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Clint Hurdle opening up communication in Pirates clubhouse

Mar 2, 2013, 11:03 PM EDT

Clint Hurdle AP

It’s been a tough couple of decades for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans. The last two years haven’t made things any easier, as the Buccos turned first-half division leads into fourth-place finishes thanks to two of the most depressing collapses this side of the 2007 Mets. As the losses mounted, some felt Hurdle was losing his clubhouse, but he didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t believe so, but you’d have to talk to the players,” Hurdle told Dejan Kovacevic.

To assuage any potential clubhouse mutinies, Hurdle is establishing a “leadership group” — a small group of two or so players that meet with Hurdle in his office twice a month. Veteran A.J. Burnett is expected to be one member.  More on the meetings, from Kovacevic:

“Say whatever you want,” Hurdle said. “You’ve got something? I want to hear it.”

Even if it’s openly critical, such as, oh, pulling Wandy Rodriguez after 62⁄3 innings of seriously sharp pitching and costing the club a game in Cincinnati?

“Anything at all,” Hurdle said. “We might be in there five minutes, 15 minutes, all afternoon. Doesn’t matter. I want to hear it.”

Though the tactic is unique, it isn’t surprising coming from Hurdle, known as one of the most player-friendly managers across baseball. Its efficacy will be decided during the season, when the Pirates are faced with the usual adversity of a 162-game season.

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