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Manager Hurdle addresses the current state of 2014 Pirates

| Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, 10:54 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
National League Manager of the Year from the Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle speaks to a crowd during 'Talkin' Baseball' at the VFW in Harrison on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. All proceeds from the event will benefit Blake and Blair Sopcak, students in the Freeport School District who lost everything in the flood that hit their Buffalo Township home Aug. 28, 2013.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will depart for Bradenton, Fla., Thursday and arrive a month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

While speaking at a charitable fundraising event at the VFW in Natrona Heights on Monday night, Hurdle noted that when he arrives in Florida there likely will be a number of lingering questions surrounding the Pirates' 2014 roster.

Hurdle said the club still is exploring the trade and free agent markets for potential fits at first base.

The Pirates would like to add a proven quality left-handed bat to complement Gaby Sanchez, who has been productive against left-handed pitching.

“I know (Pirates general manager) Neal (Huntington) is continuing to have conversations, looking outside our organization for a possible fit,” Hurdle said. “One thing is we're not desperate. We're more than willing to make a trade if we're making a fair-value trade.”

Andrew Lambo is one internal option who could potentially fill the left-handed first baseman role. The 25-year-old slugged 32 home run between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

Primarily an outfielder throughout his minor league career, Lambo played first base in winter ball and took reps at first base during the Pirates' minicamp in Bradenton earlier this month.

“We believe Lambo needs to be looked at,” Hurdle said. “We don't have anybody in our minor league system now that is a first baseman and is ready to go to the big league club.”

Hurdle, like the fans he addressed, still is waiting on decision from starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, who has yet to announce whether he'll return to pitch in 2014. Hurdle said he has not spoken with 37-year-old free agent since November.

“Neal continues to have the meaningful conversations that need to be had,” Hurdle said. “From my understanding, A.J. is doing everything he has done every other winter except for saying he's coming back. He's trying to make that decision.

“ He knows how we feel. I've spoken to him, personally, all the way up to the middle of November. Then I felt like I was getting in the way. He needs quiet. He needs time at home.”

Hurdle said the club did have serious discussions about trying to retain first baseman Justin Morneau, who joined the club via trade on Aug. 31 from Minnesota but signed with Colorado as a free agent.

“Morneau was a tough call for us,” Hurdle said. “We liked what he brought. We liked the presence, the leadership, the bat-to-ball and the quality of the at-bat. … For $13 million guaranteed that was a little more than we thought would fit for us.”

Hurdle addressed the crowd for 40 minutes, then fielded questions. The Pirates manager was welcomed by a standing ovation from those attending and noted that 2013 “needs to be the start of something. … It can't be a one-year, feel-good (story).”

All proceeds from the event, hosted by Alex Mellon Entertainment will benefit Blake and Blair Sopcak, whose home was flooded on Aug. 28 in Sarver.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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