BRADENTON, FL (93.7 The Fan) - Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn't buy the suggestion that this year's team might be similar to his first couple of clubs in Pittsburgh, in 2011 and 2012.
"There's more of a feeling that we're about to do something special," Hurdle said following the first pitchers' and catchers' workout at Pirate City. "In '11 and '12 we were still trying to find ways to play winning baseball, better baseball...our intent is to go out and win our division."
One major reason for Hurdle's optimism is his starting rotation and the back end of his bullpen.
"Good pitching beats good hitting, and we have good pitching," Hurdle said. "With the four guys we have slated right now to start, the bullpen we have when he have a lead...man, I like that alot, and that plays out well over a 162 game season."
His projected istarters are Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove. Candidates for the final spot are Nick Kingham, Steven Brault, and free agent signees Jordan Lyles and Francisco Liriano, who was a Hurdle favorite in seasons past.
"We like the competitor," Hurdle said. "We still like the skill set, the experience he still brings to the table, the fact that he's had success here, done some significant things here."
If Liriano doesn't land in the rotation, he could work out of the bullpen as a left-handed specialist. His leadership is something that also appeals to the manager.
"There's a guy we've looked to in the past to help us along, whether it's A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin, David Freese...Liriano coming back could definitely give us a shot in the arm along those lines," said Hurdle.
He's also excited about the two outfielders the Pirates signed, Lonnie Chisenhall and Melky Cabrera. Which one has the upper hand to hold down right field until Gregory Polanco recovers from shoulder surgery?
"As we talked to Chisenhall, it's an opportunity for him to be the first guy out there," Hurdle said. "If Melky plays to the best of his ability and Lonnie plays to the best of his ability, it will be interesting to see where they can take it. Melky provides us with a bat on both sides of the plate. The fight in the box has been real throughout his career. He's a 15-year veteran guy and his ability to go play both corners provides valuable depth."