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Clint Hurdle says Pirates will try for more lift to boost offensive numbers

| Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, 5:33 p.m.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Only two teams in the majors last season scored fewer runs than the Pirates.

They ranked near the bottom in team batting average and OPS and were last in total bases. Although a record number of home runs were hit in the majors this season, the Pirates collected their second-lowest total over the past six years.

It's not that the Pirates couldn't make contact. The problem was not enough balls got through — or over — the infield.

“We're all aware that OPS isn't on the ground,” manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday. “We had a lot of hard-contact numbers on ground balls. We're trying to find different ways to accentuate that ball-striking ability.”

Hurdle indicated launch angle has become more of a focus for players during their offseason workouts.

“The group mindset is definitely one of being tougher outs, getting on base more often, but also doing a little more damage,” Hurdle said.

“You're not talking about anything dramatic; you're talking about a quarter-inch, catching a ball in a different area,” Hurdle said. “Guys are open-minded. They're looking for improvement. We're all trying to work a little bit harder to get a little bit better.

“It's still about flushing a baseball. It's covering the back side of the baseball. Not so much looking for backspin anymore; it's just staying behind the ball. Some guys talk about hitting the ball further out front, which is a term you really didn't want to use 10 years ago. The mindset has changed.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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