Wash.), but I'd see highlights on ESPN and thought it looked pretty cool,” Snider said. “I wanted Lemieux's jersey because he was such a great player. And then there's everything he did for the team (as an owner). Now, that's leadership.”

Lemieux wasn't Snider's first choice, though.

“I thought about asking for a (Jaromir) Jagr jersey,” Snider said. “But then someone told me he's not real popular around here anymore. I like him because he had that mullet and he's still playing even though he's almost 50 years old or whatever.”

Jagr, who plays for the Boston Bruins, turned 41 last February.

To bunt or not

Hurdle sometimes calls for bunt attempts from the dugout, but he noted that players have a lot of leeway to decide on their own to try it.

On Sunday, Snider grounded out trying to bunt for a single when he led off the fourth inning. The night before, Jose Tabata bunted for a hit to begin an inning, which led to a run.

“Part of it is, we trust them to make the right decision,” Hurdle said. “Many times, if you survey the field, there are opportunities to put it in play. We let them have the first look. If their awareness isn't what it ought to be, then we suggest.”

Starling Marte has been very aggressive with bunt attempts, and more often than not, he makes the call on his own.

“He's been very bold,” Hurdle said. “By that I mean, I have not been a fan of a young player trying to bunt on an 0-1 (count). Foul ball, you're 0-2. With his history (as a free-swinger), it can seem like we're heading down the wrong road when we do that. But we wanted to give him the freedom to do it and he's handled it very professionally, so there's no need to make an adjustment.”

With defensive shifts becoming more common, Hurdle said he's had his speedier “big boys” — such as Garrett Jones, Snider — work on bunts in batting practice.

“It's a touch-and-feel call,” Hurdle said. “If it's the right individual, with the experience and how good they are, we'll do it.”

Coaches absent

Due to the death of his father, third base coach Nick Leyva was not with the team Tuesday. Rick Sofield coached third base, and Dave Jauss coached first base. Also, pitching coach Ray Searage was given permission to be away from the team to attend to a family matter. Searage might also miss Wednesday's game.

Around the horn

Marte was not in the starting lineup, but it was just an extra day off. Marte had been slated to be out Sunday, as Hurdle wanted to give him two consecutive days' rest (with Monday being an off day for the team). But Marte had to play Sunday when Andrew McCutchen was scratched due to sore knee. McCutchen was back in action Tuesday. ... Reliever Jose Contreras was reinstated from the bereavement list. Jared Hughes was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis. ... Kent Tekulve will represent the Pirates at the 2013 draft June 6 at MLB Network's Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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