Pirates hire Jeff Branson as assistant hitting coach

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Per Tom Singer of MLB.com, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said at PirateFest today that Jeff Branson has been hired as the team’s assistant hitting coach.

Branson, who played in the majors with the Reds, Indians and Dodgers, has served as the hitting coach with Triple-A Indianapolis for the past four seasons. He already has experience with some of the team’s young hitters, so it should be a natural transition. He’ll join first time hitting coach Jay Bell, who was hired in late October after Gregg Ritchie stepped down to take the head coach job at George Washington University.

Bell and Branson will be tasked with getting more out of an offense which ranked 27th in on-base percentage, 25th in batting average and OPS and 23rd in runs scored in 2012.

Report: MLB likely to unilaterally implement pace of play changes

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that talks between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association concerning pace of play changes have stalled, which makes it more likely that commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally implements the changes he seeks. Those changes include a pitch clock and a restriction on catcher mound visits.

Manfred said, “My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players. But if we can’t get an agreement, we are going to have rule changes in 2018, one way or the other.”

The players have made several suggestions aimed at reducing the length of games, such as amending replay review rules, strictly monitoring down time between innings, and bringing back bullpen carts.

It is believed that MLB is proposing a pitch clock of 20 seconds. If a pitcher takes too long between pitches, he will have a ball added to the count. If the hitter takes too long, then he will have a strike added to the count.