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Hurdle happy with effort on fundamental drills

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Clint Hurdle has gotten an extended chance to see through the rebirth of the Pirates, who announced an extension to his contract as manager on Tuesday.

Hurdle, 55, was approaching the final year of the three-year contract he signed in November 2010. The 2014 option in that agreement has been exercised, and added was a club option for 2015.

"I feel privileged to have the opportunity to continue and finish what we started," said Hurdle. "There's no place I would rather be than in a Pirates uniform. I'm very humbled, and really look forward to the challenge in front of us."

Should he finish out the length of the contract, including the option year, Hurdle would become the first manager to serve a five-season stint with the Bucs since Jim Leyland guided them from 1986-96.

"We feel it's a good match, with my situation," said general manager Neal Huntington, himself given an extension through 2014 with an option for 2015 late during the 2011 season. "This is something we all felt more comfortable with.

"This is a conversation we've pretty much had since the day we hired him: When is the right time to put that extra year in place? And we felt now is the right time," Huntington added.

It was a quick process. According to Hurdle, the subject was first raised about a week ago, when Spring Training camp opened, and the conversations leading to the agreement occurred within the last 48 hours.

"There weren't really a lot of negotiations," Hurdle said. "A contract needs to work for everybody: For Bob (club chairman Bob Nutting), for Neal, for myself, and for the coaching staff and players."

"Clint Hurdle has played a significant role in the transition of an organization that has improved at the Major League level by 22 wins over the past two seasons," Huntington had said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "Clint's leadership, infectious positive energy, passion and knowledge transcend the clubhouse and we believe he is the right man to help us return championship-caliber baseball to Pittsburgh."

Hurdle's Pirates reached a peak of 16 games over .500 last season, when they sported a winning record for a stretch of 107 days through Sept. 18, though ultimately the club finished with a losing record for a 20th consecutive season.

However, the 79 wins marked an improvement over the 72 wins of 2011, which came following 105 losses in the season prior to Hurdle's appointment.

Hurdle's rally cry in 2012 following a similar late-season fade in 2011 had been, "Finish!"

With 685 wins as a big league manager, Hurdle will enter the season 15 victories shy of becoming the 11th active manager with at least 700 wins in the Major Leagues.

"We love Pittsburgh, absolutely," Hurdle said on Monday, including wife Karla and younger children Madison and Christian in that sentiment. "This is your opportunity to be a small part of a group accomplishing a goal. From the first day I took this job, I said I wanted to reconnect the city with its baseball team.

"There's still unfinished business, we haven't yet gotten where we want to get, but I think we did re-ignite the fan base to some degree."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.