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Pirates manager wants players up workouts

| Monday, Sept. 26, 2011

Manager Clint Hurdle wants the players to toughen their offseason workout routines.

"We need to be the best-conditioned team in the league," Hurdle said Sunday.

Hurdle was pleased with the team's physical shape at the end of spring training, but said there were some breakdowns, particularly among the pitching staff, as the season went on.

"From a pitching standpoint, it's about throwing," Hurdle said. "I think we need to ramp that up a little bit. There is a strength and conditioning component that's important, a speed and agility component that's important. We also talked about don't let the first time you pick up a bat, pick up your glove or take a grounder be (in mid-)February."

GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates likely will finish among the top five teams in the majors in games lost to injury. But he does not blame poor conditioning.

"We had some bizarre things happen," Huntington said. "We'll continue to monitor our guys' (conditioning) in the offseason. We'll have checkpoints in November and December. minicamp in January and site visits, whether they come to Bradenton or Pittsburgh or we come to them. We'll work hard to make sure they're living up to their end of it."

» The crowd of 28,758 was the largest for a final home game at PNC Park. The total attendance of 1,940,429 is fourth-biggest in club history. The Pirates averaged 24,255 over 80 dates.

"One of the main reasons I came here was the passion of the fans," Huntington said. "We've still got a lot of people to win back. We're looking to reconnect with that lost generation that hasn't seen a winning team. But we're looking forward to a lot of good things."

» Huntington said revenue from increased attendance "will be poured right back into the club" and that payroll will increase as the players mature. But the potential departures of free agents such as Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick won't necessarily mean those dollars will be used for other free agents. Arbitration-eligible players, such as closer Joel Hanrahan, will get raises.

"That's a wonderful thing, that these guys continue to grow, develop and get more expensive because they're playing well," Huntington said. "We'll have some money to explore free agency or trade for established major league players. We've got some prospects who we're willing to trade. We'll explore every avenue we can."

» The Pirates already are trying to lure Lee to re-sign for 2012. Lee, 35, has indicated he's also mulling retirement.

"We've got a lot of people — players, staff, fans — working hard to convince Derrek to come back," Huntington said. "It's going to come down to, does Derrek want to come back to Pittsburgh• And, yes, there is a financial element, too."

» Kevin Correia, James McDonald and Charlie Morton seem to be assured jobs in the starting rotation next season. Jeff Karstens made a strong argument that he has enough staying power to deserve a spot. It should make for an interesting battle in spring training.

"I don't think it's wide open," Huntington said. "But we've got a lot of guys who need to develop, take hold of those jobs and show they don't give them up again."

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