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Pirates notebook: Bucs won't change inside approach on mound

| Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, 5:39 p.m.
Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt watches the baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a cast on his hand, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski)

Although the Pirates do not believe Andrew McCutchen's injury was directly caused by a retaliatory pitch in Arizona, the Pirates are well aware of the risk of their pitching philosophy places upon their position players.

Despite that risk, the Pirates have no intention of changing their approach on the mound.

Clint Hurdle said Thursday the Pirates' focus on pitching inside has led to a dramatic improvement of pitching performance during his time in Pittsburgh. But the Pirates manager knows a side effect of pitching inside is hitting batters. The Pirates have hit a major-league high 61 batters entering play Thursday, and Pirates batters have been hit by a MLB-high 60 pitches.

“We are going to stick with our pitching philosophy,” Hurdle said. “We are well aware of the consequences. We make choices. We have the freedom to make choices. What we don't have is the freedom to choose the consequences.

“When I addressed the team the other day, I noted when I walked in the door here it was a team that had lost 212 games in back-to-back seasons and we felt there was an opportunity to make significant improvement off the mound with a more focused pitching philosophy. ... It's a reason we've become a better, more competitive team.”

But the Pirates' approach has irked opponents, including Diamondbacks president Tony La Russa, who blamed the events of the weekend upon the Pirates. Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri broke the hand of Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt with a pitch Friday, and the Diamondbacks responded by hitting McCutchen on Saturday.

“If that's the way you want to pitch you need to understand with those rewards, it comes with risks,,” La Russa told the Arizona Republic. “There's an old expression that you learn in competition: there ain't no free lunch.”

Hurdle sees things differently.

“We try to pitch aggressively to both sides of plate,” Hurdle said. “We have not taken up an initiative to pitch dangerously.”

Pirates still playing with 23

The Pirates are still holding out hope they don't need to place McCutchen (ribs) on the disabled list. Neil Walker (back) was also held out of the lineup again. It meant the Pirates were playing with only 23 players for a second straight day.

“He felt better,” Hurdle said of Walker. “Seemed to me his (return) was too quick (last week). We'll give him more time so the next time we plug him in we can keep him in.”

Hurdle said McCutchen is getting better and there's “a chance” he avoids the disabled list.

Extra bases

Pedro Alvarez is eligible to come off the bereavement list Friday, but the Pirates aren't sure when he will be back in Pittsburgh. Hurdle said there was “a possibility” Alvarez could return to Pittsburgh on Thursday night. ... The Pirates traded pitcher Jay Jackson to the Brewers for cash considerations. The 26-year-old right-hander had pitched all season at Indianapolis, posting a 4.89 ERA.

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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