Since the Pirates hired Jay Bell as hitting coach, my email inbox and Twitter account have been lit up with wisecracks about bunting. That’s no surprise, as one of Bell’s fortes during his eight seasons with the Pirates was dropping down an excellent sacrifice bunt. His 39 sac bunts in 1990 remains a franchise record. “(Manager) Jimmy Leyland knew what he was doing when he told me to do all that bunting,” Bell told me yesterday by phone. “Look who was coming up behind me in the lineup: Andy Van Slyke, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla. If I got the runner over to second base, one of those guys would drive him in.”
The lineup looks a LOT different these days, but manager Clint Hurdle still appreciates the value of a sac bunt. So, yes, Bell’s presence will be a plus. But he can help in other ways, too. The Pirates ranked fourth in the National League with 170 home runs, but were deficient in most other offensive categories. Their .243 batting average ranked 14th and was 11 points below the league average. They also ranked 14th in hits and on-base percentage, 10th in runs scored per game (4.02) and ninth in slugging percentage. “We know what our weaknesses were,” Hurdle said.
When the search for a new hitting coach began, Hurdle stressed he was not looking for a swing doctor. GM Neal Huntington was impressed by the “approach to the mentality of hitting” Bell talked about during their three-hour interview last week at PNC Park. “Hitting is more of a mental game,” Bell said. “It’s having an attitude and an approach of, ‘I’m going to get the job done.’ It’s being prepared for every situation. Sometimes, you’re going to fail, but you can’t be fearful of that. And you have to trust that, if you don’t do the job, the guy behind you will. A positive attitude will usually help you be successful. Sometimes, it won’t. But a negative attitude will always hurt you.”
»»» RHP Vic Black was named to the East Division roster for the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game. The game is set for 8 p.m. Saturday and will be televised by MLB Network. Black is 1-0 with a 7.50 ERA and a 2.83 WHIP in seven relief outings for Scottsdale.
»»» Rather than accept a demotion, former Double-A Altoona manager P.J. Forbes has left the Pirates organization. After going 136-147 in two seasons with the Curve, Pirates management offered Forbes a role next year with one of the lower-level minor league affiliates and he declined.
»»» The Pirates are selling seats from McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., which have been removed as part of the stadium’s $10 million renovation. Cost is $25 per seat. If you’re interested, drop a line to Justin.Kristich@pirates.com.