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Pirates

He lived it, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle won't flip outfielders batter-by-batter

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 8:48 a.m.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talks with his team in the dugout during a game against the Blue Jays Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at Dunedin Stadium.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talks with his team in the dugout during a game against the Blue Jays Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at Dunedin Stadium.

The idea of flipping corner outfielders within an inning to take advantage of a hitter's tendencies was done by the Phillies in a spring training game Feb. 27 and discussed internally by the Pirates.

But manager Clint Hurdle doesn't expect to try it.

“We already moved (right fielder Gregory) Polanco to left field and we didn't like it and moved him back. So, no, it's not something we're going to do,” he said.

He did concede that with “different people, maybe.” But even then it might take an extreme circumstance.

“You're doing it because you don't think one guy is good enough,” Hurdle said. “I'm not so sure right now we have those two guys that we don't think are good enough to play those positions they're in.”

Actually, the idea is not so revolutionary in Hurdle's eyes.

He was part of a similar switch ordered by New York Mets manager Davey Johnson 33 years ago in an 18-inning game against the Pirates in Shea Stadium.

“Rusty Staub and I flipped in extra innings … batter by batter,” said Hurdle, adding he doesn't remember the opponent. “I think, three innings, depending on which guy hit because Davey had run out of players.

“The only guy who didn't think it was funny was Rusty (who was 41 and playing the final season of his 23-year career). Finally, towards the end, even Rusty was starting to laugh about it.”

Ultimately, the Mets stole a 5-4 victory in which they were outhit by the Pirates, 18-6.

In the 10th inning, Hurdle threw out a runner at home plate (look it up; it was George Hendrick) on a single to left field by Bill Almon.

In the top of the 18th, Staub – the Mets were trying to hide him -- made a running catch of a fly ball in right field. The batter was right-handed-hitting pitcher Rick Rhoden, who was used as a pinch-hitter.

After 5 hours, 21 minutes, the Mets won it in the bottom of the inning when Hurdle hit a grounder that got through first baseman Jason Thompson for an error, scoring pinch-runner Mookie Wilson.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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