MLB Insiders: Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle

What might the Pirates' lineup look like this summer?

Only this much is certain: New manager Clint Hurdle has no plan to divulge it until it gets posted in the Wrigley Field visitors' clubhouse on Opening Day.

"Why would I tell you about that before I tell the players?" Hurdle replied with a laugh. "I do have some ideas. I've written some things down. But I'm not telling."

OK, then, just for fun, let's keep Andrew McCutchen at leadoff. He batted there all of last season, is the team's fastest player, and the only way Hurdle or the Pirates would bump him down is if they felt his power could turn him into a bona fide No. 3 hitter.

Jose Tabata's overall bat control makes him a fine fit to stay at No. 2. But again, if he shows more power -- and he has bulked up 10 pounds or so this offseason for that purpose -- he could be better suited for the heart of the order.

Neil Walker was a strong No. 3 as well, and he will remain that way so long as his semi-surprising power holds up.

It might be too early to move Pedro Alvarez to cleanup, but his prodigious power display in the final six weeks also could represent a sign that he is ready for it. Throughout his career, Alvarez has shown a knack for the big hit and driving in runs.

From there, it gets muddy. Lyle Overbay hardly is the cleanup type, which might lead to an equally odd platoon situation at cleanup with Matt Diaz or Garrett Jones. In the unlikely event Ryan Doumit is not traded, he has batted there, too.

Chris Snyder and Ronny Cedeno will bat at the bottom.

So, what does that leave?

Sure looks as if the Pirates need to put together a formidable 1-2-3 -- and in the best possible order -- while getting Alvarez into the cleanup spot.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Joel Hanrahan agreed to a one-year, $1.4 million contract two minutes before the Jan. 18 deadline for teams and players to exchange figures toward arbitration. "It was that close," Hanrahan said. "It feels good to get it done. I definitely didn't want to have to go through the arbitration process." Hanrahan or RHP Evan Meek will be the closer this season.

--The only player with an open arbitration case is RHP Ross Ohlendorf, who filed for a $2.025 million salary while the Pirates filed for $1.4 million. That is a sizable gap, but Ohlendorf went 1-11 last year and, although arbitrators tend not to put much weight in records, he still will not have much leverage and probably will settle.

--LF Jose Tabata, whose only disappointment as a rookie was hitting only four home runs, has bulked up by about 10 pounds with an aim of producing more power. "I worked out in the gym every day this winter," Tabata said. "I want to be bigger and stronger. This year, my idea is to hit more home runs."

--The Pirates invited five prospects to the major eague portion of spring training: C Tony Sanchez, C Eric Fryer, SS Chase d'Arnaud, SS Brian Friday and OF Andrew Lambo. The inclusion of d'Arnaud was a small surprise after a down year, but management wanted to show confidence in him.

--Before RHP Carl Pavano signed with the Minnesota Twins for two years and $16.5 million, he also received offers from the Pirates and New York Yankees. It is not known how much the Pirates offered, but it is even clearer that any further additions to the rotation would have to come through trade, not free agency.

BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- Innings pitched above the Class AA level by Daniel Moskos and Tony Watson, two left-handed relief prospects who have been told they are in the running to make the Pirates' bullpen.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's my goal to make my way back into being that everyday guy. The way you do that is that you hit and you make them put you in there." -- RF Garrett Jones, on being told he will platoon with Matt Diaz.

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