Results tagged ‘ neal huntington ’
Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington chatted with Jim Duquette and Jody McDonald of MLB Network radio’s Baseball Today on Sunday. He discussed: Clint Hurdle’s energy, the impact by the new Veterans, the closers role, young prospects who could make their debuts, and a possible long term extension with Andrew McCutchen.
On Clint Hurdle’s energy: “It’s great to know that we got Clint leading this group and the excitement, the enthusiasm, knowledge, the passion, and the intensity he brings, it’s going to be different for our players. We felt like we needed a new voice, new direction and not only with Clint but with our staff. We got a great staff in place. Our guys are excited. They are looking forward to this year. Looking forward to surprising some people.”
On the reason Huntington sough out Veterans Matt Daiz and Lyle Overbay: “Obviously, coming off a tough season, we wanted to get better. We knew we needed to upgrade our rotation, try to upgrade our bullpen, wanted some offensive ability. We wanted to improve our defense. When you win 57 games you pretty much need to improve everywhere. We had a lot of great young players who we’re excited about. This group of 25 and under both at the major league level and through our system is going to be the foundation of our future success. We are hoping we can have some current success. Guys like [Kevin] Correia, [Scott] Olsen, can add some veteran presence to our rotation. We got some guys that are competing to make our bullpen whether, it’s [Joe] Beimel or [Jose] Veras, that can help out [Joel] Hanrahan and [Evan] Meek, who were so good for us last year. Overbay, we upgrade defensively at first base with Garrett Jones in a platoon situation in right field…We put Garret in a position to be successful. Then we added Matt Diaz and all of a sudden we have a very productive right field…You talk to the people that were around that Atlanta [Braves] club, whether it’s front office people, people in the dugout, people around that club, Matt was one of their leaders last year. Lyle is a constant professional. And we needed to help Neil Walker and Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen, take some of the pressure off them. Let them go play and provide some of that veteran leadership to help them mature both on the field and off.”
On what Huntington is looking for this spring, compared to last: “I think our guys believe that we’re ready to start taking a huge step forward. In the past we hoped. And we kind of looked around and wondered who the guy was, that was going to put the team on his back and carry it. Now, we got a handful of guys that are capable of doing that…Talking with our guys, reading their quotes in the papers, they believe we can take a huge step forward this year. Clint’s only going to foster that. Our staff is only going to help that. There’s no question; we need to take a big step forward this year.”
On if there is an open competition between Hanrahan and Meek for the closers role at spring training: “We are going to go with one guy. We have not announced it publicly first. We honestly spent more time trying to see if there was a veteran closer, as we have with Octavio Dotel last year. That would come in here and close out some games, and allow Clint to use meek and Hanrahan anywhere through the sixth through the eighth. That worked out really well for us…We weren’t able to do that. Our energy and our focus has been on preparing for spring training. It’s been on trying to recruit some guys to try to come in here and step forward. We will meet as a staff, Clint, and Ray Searage and I will sit down and we will identify who is going to be our closer. No it won’t be an open competition at spring training. It’s too tough…It’s not like we got a bad choice. Whichever guy we go with, we believe can close games at the major league level and believe will do a nice job for us…We will commit to somebody and over an extended period of time and they will get the opportunity to show us that they can hold the job. The other guy is going to be getting big outs for us in the seventh or the eighth inning.”
On what young prospects could make their debuts this year: “Any of that rotation that was in Double-A last year that led that club to the Eastern League Championship. Whether it’s Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson, or Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke, there may be some of the guys out of the bullpen that get here quicker. Danny Moskos has great stuff from the left side, we just got to build that confidence that allows him to feel like his stuff can compete. There may be a couple guys that kind of surprise some people. Position player wise, there are some guys moving up from that group. Gorkys Hernandez, Andrew Lambo that are probably a little ways away. There is a good wave of talent coming through…If those guys don’t show up instantaneously, it’s not Sidney Crosby or Lebron James, that show up at the highest level on the day that they sign. It takes years. For Pedro Alvarez to get here in essentially in two calendar years is quick decent. We are looking forward to that next group of guys from the ’08 draft and ’08 signing class getting here.”
On Chris Snyder’s key to getting back to past years: “We traded for Chris to help our pitching staff. To stabilize the game calling, to stabilize our young starters, to help them get through tough innings, to help them get through tough outings. Whether it was the pitching coach change or Chris Synder traded for in late July, it did that. Our starting pitchers really threw the ball much better in August and September…He’s excited to get a full offseason of workouts. He’s coming, from what we’ve been told, in very good shape….In last offseason, his offseason was impacted by the back surgery and this is his first real healthy offseason in a while. He’s fired up to come in and help us.”
On potentially doing a long term deal with Andrew McCutchen: “They key to any of those situations is; One: the club wants it to happen, and we do. Two: the player wanting it to happen and that doesn’t always happen. Contracts take a willingness to share a risk of these type of situations. In some cases the club isn’t willing to take on that risk and other cases the player isn’t willing to compromise his potential future earnings value. He’s not interested in the security, he’d rather go out and see how much he can make year in and year out. Or, he doesn’t feel it’s the right time…It is something we absolutely intend to do. But the only way these deals get done is if two sides are interested in it.”
On what starter needs to step up this year: “…We need a multitude of guys to step forward. We need Paul Maholm to do what Paul Maholm did, whether it’s in ’08 or at least in ’09 and not what he did in ’10…Kevin Correia, we are looking forward for him to bounce back two what he was in ’09 given a very tough 2010 season both on and off the field. Charlie Morton has got tremendous stuff, yeah we need Charlie to take a step up. We need Ross Ohlendorf to stay healthy the whole year. We need to give him some run support. James McDonald. Can he do what he did for us the last two months of the season? Can he do that over the course of the season? Scott Olsen. Can we get that stuff to play on a consistent basis and get him back healthy. Can we get Brad Lincoln back to where he was? The nice part is, here comes that Owens, Wilson, Locke, Morris group that if we have some struggles, we’ve got some depth. Jeff Karstens did a nice job through five innings, as pretty much as anybody in baseball, just seemed to hit a wall in that sixth and seventh inning. The reality is, there isn’t just one person that needs to step forward for us to go where we believe we can go. We are going to need a couple guys to step up.”
Ryan Doumit’s role for the 2011 season is a significant down grade compared to the years past. If he remains a Pirate for opening day, he will be seeing limited plate appearances, as a back-up catcher and a pinch hit/bench guy. And dare I say it? First baseman and right fielder on occasion.
There is still a chance Doumit could be moved before the season starts, however, according to Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.
“There have been feelers, both ways. I remember Neal Huntington quoted (I think it was in a Hot Stove piece) about “the right fit” for Doumit. And Neal went on to say that “right fit” could be some different roles in Pittsburgh or, perhaps, in another city. Logic yields that Doumit is being shopped. I would say there is a good chance other teams want to see him in Spring Training; want to see him healthy and in-person and then might be a bit more aggressive with a play for him. I said it before, though: I really wonder how much the head-injury stuff is holding some teams back.”
Former Pirates’ manager Chuck Tanner passed away on Friday at the age of 82.
Tanner managed the Pirates from 1977-85, and led the “We are family” Bucs to a World Series title in 1979 by defeating the Baltimore Orioles. The Pirates rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win the title in seven games.
Tanner also managed the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and Atlanta Braves. He retired with a managerial record of 1352-1381.
A native of the Pittsburgh suburb of New Castle, Tanner’s playing career lasted eight years. He played the outfield for the Braves, Angeles, Indians and Cubs.
Tanner most recently served as a senior adviser to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.
“The news of Chuck’s passing at the age of 81 was met today with heavy hearts by everyone within the Pirates organization,” team president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. “Chuck was much more than a highly successful major league manager who guided the Pirates to the World Series championship in 1979, he was an integral and loved member of the Pirates family.”
“Chuck was a class act who always carried himself with grace, humility and integrity. While no one had a sharper baseball mind, Chuck was loved by his players and the city of Pittsburgh because he was always positive, enthusiastic and optimistic about his Bucs and life in general,” said Pirates president Frank Coonelly.
“My early memories of the Pirates organization are of Chuck’s teams, the way they played the game and the genuine affection they seemed to have for each other,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “This made an impression on me and never did I imagine that I would have a chance to work with Chuck himself.”
Tommy Lasorda tweeted upon hearing the news of Tanner’s death: “Rest in Peace Chuck Tanner. I loved you like a brother. You taught me a lot about managing, and I always appreciated it.”
“The Tanner family would like to express their sincere thanks to friends, fans, and the entire baseball community for their thoughts and prayers during Chuck’s recent illness,” Bruce Tanner said. “He will forever be remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather to his family, and a good friend to every life he touched. In baseball we will remember his eternal optimism and his passion for the game.”
Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle was a guest on MLB Network radio’s Power Alley with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy on Thursday. He discussed priorities, expectations for the 2011 season, the “oh no’ coach, his time in Colorado and Michael Young’s impact with the Texas Rangers.
On Hurdle’s priorities as the Pirates manager: “Priority No. 1 for me was getting to know personnel. Getting to know the front office. More than just the interview process. Getting to know the people up top. Getting to know Bob Nutting and Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington along with all the other employees. Also then reaching out to the player personnel group. Finding out who we have, who they are. One of the things I’ve really tried to do, probably the last 10 or 12 years of my coaching career and managerial career, get to know people and try to capture their heart. Not capture their skill set. I was a player a long, long time ago…The coaches that impacted me, actually reached out to me, got to know me and the skill set would follow…Getting to know our players. Getting to know the people I’m working with and for. Just trying to capture their hearts and get this thing focused on a winning mentality, a championship mentality and re-bond the city with the baseball team.”
“I think that there’s a whole bunch of things that come with it, as you start to prioritize. I try to keep things simple at the same time. No. 1 it’s to get to know people. I think that by getting to know people you establish trust. Without trust you got no shot at anything…It’s my job to establish trust. These people know who I am, what I am, want to be transparent. From there, you try to engage in the human part of it. Then you go to the professional part of it. What do our priorities need to be to improve our ball club, to set our sights on a championship organization. First and foremost, it’s off the mound. So much good work has been done here in Pittsburgh the last three seasons. Greg Smith, the scouting director, Kyle Stark, our farm director, and all our player development people and scouts. They’ve spent more money in baseball then anybody in baseball in the last three years in the draft. Those players are pluged into our development system. Now we have some people in the major league level that are making noise. We need to start focusing on our major league club winning ball games…We need to focus on a championship mentality winning ball games. How do we do that, first and foremost, off the mound.”
On getting to know the players and their feelings on the club and organization: “I think one of the things that when I walked away from every conversation, it was very refreshing…More often than not, when you ask about a season, more specifically a season with a 105 losses which everybody took ownership of. Not one person, not one man pointed the finger at another man, another coach, another manager, anybody in the front office…I’ve been in great situations, but I don’t know if I could ever say I’ve had those conversations across the board. Nobody threw somebody under the bus…These guys took ownership of it. They’re young men and a few guys with some leadership skills and been around, but they took ownership of it. We just got to get better, I need to do this. I need to do that. We need to do this. That was as refreshing as any coversation I could have had.”
On Hurdle’s realistic expectations for 2011: “…We’re going to develop a championship mentality. I talked with these players about winning the NL Central. Where that ends up, I don’t know but that needs to be our sight. That needs to be where we set the bar. We need to hold ourselves to major league championship level of execution across the board. What, are we going to get shirts printed up that say ‘hey, Let’s break the streak’ ‘let’s finish 3rd‘. I don’t got no time for that, they have no time for that. That is the kind of conversation that’s been had. People are going to believe, people aren’t going to believe. We understand the emotions here in the city with the fan base. It’s been tough sledding for a long time…I need to put the responsibility on my shoulders. This is what we are going to do, this is how we are going to this, this is why we are going to do it. And if that doesn’t happen, then look to me and look no further. I don’t want our men trying to…let’s play .500, let’s when 84 games. No, we don’t need men on our club that got that mentality going.”
On his experience playing with different managers in his career: “…A lot of managers I had did really well, basically a lot of managers did this really well, they did get to know you. They got to know what you liked to do. They maybe find out your wife’s name, or your kids name, or hobbies. We’ve all had that coach…When you saw him coming, you went, ‘oh no.’ We’ve all had ‘oh no’ coach. I’ve been encouraged, I’ve encouraged my coaches, and myself, I don’t want to be the ‘oh no’ guy. When I walk up to a player I want him to be, eye’s open…gosh, I wonder what he’s got today. He’s got something for me today.”
“I don’t have an ‘oh no’ coach. All these guys got clean slates. That’s one of the refreshing things about putting a staff together and actually having another opportunity to do this. You hope you learn some lessons over time. You hope there are some things you can improve upon and encourage my coaches. This is all about coaching men up. This is all about helping them grow up help build their talents. I believe on and off the field. That’s truly something we are holding fast to here…There are two kind of coaches I don’t want; I don’t want the ‘oh no’ coach and I don’t want the ‘cool coach’. I’ve probably been both coaches. But it was brought to my attention very early and you realize the error of your ways…There are certain things a manager needs to know and there are certain things he doesn’t need to know. I think one of the real blessings I got last year was, I think I was in the best position to coach hitters last year than I ever have been in the five previous years, because I got to sit in that managers seat for seven years.”
On what he took from his experience in Colorado: “The one big nugget I’ve taken from Colorado was It was a very humbling opportunity to be a small part of something that had so much significance to so many people, that 2007 season. There was so much hard work done by so many people that goes unnoticed in an organization when your re-building. To try to re-identify a brand, a logo, a team. To have that level of success is very humbling. At the same time, I think I learned on the way out that it was a very good experience for me…When I was fired from Colorado I felt that it was the most important day of my managerial career. In the fact that, for eight years I preached continuity. I had preached team, unselfishness, organization first. I felt the way I walked out was a say on anything I did on the field for seven years before. If you walk out yelling, kicking and screaming, pointing fingers, that just pollutes the message that I tried to leave seven years before hand. You leave professionally. You hand the keys over to Jim Tracy, who is a good baseball man and a very good manager. And you let everybody go about their business and you find the next thing to do. That’s what I learned from there.”
On Michael Young’s impact to the Rangers: “One of the things you need on a very good ball club, on a championship caliber ball club and in the clubhouse is a guy that will stand up and take heat off all the other guys when its not good. When your not playing well, when your not hitting, whatever’s going on…Michael would always be up front. He was the first guy up. He accessed the situation, honestly. He’d self evaluate himself and the team. And just talk about just what we need to do to get better. Never lay blame. That for me, was as big as anything he did for that ball club throughout the season. He was always up front. Defending the criticism. Taking a stand for the team or owning up when we weren’t playing well. You need that guy.”
The Pirates and Ross Ohlendorf went to an arbitration hearing on Tuesday and on Wednesday afternoon it was confirmed that the arbitrators sided with Ohlendorf, who will make $2.025 million for 2011.
The Pirates initially offered the right-hander $1.4 million.
Ohlendorf went 1-11 with an 4.07 ERA in 21 starts for the Pirates. Due to several injuries, Ross only pitched 108.1 innings. He made $439,000.
“While disappointed with the result, we respect the process and the work that the arbitrators do for the parties,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “We look forward to a healthy and winning season from Ross in 2011.”
John Perrotto of BaseballProspectus.com made a good point after the news was announced.
He tweeted: “Ross Ohlendorf’s arbitration win yet another victory for those who understand a pitcher has little control over W-L record.”
“Yes, Ohlendorf was 1-11 but ERA was 4.07, just .05 above the National League average of 4.02. Was obviously better than 1-11.”
Now that the superbowl is over we can all focus on our national pastime. Just seven days until pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton, FL. And 21 days until I head down for coverage.
Here are some Bucco news and notes:
- General Manager Neal Huntington told Pirates beat reporter Jenifer Langosch that the pieces are finally in place for the organization to move forward in a positive direction.
“We’ve talked a lot about where we’ve been,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “I feel stronger about our plan. I feel stronger about our vision. I feel stronger about our execution than I’ve ever felt. I stand in front of you more excited about our season than I have ever in the three other times I’ve stood here. We’re beginning to now talk about the Major League team.”
- Pirates catching prospect Tony Sanchez, who arrived at spring training early, caught his first bullpen this season on Monday. He said on twitter, “First time catching pens today since Nov. It’s like riding a bike. Caught Jeff Locke and Hunter Strickland, both looked pretty damn sharp.”
Have you ever wondered what those semi trucks that are heading down to spring training are full of? Well, MLB Network’s Monday edition of Hot Stove revealed some of the items that the Phillies sent to sunny Florida.
15 cases of gum (regular and sugarless)
12 cases of sunflower seeds
Half a pallet of powerade mix
250 batting practice tops
250 pairs of shorts
450 pirates of socks
600 pairs of pants
150 pairs of gloves
Kevin Correia had a difficult year both on and off the mound. After finishing the season 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA (he went 12-11 with a 3.97 ERA in 2009) Correia used this offseason to deal with the death of his younger brother.
In May, Trevor Correia fell off a cliff while hiking at Channel Islands National Park in Santa Barbara, Ca. Kevin was scheduled to start the next day against the Houston Astros.
After taking a week of bereavement leave, Correia started against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 15th and allowed four runs in 5.1 innings.
The Padres were in the mist of an unbelievable season, leading the National League West. Correia’s week leave wasn’t enough time to come to grips with the loss of his brother and he felt a responsibility to continue to go out to the mound.
“It was tough,” he said. “It was the middle of the season and I still had work to do, so I had to push it back as far as I could. It’s hard to really focus on the games. It’s hard to put your whole heart into it.”
Correia believes that after coming to peace with his loss, he can live up to his potential.
“I was able to sit back and figure things out,” he said. “In the long run, that will make me stronger and better from a baseball standpoint. I can go out there and know it’s not a do-or-die situation. There are other things in life that are more important. It frees me to go out there and maybe do some stuff I wasn’t able to do before.”
The 30-year-old right-hander was non tendered by the Padres in November, and was on General Manager Neal Huntingon’s radar.
“Our scouts saw almost the exact same stuff they saw during his success in 2009,” Huntington said. “The huge bump in his ERA was due to a lot of factors beyond his control.”
“We saw some very positive signs,” he said. “There’s every reason in the world to believe he’ll have a solid bounce-back year and again be that guy who has a chance to win every time he takes the ball.”
The Pirates signed Correia to a two-year $8 million contract in December.
After spending the weekend at Piratefest, meeting his new teammates and the fans of Pittsburgh, Correia is excited for the new season to start. “Coming to an event like this, it helps me flip the switch,” he said. “I’m excited to get back out there and throw the ball again.”
On Sunday, the three day indoor baseball carnival –known as priatefest– came to a close. Whether it was the excitement for the young Bucs, the bright future, or the love the city of Pittsburgh has for black and yellow, fans flocked the David L. Lawerence convention center this weekend. 16,839 were in attendance –the highest since 2003.
“That was probably my and [general manager] Neal [Huntington's] greatest recruiting tool to get Clint [Hurdle] to come to Pittsburgh — the fans,” Frank Coonelly said at PirateFest this weekend. “This is not just a great sports town. It’s a great Pirates town.”
“These fans are still passionate about what we do,” Neal Huntington said. “As we start to win, they’re going to come out and fill this place, and it’s going to be an electric place to be.”
Ross Ohlendorf, Garrett Jones, Evan Meek, Neil Walker, James McDonald, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln and Paul Maholm were the players that attended this years Piratefest.
Here are some highlights from the Q&A sessions:
- On what career they would peruse if they weren’t a ballplayer: Charlie Morton- Something in music. Andrew McCutchen- I’d be Morton’s producer (Morton is actually a pretty good singer/guitar player. He played at last year’s pirate fest. Click here for videos from it.)
- On Morton’s rebound season in 2011: “I’m excited and I’m ready to move on from last year.”
- When the players were asked who their favorite football team was, Jose Tabata said: “My name is Jose Tabata and I’m from Venezuela and I like black and yellow.”
*Reports during mini camp were that Jose Tabata had bulked up this offseason in hopes to add more power to his bat. They weren’t kidding. I took a close up of Tabata so you could see just how much muscle he packed on.
Here are some highlights from the Management Q&A sessions:
- General Manager Neal Huntington mentioned pitchers Rudy Owens and Daniel Moskos as two prospects that have a good chance to make major league appearances in 2011.
- Clint Hurdle has known left-hander Joel Beimel for 17 years. “He has a heart for the area. He wants to be a part of the group that turns this thing around.”
- On if the Pirates will break the 18-year losing streak in 2011: “I can’t see why not. Why can’t we?” -Clint Hurdle
- On the way Pittsburgh has really embraced Clint Hurdle as the new Manager: “I’m humbled by the reception I’ve gotten. I’m proud to be a Pittsburgh Pirate.”
- On a comparison of the Pirates to the San Diego Padres team from 2010: “They had a winning mentality, we didn’t.” -President Frank Coonelly
- In order to help the Pirates play better on the road, Hurdle said he was going to have the players write down their home vs. road routines in order to adjust the mind set.
Manager Clint Hurdle and Bench Coach Jeff Banister taught a youth baseball clinic on Sunday.
Some highlights during the young camp:
- “I don’t have a world series ring either (referring to when a fan asked if Bench coach Jeff Banister had a World Series ring) I’ve been to the world series three times. Four times a charm. I’ve heard that somewhere.” -Manager Clint Hurdle
- A fan asked Manager Clint Hurdle about Pedro Alvarez’s recent weight game due to Holidays, offseason and recent honeymoon, “I’d be 40 pounds over weight…Pedro’s going to be fine.”
Here are several more pictures from Piratefest:
These are the new 2011 batting pratice jersey’s for the Pirates.
Pirates Double-A Altoona Curve had a station set up for the weekend. Here is the 2010 Eastern League Championship flag.
*On a side note. I was overwhelmed by how many great fans came up to me that said they are a reader of my blog. I can’t thank you guys enough for all the support. I hope to continue covering the Pirates and bringing you all the buzz all season (and offseason) long.
On Friday (Day one of Piratefest) myself and several Pirates bloggers (Pirates Prospects, Rumbunter, Bucs Dugout, Pittsburgh Lumber Co.) were invited to a sit down interview with Pitcher Paul Maholm, General Manager Neal Huntington and President Frank Coonelly.
On whether he pitches differently because of poor infield defense: “No. I’m a ground ball pitcher. I’m going to keep throwing ground balls.”
Maholm isn’t a big strike out guy. He went on to say, “Last year was sad that [Joel] Hanrahan almost got me in the strike out category. We were neck and neck, sweating it out.”
On if he has a different approach this offseason due to roller coaster 2010 season: “As far as training and everything? No. I have a trainer. I go in there and do what he says. It’s been different exercises. But still the same mechanics. The same goals, training wise. Throwing off the mound is mainly fastball command. I haven’t thrown any other pitches yet. Trying to make sure I am good to go.”
On Pitching Coach Ray Searage’s approach compared to others he’s worked with: “I’ve known Ray for about eight years now. He knows my mechanics. We just kind of ‘go pitch’. I tell everybody who’s about to work with him, ‘If you’re ever feeling bad about yourself, go throw a bullpen with Ray.’ He’s the most energetic guy to be around. As pitchers, you need plenty of confidence and he’s going to be there.”
On Manager Clint Hurdle wanting the starters to pitch deeper into games: “I’m not a happy camper if I go 60 or 80 pitches. I expect to go deep into games. To me, 100-120 pitches a normal outing. We got to get deeper into the games so that the back of the bullpen stays fresh.”
On potentially being traded: “I’m here. My number one goal is to win. But I also want to be the team that wins here. I think the fans deserve it. I want to be here but I have no control over it. It’s not bothering me, I’m going to prepare. If Neal [Huntington] and them [President Frank Coonelly and Owner Bob Nutting] want to approach to me about staying, I’m all for it. It’s in their hands. I’m here until otherwise.”
On the recent reports of Pedro Alvarez’s 15 pound weight gain: “Let the guy play … there’s plenty of people in baseball who aren’t the prototypical athlete… He’s a good third baseman. He gets to a lot of balls, he has a great arm … Don’t try to bash him for his weight.”
General Manager Neal Huntington:
On the reports of Pedro Alvarez’s 15 pound weight gain: “It’s not completely accurate. Pedro’s not where we need him to be but it’s not as desperate as maybe that article [PiratesReport.com] seemed it is.”
Huntington did not give an exact number on how over weight he is but did say, “He’s not where we have concerns. He’s not enough where we don’t think we can get him to where he needs to be.”
On how long Alvarez will remain at third base: “That’s a better question for Pedro Alvarez. He has the hands. He has the arm. He has the arm versatility. He even has the feet to be able to play third base. It’s a matter of how he’s going to do physically in order to stay there. The ultimate answer will be shown by his actions.”
On why Wil Ledezma was taken off the 40-man roster: “As we began to look at adding players, taking players off, Wil had good secondary numbers last year. He’s got a good arm. A good fastball. He had some opportunities with us. Had the one bad outing. As we looked at our 40-man roster we made the decision that we were going to keep some other players on that 40-man roster. Part of the decision was the contract we signed him to. We thought it may make it difficult for a team to claim him and risk paying him $300,000 at the Triple-A level. It was a gamble that didn’t work out for us. We had a chance to claim him back and we chose not to do it for the same reasons we put him on waivers the first time.”
Andrew McCutchen was recently ranked the #1 Center Fielder in baseball, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata received honorable mentions. Huntington on young bucs starting to make their mark in baseball: “It’s exciting for us to look at our group of players that are 25 and under. You take it from the major leagues on down. We feel very comfortable that that group matches up with some of the best in baseball. We’re excited about where we are both at the high end and also the depth of the group we have coming in the system. We had some guys graduate to the big leagues this year. We didn’t have a lot of guys with break out years. Unfortunately most of our guys in the mist of break out years got hurt. Starling Marte or Tony Sanchez or Brock Holt. We sustained some bizarre injuries. It wasn’t chronic injuries that we have long term concerns about. It was collisions, it was hit by pitches, it was a broken hamate. All things we recovered from. We’re looking forward to some guys having some break out years. That group of 25 and under, we’re really excited about. Which added us to the moves of the veteran presence this year. With [Lyle] Overbay. With [Matt] Diaz. With [Kevin] Correia. Now with [Jose] Veras and [Joe] Beimel to go along with Scott Olsen. To help keep this group moving forward. Help get some guys that can help them learn how to win on the field. And also how to grow and mature. To help reach their potential quicker. It’s one thing for a coach, or manager to help a young player. It’s another thing for another player to help a young player. That’s where the most impact is made. That’s where the Overbay and the Diaz moves in our minds are significant upgrades for us from what we had prior to that.”
On whether the Pirates farm system could handle a Matt Garza or Zach Greinke kind of trade: “We feel like the farm system is deep enough to put us in a position to make trades, when the major league team is ready to make those. In Milwaukee, in Chicago’s case, one could argue they are a little further along in the curve then we are. We need to see some young guys take some steps forward. We need some of our veteran players to take some steps back to where they were in the past. We need our additions to come in and do well. A big part of why you develop a deep farm system is to have replacement at the major league level. It’s to make trades, it’s to fill that hole that you have at the major league level. To add to your depth. The signings that we’ve done haven’t impacted what we are doing anywhere else. We’re still going to invest heavily into the draft, this year, the next five years. We need to. We’re still going to invest heavily in Latin America, in the International Market. We have to. We need to. Part of the reason is to have a deep system so that we can make trades.”`
Huntington did go on to say that the pirates “engaged Tampa Bay” on both Matt Garza and James Shields, but ultimately the Rays “thought that they had better opportunities elsewhere”. The Pirates were never in on Grienke because the equivalent package would have been Tabata, Walker, Moreno, and another player –to hard of a hit.
On injured minor leaguers with possible set backs in 2011: “Donnie Veal coming off the hand surgery is probably the most prominent. There is a handful of other guys. Most of the guys we’ve talked about; Marte, Sanchez, Holt, that sustained the injuries last year, they’re on track. They are going to be ready to go and ready to compete in spring training. Hopefully we will have a lot fewer dramatic injuries this year.”
On Veal’s time frame: “He wants no part of the June/ July return that is the typical 12, 13, 14 month return. It’s really 12-18 months. Donnie had the surgery early in the season, so he’s progressing as well as we could have possibly hoped. He’s actually probably a head of schedule. We’re excited. He’s fired up. He feels great.”
On locking up the young players (McCutchen, Walker, Tabata Alvarez): “It’s part of the plan. It’s easier said than done. It takes both sides.”
President Frank Coonelly
On being Pirates minors being ranked #19 (Baseball America) and #21 (Keith Law ESPN): “Not happy with that number. But pleased, not satisfied with the progress. They are subjective rankings. If we were 1 I would agree with it, if we are 19, I’m not so happy with it. We graduated a large number of prospects. If you look at the number of players, whether major league or minor league, 25 or under on our club, I think we match up very well with the No. 1 organization –Kansas City. The issue is all their top players 25 and under are still in the minor leagues. That’s why they are No. 1. In their eyes and Several of ours are at the major league level doing great things; Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez. When you graduate a large number of players like that obviously now all of a sudden your elite prospects are at the next level. The other thing I encourage you to look at is, because maybe we don’t do a good enough job, making the calls to Baseball America or to Keith Law and really talking up our own players. Look at the statistics of Rudy Owens and Kyle Drabek. Last year, the year before, somehow Kyle Drabek was named ‘Eastern League Pitcher of the Year’ beating out Rudy Owens. Across the board Owens numbers are much better. 93, 94 mph. Unbelievable command from the left side. Drabek I believe was #16 on Jonathan Mayo’s [list], I’m sure he’s up on these guys’. Rudy Owens isn’t even in the top 100. Something’s not right there. Several of our top prospects had some injuries last year that kept them back. We need to be much better than 19. And I think we are better than 19. Maybe we need to do a little bit better job selling ourselves.”
On Clint Hurdle’s impact on getting players to sign in Pittsburgh: “Extraordinary effective. Joe Beimel is just the latest in the number of agents who got on the phone with Clint Hurdle. Neal and I must not have a personality. Everybody comes out and says, ‘the reason I’m coming to Pittsburgh is because of Clint Hurdle’. He embraces the opportunity. He’s very good at it. The reason he is good at it is because he’s genuine.”
Coonelly said that he sat in on a recruiting phone call with a player they did not end up getting but, “I was ready to sign to sign up for it.” “We didn’t get the player, somebody offered more money, but they should have come to Pittsburgh for the reasons that Clint gave them. It was an effective presentation. Clint has a lot of experience that he can draw from.”
On if there is an end point on the draft once the major league level is stacked: “There is no end point. We always have to be extraordinarily aggressive in this area. If there’s a slotting system, we have to find another area to be aggressive in securing talent. I don’t like being #19 in the Baseball America rankings. I want to make it impossible for them to not put us in the Top 5. Really, for a club like ours, we look to graduate two or three top prospects into the major leagues every year.”
Coonelly said, “the strength of our minor league system right now is starting pitching. It’s all those kids who took Altoona to the Double-A Championship last year. I refuse to believe that Rudy Owens is not one of the Top 100 prospects in baseball. I refuse to believe that Bryan Morris shouldn’t be in consideration as one of the top prospects in baseball. Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson. These are real prospects that are looking to have an impact sooner, rather than later.”
On the reports that 16-year-old Luis Heredia’s will debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2011: “That decision hasn’t been made. That would be pushing it but so far everything that Luis Heredia has done for us has shown that he’s ready to be pushed. It would not be surprising or shocking to me that he started in Bradenton.”
On new media types: “I think the level of analysis, and I’m not just saying this because you’re here and I’m sitting in front of you and you have the power of the pen, but the level of the analysis that you get from blogs, and particularly blogs that focus on one team or one aspect is at a much higher level then the traditional media.”
**Special thanks to Matt Nordby, Paul Maholm, Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly for the great opportunity. And Jim Trdinich, Tom of Rumbunter and to any others who helped make this event happen.
- The Pirates have not yet officially announced the deal with left-hander Joe Beimel. General Manager Neal Huntington said, “We’re still working through some things.” But sources claim the contract is a minor league deal with a spring training invite.
Beimel was reported to have offers from several clubs, including a two-year deal, but turned them down to play in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania native) and to work with Manager Clint Hurdle.
- Owner Bob Nutting is happy with the moves so far this offseason and especially the work from Manager Clint Hurdle.
“We addressed clear needs on the field and a clear need in the clubhouse,” Nutting said. “We were able to strategically put in pieces of talent — there’s certainly an upgrade at first base [with Lyle Overbay] and an opportunity for Garrett [Jones] in right field. But the real impact we’re going to see is a cultural change in the clubhouse. We’re simply not going to accept anything less than a top performance and a focus on winning. More than anything else, that’s what this offseason demonstrated. There were tangible steps taken toward improving this organization through leadership and talent.”
- The Pirates will be holding a 5K race on Saturday April 9th that will take place on the North Shore.
The run will start on Federal street with PNC Park’s home plate being the finish line.
To register and/or for more details, click here.