LOS ANGELES -- Early arriving media and maintenance crews saw the Pirates revive a lost practice at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday: Infield.Clint Hurdle's Bucs are one of the very few Major League teams that still regularly take infield practice, once a normal part of all clubs' tuneup routines, preempted in most places by grounds-crew work and large-scale pregame entertainment. "We take it every day at home, and we generally find time to jam one in during road series," Hurdle said. "I just think that repetition is needed. "We make sure everyone in the infield gets to make a ton of throws, to keep everything fresh. It's basic -- guys throwing balls to other guys -- but you've got to practice that." Although Hurdle has always maintained that philosophy, the reps are even more practical with the moving parts at the corners of the current Pittsburgh infield. Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee and Matt Hague have all seen considerable action at first base, and McGehee has alternated at third with Pedro Alvarez.
McLouth breaks into Bucs' starting lineup
LOS ANGELES -- Nate McLouth, easily the most multitasking outfielder in the Majors, is getting his first start of the season on Wednesday night, replacing Jose Tabata in right field against the Dodgers and right-hander Chad Billingsley.McLouth enters the game with only one at-bat off the bench, but manager Clint Hurdle's commitment to keep his reserves fresh made it inevitable that he would soon break into the starting lineup. "McLouth has to play also. He's a guy who can flex against Billingsley," Hurdle said. "It gave Tabata [a] chance to come out and get in some work early." McLouth enters the game lifetime 4-for-13 off Billingsley. "I know my job is to be ready when I'm called on," McLouth said. The once-again Pirate is not only the team's fourth outfielder, but also its fifth and sixth outfielder. Although Josh Harrison and Yamaico Navarro could both be used in a corner in a pinch, the Bucs are carrying only four outfielders. And neither of them is a fit for center, McLouth's original position. Conversely, he was starting in right for only the 27th time in his career, compared to 506 in center and 37 in left.
Walker making strides defensively
LOS ANGELES -- People who have followed Neil Walker's vagabond defensive career -- a journey from behind the plate, to third base, to second base -- were shaking their heads in admiration by the time Tuesday afternoon's game had ended.Somewhere, Bill Mazeroski may have even been allowing himself a little silent gloat. Walker, who still qualifies as a novice second baseman, made three exceptional plays, all strikingly different as further illustration of how far he has come at the position: In the second inning, he outran first baseman Garrett Jones for Juan Rivera's foul pop, winding up splattered face-first atop the tarp covering adjacent to the box seats after making the catch. Later in the second, with two outs and runners at the corners, he dove to smother Clayton Kershaw's grounder up the middle and flipped to short for the force. In the fourth, with a man on first and none out, Rivera hit a medium-strong grounder to third that seemed unlikely to result in a double play; however, Walker took Casey McGehee's feed and his hands-and-feet flashed the pivot quick enough to convert. "Neil's positioning is better. He knows his pitchers and the hitters better," said manager Clint Hurdle. "He's worked on his flexibility, and losing his rigidity when turning the double play. "I see big improvements. All the work in Spring Training with Mazeroski has helped him a great deal. He's just showing more athletic ability. He's learning the position at the Major League level, which is unheard of."
A.J. Burnett hit the first bump on his comeback trail to the Pirates rotation, getting worked over on Wednesday night in his second rehab start for Class-A Bradenton. Pitching in Palm Beach against the Cardinals, Burnett worked a 1-2-3 first, but got hooked midway through a nine-run second and was charged with eight hits and five runs in 1 2/3 innings. He got four of the five outs on strikeouts. Andrew McCutchen has bounced into three double plays in 15 at-bats through the season's fourth game. Last season, he grounded into seven DPs in 572 at-bats. Celebrate this: In Dodger Stadium's first 50 seasons, the leading hitter (minimum 120 plate appearances) is Roberto Clemente, who hit .377 in Chavez Ravine. The Last Word: "If you're thinking 'stinking,' you're not going to succeed." -- Clint Hurdle, on a positive mindset's role in success.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.