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Pirates notebook: Clint Hurdle says Austin Meadows could play ‘7 of 10 days’ | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Pirates notebook: Clint Hurdle says Austin Meadows could play ‘7 of 10 days’

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Austin Meadows steals second base next to the Cardinals' Kolten Wong during the fourth inning Sunday, May 27, 2018, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Austin Meadows makes his way to left field during a game against the Cardinals Sunday, May 27, 2018, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Austin Meadows plays left field in front of the Left Field Loonies' Ross Morgan during a game against the Cardinals Sunday, May 27, 2018, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Austin Meadows smiles in the dugout during a game against the Padres Sunday, May 20, 2018, at PNC Park.

Through his first 10 days with the Pirates, Austin Meadows has maintained the wide-eyed, enthusiasm of a rookie grateful to have earned an opportunity to play in the big leagues.

He mainly has been a center fielder in his pro career, but he’s happy to man the corner positions for the Pirates as he did Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals when he played left field.

“The more you can do,” he said before getting two singles and a sacrifice fly in three at-bats.

Manager Clint Hurdle made it clear Meadows is not merely filling in when the other outfielders need a break.

That situation would seriously curtail Meadows’ playing time if Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are playing well.

General manager Neal Huntington said Meadows’ presence allows Hurdle to monitor the playing time of Marte, who just came off the disabled list Saturday, and Dickerson, who was a part-time designated hitter in the American League the past two seasons.

It also could buy time until Gregory Polanco, hitting .205, ends his slump.

But Huntington is making Meadows no promises.

“He could be here for the rest of the year. He could be one of our next moves,” he said.

Meanwhile, Meadows will play.

“Playing every day at the minor league level has value, but what does playing every day mean?” Hurdle said. “Playing seven out of 10 days at the major league level is way better for me, as far as the opportunity for development, learning, challenge, than Triple-A assignments.”

Will he actually play seven of 10 days?

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think he could,” Hurdle said.

Meadows said nothing changes for him, other than attempting to master all three outfield positions.

“The preparation is the same,” he said. “Preparing like I’m going to play, even if I’m not in the lineup that day.

“Going out there early, preparing, knowing how the ball hits off the wall. Knowing each and every position. You never know where I’m going to be at. It’s an exciting process to say the least.”

Left field at PNC Park offers unique challenges with a 6-foot wall that starts at 325 feet on the line and gradually goes to 389 and 410 at the North Side Notch in left-center.

Hurdle’s lived it

Hurdle said he will be careful not to put Meadows — or anyone — in the lineup after an extended absence. It’s a lesson he learned during his 10-year playing career when he averaged 51 games a season.

“It comes down to experience, awareness and knowing your players,” he said. “I’ve been a guy who’s hit after not playing for 15, 16 days off the closer with runners on second and third and two outs. And everybody’s cheering for you in the dugout and then you ground out to second, and you get back there and there’s nobody in the dugout.

“It’s a very hollow feeling and one I revisit to never be that guy to put him in that situation.”

Day of rest

Dickerson only pinch-hit Sunday as Hurdle attempted to avoid what happened to the left fielder after the 2017 All-Star break when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dickerson’s batting average (.312 to .241), RBIs (42 to 20), home runs (17 to 10) and doubles (24 to 9) were among the statistics that fell.

Dickerson played 298 games the past two seasons, but he was a designated hitter or pinch-hitter in 147 of those. This season, he has played left field in 46 of the first 52 games.

Hurdle said there’s no limit on the number games he wants Dickerson to play.

“We didn’t set the limit. We’re trying to create a new limit for him,” he said.

Nova still hurting

Ivan Nova said there was no improvement or regression to the sprained ring finger on his pitching hand.

The Pirates still list Nova as the starting pitcher against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, but he could end up on the disabled list before then.

Asked if he still plans to pitch, Nova said, “I have to get with Clint. If I can pitch, I can pitch. If not, we have to make a decision.”

Said Hurdle: “Nothing has changed at this point. We’re still walking through options.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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