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Clint Hurdle 'Relishes' Tough NL Central Competition

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) - With pitchers and catchers reporting in just three weeks, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle joined The Starkey and Mueller Show to talk about expectations for the upcoming season.

One of the biggest stories this off-season has been the rehab of third baseman Jung-Ho Kang and when he'll be ready next year. On that matter, Hurdle offered some encouraging news.

"He's working hard six days a week," Hurdle said. "He's in a better place than we thought he'd be at this time, so we're going to remain optimistic and give him every opportunity to continue to improve."

Looking around the rest of the NL Central, Hurdle talked about the money being spent by the Chicago Cubs, having to compete against the St. Louis Cardinals and how they plan on keeping up with them.

"I'm aware of what goes on, but then again, my focus is on what we do and how we do it," Hurdle said. "I think we all understand that we're never going to be a top 15 payroll team. You know, we've more or less been handed third place and said, 'Congratulations, here ya go.' The wonderful thing about our team is our players don't buy any of it."

The Pirates had to make some difficult decisions this off-season that led to the trading of Neil Walker to the New York Mets and the release of Pedro Alvarez. Hurdle talked about those moves and the legacy Walker left in his hometown.

"Hard working kid, played the game right, was willing to move to find a niche and find an opportunity at the major league level," Hurdle said about Walker. "I think he'll be well remembered. I think that everybody will appreciate the Pittsburgh kid and what he was able to help us accomplish the last three seasons."

On Pedro, Hurdle was asked if he's surprised that their former first baseman has yet to find a new home.

"I stopped trying to figure out the game in the off-season. I definitely figured it wouldn't happen for a while when [Scott] Boras' top guy is Chris Davis and he's not going anywhere. Nobody is going to move in Boras' stable playing first base until Davis is moved," Hurdle said.

Things wrapped up with Hurdle addressing a hot rumor this off-season, the National League potentially adopting the designated hitter.

"The games I've managed, the short sample size of American League games I've managed when we had a DH, I haven't found it as challenging as the National League, but again, I've talked to other people who feel strongly the other way. I'm of the mind-set that there's a younger generation moving into the game, whether it be ownership, whether it be front office, that's looking for ways to continuously improve our game. I don't know if it'd make our game worse. I don't know if it'd make our game better. The game is doing very well as it is right now."

You can hear all this and more from Hurdle in the audio below as he also talked about their expectations for John Jaso at first base, how he feels about their lineup and where the power will come from.

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