Results tagged ‘ frank coonelly ’
Last week I asked President Frank Coonelly if the organization was comfortable with Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan as their closer for the 2011 season or if they would sign a veteran for the closers role (similar to 2010 with Octavio Dotel). This is what he had to say:
“Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek both have shown that they have the tools necessary to be quality closers. As a result, we would be comfortable relying on Joel and/or Evan closing games for us in 2011. Having said that, we are looking to add to our bullpen and if we were able to add an experienced closer, we would certainly consider making such an addition to the back of our bullpen.”
But how exactly will the Pirates determine who would be the better fit in the ninth inning? After Dotel was traded to the Dodgers, both Hanrahan and Meek split time closing out games. Joel did get more of the opportunities and seemed to be favored due to experience closing out games with the Nationals in 2008. Hanrahan was six-for-eight and Meek was three-for-three in the ninth inning role.
Evaluations are underway by the organization to decide before spring training who they want to be the closer for the 2011 season.
“That is one of about 104 questions for us to answer internally this off-season,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “I’m not a big fan of Spring Training competitions, because it’s so difficult to make an even playing field. So to make it a Spring Training competition, in our minds, is probably not the best way to go about it.
“It’s a tremendous situation to be in, because we feel comfortable with both guys coming back and closing games for us,” Huntington added. “Both deserve to close games for us. It’s certainly something that we’ll talk about a lot this off-season and work to come to the best answer that we can.”
Hanrahan has a mid 90′s fastball that on does reach 98, 99 and a nasty slider which gave him enough swings and misses to help him reach 100 strikeouts in a single season –a career high. Hanrahan ended the season with a 3.62 ERA.
Meek had a break out season –a 0.67 ERA which landed him a spot in the All-star game–. His fastball on average is 93-95 and can reach 96, 97 as well as a cut-fastball. Meek finished the season with a 2.14 ERA.
Both seem to have the mentality for the role and had no signs of control issues during the 2010 season.
“Really, it’s going to come down to who we want to give the ball to in the ninth inning,” Huntington said, noting the characteristics of both candidates. “There’s really not a huge separator that puts one guy over or under the other. We have two guys who are very capable.”
Regardless who the Pirates decide to choose for the closers role, having Meek and Hanrhan in the 8th and 9th inning is a huge weapon for the Bucs and one of the biggest strengths for the team.
President Frank Coonelly took part in his monthly chat on Wednesday. Some of the topics were on the manager vacancy, payroll increase and off-season plans. You can read the entire chat here. These are a few of the questions I thought were interesting.
I support this rebuilding process and am excited for the team in 2012 and beyond. That said, without giving a canned answer, are you going to add enough payroll to support a better team in 2011? Can we hope for at least a $50M payroll?
Coonelly: “I appreciate your support of our plan to return the Pirates to a championship caliber club and your recognition that such a plan necessarily takes time.”
“Notwithstanding what was a very disappointing season in 2010, we have made meaningful progress in upgrading the talent in our organization and over the last two years have added several of the most exciting young players in the National League, including Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez.”
“Speaking candidly, I have said that we have the capacity to add meaningfully to our 2011 payroll if we are able to secure players who will help us win in Pittsburgh. We have the capacity to have a payroll over $50 million and we’ll add those payroll dollars if we are able to bring in players that can help us win.”
What do you plan on doing to help the pitching situation for next year, as it was clearly our biggest weakness?
Coonelly: “There is no question that we need to improve our pitching in 2011, particularly our starting rotation. We have identified the starting rotation as a priority this off-season and we’ll aggressively pursue adding at least one starting pitcher during the off-season, either through a free-agent signing or a trade. Of course, the free-agent market for starting pitchers is rather thin this off-season and thus there is no guarantee that we will be able to add a free-agent starter who will be able to impact our roster.”
“Part of the solution, therefore, must be getting better performances from pitchers like Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, and, possibly, Charlie Morton and/or Brad Lincoln. James McDonald pitched well for us following his acquisition. Ohlendorf was pitching very well prior to being shut down with shoulder soreness and Charlie Morton, who is currently pitching in winter ball, looked like he was beginning to figure some things out as the season closed.”
“These pitchers and any offseason acquisitions should be pushed hard by the young arms (Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson and Jeff Locke) who helped the Altoona Curve win the Eastern League championship this year. In summary, we must pitch far better in 2011 and I am confident that we will.”
How confident is the organization with Hanrahan or Meek as the closer in 2011? Or will you shop for a veteran closer again (like 2010 with Dotel) until you feel one is ready?
Coonelly: ”Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek both have shown that they have the tools necessary to be quality closers. As a result, we would be comfortable relying on Joel and/or Evan closing games for us in 2011. Having said that, we are looking to add to our bullpen and if we were able to add an experienced closer, we would certainly consider making such an addition to the back of our bullpen.”
President Frank Coonelly on why the Pirates were taking so long to hire a new manager:
“First, we wanted to make sure we went through a very detailed and comprehensive search process that identified quality individuals who would be the right fit for the Pirates. Second, most clubs who are in the playoffs understandably will not grant permission to talk to one of their coaches until their post season run in complete, and we had an interest in talking with Clint Hurdle, the rangers hitting coach.”
“Now that the series is over, we are set to talk to Mr. Hurdle tomorrow and should be in a position to make a decision shortly thereafter.”
What are the Pirates looking for in a manager?
“Relentless and passionate teacher who will relentlessly pursue excellence throughout our organization. The manager who we hire must instill confidence and determination so that our players relentlessly pursue excellence in every aspect of their preparation and execution.”
On Wednesday afternoon, while unveiling a plaque dedicated to Bill Mazeroski, President Frank Coonelly made some interesting comments according to Jenifer Langosch.
“The 1960 team left an indelible mark on the city and left an indelible legacy for this city. It was a great Championship. The Pirates were an underdog team that beat the mighty Yankees.
“One reason that these men are so special to you is because in 1960, there hadn’t been a Championship in Pittsburgh in 35 years. The Pirates hadn’t won the World Series since 1925. When 1960 came around, this city was hungry for a Championship organization and a Championship team again. These gentlemen brought it to you and they really started the great legacy of the Pittsburgh Pirates that continued on to the 1970s.
“I mention that 35 years for a reason. Last year, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Championship, our last Championship. Now we’re 31 and we’re counting. I don’t intend for this young team that we’re building in Pittsburgh today to hit 35. I intend to beat that record of 35, and we’re going to get there before we hit the 35th anniversary.
“In that regard, quite a few members of the media are here and this will be a popular comment that I just made on the fly. I’ve been through that a few times already.”
Bold predictions by Coonelly, perhaps but like I have been saying, I expect (as long as the players continue to progress through the minors and the Pirates’ organization continue to build through the draft) that 2013 and 2014 could be great years for the Bucs.
President Frank Coonelly held his monthly online chat on Wednesday. If you missed it, here are a few of the interesting questions.
The team made some improvements and showed some growth, but has a glaring lack of starting pitching going into 2011. The team made some improvements and showed some growth, but has a glaring lack of starting pitching going into 2011.
“We agree that, despite what was an incredibly frustrating and disappointing season, a solid core of position players have emerged that showed growth in the system and are players about whom we are excited moving forward. For the second consecutive year, we had multiple players — this year Jose Tabata, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez — who should receive serious consideration for top rookie honors. I also agree that our pitching, particularly our starting pitching, was extremely poor and made it difficult for this team to win on a consistent basis. Fortunately, a strength of our Minor League system is the starting pitching that helped the Altoona Curve win the Eastern League this year, particularly Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke. While the strong performances of these young pitchers bode well for our rotation in the near future, it is far from certain that any of them will be ready to join the rotation out of Spring Training. As a result, we will look to add starting pitching this offseason, either through the free agent market or the trade market. James McDonald obviously was a bright spot after joining the rotation in August and Ross Ohlendorf, who pitched much better than his record would otherwise indicate, will be ready to rejoin the rotation in the spring. Our fans, including season-ticket holders like yourself, should know that one of Neal Huntington’s highest priorities this offseason is to improve the pitching staff.”
Do you see any of the current coaches being retained by the new manager?
“There are quality baseball men and quality individuals on our coaching staff who are highly valued by the organization. I certainly can foresee members of last year’s staff having a role on the staff in 2011 or otherwise within the organization. In fairness to the staff members, Neal informed them that they were free to explore other opportunities. But he also told them that they were highly valued by the organization and that we would working hard to select a new manager as expeditiously as possible so that we could provide them with a definitive answer in terms of their role with the Pirates.”
Are there any plans to move Pedro Alvarez, whose defense was suspect at times, to first base and sign a free-agent third baseman?
“There are no current plans to move Pedro to first base. Our focus remains putting Pedro in a position to stay at third base for his entire career. Pedro made several above-average-to-spectacular plays at third base this season but, at the same time, struggled at times. While this is not unexpected for a player in his first Major League season, we need Pedro and the rest of our fielders to play superior defense if we are going to play winning baseball. Pedro understands the importance of conditioning to his ability to stay at third base and we are confident that he will work extremely hard this offseason to put himself in a position to be an above-average defender at third base. As we have said, Pedro has all of the physical tools necessary to be an above-average defensive third baseman, and he is much more valuable to our organization if he is able to stay there. Pedro’s aspirations are aligned with ours in that he views himself as a third baseman and is determined to demonstrate that he should stay at third base. As you look at the list of free-agent players eligible this offseason, it is much easier to find a quality bat who can play first base on the free-agent market.”
Now that it has been confirmed (by Pirates’ President Frank Coonelly) that Andy Van Slyke has not been interviewed for the open manager position, there has been some other reports of potential candidates.
The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette is reporting these potential candidates:
· Baltimore Orioles coach and interim manager Juan Samuel –He told the Baltimore Sun that he is likely to interview soon with the Pirates’ and Brewers’.
· Ted Simmons –who was the Pirates’ General Manager from 1992-1993 and served as the Padres bench coach said:
“I made myself clear, I would hope to manage in the 2011 season. I would go and manage anywhere”
· John Farrell, the Red Sox pitching coach said:
“No official contact has been made — [and] any further comment regarding their position should come from the Pirates themselves.”
· Ken Macha, who will not return to the Brewers as Manager in 2011 said:
“The last time this job was open, I was home [and out of work in 2007]. My policy is, I’m not really going to politick in the paper. Let it all play out at their end. I respect what they’re going to do.” There was contact between he and the Pirates in ’05, but not ’07.
· Phil Garner, who was the member of the 1979 Pirates’ World Championship team and has also managed the Brewers, Tigers and most recently the Astros (2004-07) said on MLB Network radio that the Pirates have not called him but:
“I’d like to sit down with the owner and the GM and say, ‘OK, boys, how’s that [current approach] working for us? Let’s do something totally different. And I mean different training.’ I’ve got some ideas I don’t even want to talk about, because I don’t want anybody else to hear them.”
I asked President Frank Coonelly if he could confirm the Van Slyke rumor (being interviewed as potential manager position –check earlier post) and if he could discuss any other candidate for the job. This is what he said:
“I am not sure how that rumor started but it is not true. To date, the only candidate that we have interviewed has been Eric Wedge. We will announce to our fans each candidate that we interview at the completion of that interview.”
“Out of respect for the process, we will not be commenting further on the substance of individual interviews until a manager is selected. I know that Pirates fans are intensely interested in who the next manager of the club will be and we are intensely focused in selecting the person who can help lead the major league team to the championship caliber club that are Pirates fans deserve.”
Coonelly went on to say, “There is no set number of candidates that we are looking to interview. We were able to schedule an interview with Eric Wedge yesterday and did so immediately because Eric is a very qualified candidate who is also having discussions with other clubs. We are early in our process of compiling a complete list of candidates to consider. Once that complete list is compiled, we will have a better sense of the number of candidates to move to the next step of the interview process. Our focus is to consider all qualified candidates so that we find the right person to lead this young club.”
The decision of their fate could come after October 3rd, the final game of the Pirates season.
There has really been no indication of who will stay and who will go as of yet. But you can assume changes will be made to the staff after having a disastrous season.
One mostly likely to stay could be bench coach Jeff Bainster who has been in the Pirates organization for 25 years. (He was promoted in August after Gary Varsho was fired).
John Russell’s original staff –all hired in 2007– consist of: hitting coach Don Long, third base coach Tony Beasley and bullpen coach Luis Dorante.
“The staff-evaluation process is a challenge anytime you’re in a non-winning environment,” Huntington said. “When you transition the club toward youth essentially three times in three years, with the number of players we’ve been through, the coaching changes we made in the middle of the season, we’ve certainly added to the challenge in evaluating our coaches.”
General Manager Neal Huntington did express the importance of good signs from the team through the remainder of the season.
“It’s important for us not only to continue to work hard but also to make a positive impact on these players, to get them to grow up individually and collectively.
“We look forward to the time where wins and losses become the primary evaluation tool. We’re not there. There’s a lot more that will go into the evaluation of our organization as a whole.”
John Russell’s does have a contract through 2011 but President Frank Coonelly has said, “nobody’s job is absolutely safe” even if they have a contract next season