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Pirates notebook: Rivalry with Reds resumes

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 6:54 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pirates fans react as Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick watches Russell Martin's home run clear the fence in the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.

MILWAUKEE — The Pirates and Cincinnati Reds will open a three-game series Monday at Great American Ball Park. It will be their first meeting since the NL wild-card game in October.

Last season, the Pirates went 11-8 against the Reds and outscored them 73-71. The series has been marked by brushback pitches (and several plunked batters), clutch hits and Johnny Cueto's slippery fingers on the mound as 38,000 partisans chanted his name in a mock cheer.

“We did develop an old-school rivalry,” manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday. “It was a throwback to days gone by, when we were all playing on turf. It's fun.”

Hurdle noted the Pirates also have developed an intense rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals, but that one has a different feel. Hurdle didn't spell out the distinction, but most fans have a sense of what it's about.

A Pirates-Cardinals series has a more of a corporate feeling, two groups of professionals trying to show who's better. A Pirates-Reds series has a more personal feel, like a backyard brawl.

“(A Reds series) is definitely a real good blood flow,” Hurdle said. “The adrenaline is ready when they say, ‘Play ball.' We respect them. We like playing them. We like matching up against them.”

Bryan Price is in his first season as Reds manager, but he witnessed the rivalry develop as the team's pitching coach since 2010.

“Ever since I've been here, it's been a good battle, because even when we were outplaying them for playoff spots, they always played us tough,” Price said. “I anticipate them to continue to play us tough. They turned the corner last year, getting to the postseason and beating us. I'm sure they're very confident in their ability.”

Heredia injured

Right-hander Luis Heredia threw only one pitch Saturday before leaving his start for Low-A West Virginia because of shoulder tightness.

General manager Neal Huntington said on his weekly radio show that Heredia has been bothered by shoulder discomfort for a while, but did not inform the medical staff.

“It's so crucial in injury prevention to get it early,” Huntington said. “Hopefully, we got it early enough. We're still in the process of evaluating. Hopefully, it's just a little tendinitis in there.”

Heredia, 19, was rated the Pirates' No. 10 prospect by Baseball America. Last year, he went 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA at West Virginia.

Close encounters

Last week, two players made headlines after encounters with fans on the field.

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones could face discipline from MLB after saying “they should let us have a shot to kick them with our metal spikes on” when asked about a fan who ran onto the field at Yankee Stadium. Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson confronted a fan who patted him on the back after Granderson made a catch near the right field wall at Angel Stadium.

Anyone who takes the field during a Pirates home game will be fined and possibly face legal action. On April 3, a shirtless fan sprinted onto the grass at PNC Park during the pierogi race.

“It's funny, but earlier that same day, Andrew (McCutchen) and I were talking about what we'd do if someone came running at us,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “We were like, I don't know. It would depend on the situation, I guess.”

Mercer in a funk

Jordy Mercer has scuffled since the start of the season. He has one hit in his past 15 at-bats and is hitting .147 after going 0 for 3 Sunday.

Hurdle theorized Mercer may be pressing a bit as he adjusts to his first season as the starting shortstop.

“He's in a different situation than before ... (and) he's growing through it,” Hurdle said. “He's not the first one; it's challenged a lot of young players. He's not taking his bat out to the field, which shows his professional awareness and ability to separate the game. He continues to put the work in that's necessary to work out of it.”

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

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