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Pirates President Frank Coonelly had his monthly online chat with fans on Wednesday. Here are some highlights:
You can read the entire chat transcript here.
Coonelly opened his chat by saying, “I want to congratulate former Bucco Bert Blyleven, an integral part of our 1979 World Series club, on just being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.”
If the Pirates have the capacity to make a meaningful increase the payroll, why not offer long-term contract extensions to [Andrew] McCutchen and [Pedro] Alvarez like the Rays have done with [Evan] Longoria?
Coonelly: Reaching long-term contracts with core players such as Andrew McCutchen and, we believe, Pedro Alvarez is an important component to building a sustainable winner. It, of course, takes two parties to reach an agreement but this is a contracting approach that we have implemented.
A year ago at this time we were looking forward to [Pedro] Alvarez and [Jose] Tabata call ups (not anticipating the surprise of [Neil] Walker). Who could we see come up this year? Maybe Gorkys [Hernandez], [Bryan] Morris, [Jeff] Locke, [Jim] Negrych?
Coonelly: You are right that we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Alvarez and Tabata last year while hoping that Neil Walker could also be a part of our future this time last year. It was exciting to watch these three young players become three of the best rookies in the National League in 2010. For us to be successful over the long term, it is critical that we continue to bring such talent to the Major League level from our minor league organizations. From our other players who we believe to have a shot to make a meaningful impact in Pittsburgh this year are Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson, Jeff Locke and Alex Presley. The development of other players may, and probably will, surprise us in 2011.
How do you feel about Charlie Morton going forward?
Coonelly: We continue to feel that Charlie has all of the tools necessary to be an effective starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Charlie obviously struggled mightily last year but seemed to find a level of confidence during the last month of the season. He continued to make progress during a brief winter league stint and will be given an opportunity to win the 5th starter spot in the rotation.
How is Steve Pearce recovering from knee surgery?
Coonelly: Steve Pearce has been working hard in his rehabilitation and should report to spring Training ready to compete for a job on the Major League club. Steve’s injury last year was unfortunate because he had worked extraordinarily hard to get in the best shape of his career, and that extra work was evident in his play.
Coonelly also went on to say that the Pirates are not done this offseason. “Neal [Huntington] is continuing to work to improve the club and, in particular, is looking to add a bullpen piece or two. Neal continues to talk to representatives for free agents and attempt to identify trades that will improve the club.”
With a start of a new year, it’s a clean slate for the Bucs, who endured 105 losses. The new season is right around the corner: Only 41 days until Pitchers and catchers report and 88 until opening day.
Here is a list of 11 things to look forward to in 2011:
11) Interleague series against the Boston Red Sox at PNC Park – Some of the die hard Pirates fans may not like the idea of facing the potent lineup of the Red Sox, but baseball fans in general will enjoy seeing the All-star lineups. Stars like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett (the list goes on and on) will be in Pittsburgh –a glimpse of a possible 2011 playoff contender.
10) The new offseason acquisitions and how they impact the ball club – The Pirates made several signings this offseason in hopes to improve the team in 2011. Lyle Overbay will be the new everyday first baseman and Matt Diaz will platoon in right field with Garrett Jones.
Other signings include: Third baseman Andy Marte, short stop Josh Rodriguez, center fielder Corey Wimberly, left handers Scott Olsen, Kevin Correia and Aaron Thompson.
9) A better pitching rotation – The Pirates starters went 34-84 with a 5.28 ERA last season. The Bucs are hoping Ross Ohlendorf, and Paul Maholm will perform much better in 2011. New Pirate Kevin Correia also helps to improve the staff and James McDonald, who had great success since being acquired by the Dodgers, will round out the top four. Scott Olsen, Charlie Morton and Brad Lincoln will be fighting for the fifth spot.
8) Number one draft pick- The Pirates lost 105 games last season, sealing the first pick in the 2011 draft. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is considered to the be the top talent. He finished 2010 at Rice University batting .394 with 26 home runs and 85 runs batted in.
7) Young prospects making their way through the system – Players like Tony Sanchez, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Andrew Lambo (to name a few) are getting closer to making their major league debuts while adding more young talent to the Pirates ball club.
6) Glimpes of solid arms in late 2011 – Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson and Daniel Moskos (reliever) could make their debuts as early as July. Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke are also two more starters that will make a impact on the Pirates rotation but it’s more likely to be in 2012.
5) Debuts of young aces- Jameson Tallion and Stetson Allie will be making their Pirates debut at Low-A West Virginia in 2011.
Tallion was selected second overall by the Bucs in the 2010 draft. The 6’7, 230 pound right hander’s fastball already reaches 94-99 on the gun and has “explosive movement” according to scouts. Tallion also has a plus curve (81-85) and breaking ball (84-88).
Allie has an even stronger arm. The 6’4, 225 pound right-hander throws both a two-seamer and four-seamer fastball that clocks regularly at 98. He also has an above average slider (87-91) and a change, with very good sink at 85-87.
4) Clint Hurdle managing the Bucs – Hurdle is exactly what the young Pirates need in a new skipper. He is very charismatic and passionate about baseball, smart, motivational and has past success in managing a young team. Hurdle is aware of the changes ahead and has said, “I’m all in.”
3) Ending the 18 year consecutive losing streak? -While it may be a long shot –the Pirates would need to have a 24 game improvement to finish .500– it still is possible. Example: The 2007 Tampa Bay Rays went 66-96, in 2008 they finished 97-65 –a 31 game improvement as well as a American League Championship title. The1991 Braves went 94-68 after finishing 65-97 in 1990. Tough, but not impossible.
2) The young Bucs continue to improve – Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker (all under 25) will continue to get better and better with more major league experience. Tabata and Walker finished their rookie seasons better than expected. Tabata had 121 hits in 102 games, Walker with 126 in 110 games. Both hit most of the season over .300 and finished .299 and .296 respectively. McCutchen in his first full major league season continued to be a hitting and running machine. He finished .286 while adding 94 runs, 16 home runs, 56 RBIs and 33 stolen bases.
1) Pedro Alvarez to become a superstar- Pedro finished his rookie campaign with a .256 average, 16 home runs and 64 RBI’s. If Alvarez’s month of September is a glimpse of what’s to come (.306 avg, 10 doubles, six home runs and 27 RBI in 29 games) Pirates fans should be excited for years to come. He has an ability to change the game with one swing –the three-run walk-off bomb against the Rockies made highlights and one of MLB Network’s top moments of the season. There’s no doubt he is a superstar in the making.
Matt Diaz is excited for the opportunity to be a part of something special and believes his roots make him a Pittsburgh kind of guy.
“I can’t wait to earn them as fans,” Diaz said. “They’ve been looking for something to cheer for in the summers. They’ve had plenty to cheer for in the winters. I’m ready to be a part of changing things around.”
Four teams were after Diaz, including the Bucs, but he said Clint Hurdle had a huge role in signing with the Pirates.
“The more I talked with Rangers players, they started singing [Pirates manager and former Rangers hitting coach] Clint Hurdle’s praises,” Diaz said. “Everyone was talking great about Clint.”
“Originally I viewed Pittsburgh as a place to go get at-bats and prove that I’m healthy,” Diaz said. “The more I talked to them, the more I realized that I could get at-bats and be a part of something really great. It was just a comfort thing, just a peace thing.”
The Pirates offered Diaz a one-year contract, but he asked for another year because he knew something good was going to happen in the Steel city.
“I said, ‘I would love to come in and help the young guys out as much as I can. But in 2012, I don’t want to be doing this all over again while you are having the time of your life,’” Diaz said. “We can have some fun in 2011 and really surprise some people with the plan they have in place. But I think 2012 can be special.”
Diaz, who at 32 is the oldest player on the roster, will take on a leadership role. He has played and learned from so many great players, he is happy to help the young bucs.
“I’ve been given so much in this game, and I was groomed by some pretty neat veterans in Kansas City and Tampa,” Diaz said. “If I can have some impact there to where I’m remembered after I’m gone, that will be a wonderful thing.
“The key for this young group is to take ownership of this team. It is going to be imperative for the older guys to really help and aid the young guys taking ownership of this team. They have to show that they’re willing to outwork other teams and leave it all on the field.”
Other News and Notes:
- Jose Tabata is hitting .353 (6-for-17) with a 1.165 OPS after his first six games of winter ball in Venezuela.
- Pirates prospect Jarek Cunningham, who was selected in the 18th round of the 2008 draft, will start the new year by blogging. Cunningham will give viewers an inside look at what life is like as a minor league player.
He made his debut for the Gulf Coast League batting .318 with 5 HR’s, and 22 RBI’s in 43 games. Last season, with West Virginia Power, he hit .258 with 12 HR’s and 49 RBI’s in 121 games.
For more information and where to catch his blog, click here.
- MLB’s minimum salary for 2011 will now be $414,000 per year.
Monday kicks off the first day of the Winter Meetings held at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida.
The Pirates have several gaps to fill for the 2011 season: a starting pitcher (or two), a first baseman/right fielder, shortstop and bullpen help for Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan.
The young Bucs can be penciled in for next season: Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, and James McDonald.
“We feel it’s important to provide this young group of players weapons that will help them experience success in 2011,” President Frank Coonelly said. “More help is coming quickly through the much improved minor league system, but there are needs that we’re trying to address now to enable us to win in 2011. If we can address these needs without giving up prospects who we believe will be a part of our long-term success and without impeding our ability to lock up the young players who we are developing to long-term agreements, we need to do that.”
“We are targeting players on the market who will address these needs without jeopardizing our longer-term goals,” Coonelly said. “We have the financial resources available to address these needs, and we are looking forward to adding more talent to the improving young talent that has joined the roster over the past two years.”
The Pirates reportably were interested in Jorge De La Rosa (who re-signed with the Rockies) and first baseman Lance Berkman (who signed with the Cardinals). But there are many other players the Bucs could peruse: first baseman Derek Lee and Carlos Pena, right fielders Jeff Francouer, Jack Cust and Matt Diaz, shortstops J.J. Hardy and Jason Bartlett.
Steve Pearce and Lastings Milledge (who was non-tendered) could also be filled from within the organization to play first base/right field.
We are comfortable with Steve Pearce filling a role on the major league club,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “We continue to be open to Lastings Milledge returning, too, but we are also exploring other potential fits.”
Starting pitching is the most important for the Pirates to fill. Scott Olsen is rumored to be in serious talks with the Pirates. Other options include: Brandon Webb (reports that the talks have gone cold with the cy-young award winner), Justin Duchscherer and Jeff Francis.
Thursday marks the Rule 5 draft and the Pirates have the first pick. Starter Aneury Rodriguez is the favorite, The right-hander went 6-5 with a 3.80 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 113.2 innings in Triple-A (Tampa Bay Ray’s organization).
The 40-man roster currently has four spots open.
According to sources, the Pirates could land an upgrade over Ronny Cedeno at shortstop.
The Pirates reportably have interest in Tampa Bay’s Jason Bartlett and Minnesota’s J.J. Hardy.
Bartlett batted .254 with four home runs and 47 RBI with the Rays during the 2010 season.
Hardy hit six home runs with 38 RBI while batting .268 with the Twins.
Pirates beat reporter Jenifer Langosch will be answering fan’s questions on a weekly basis until Spring Training starts. Below are a few of the questions I thought were interesting from this weeks inbox. You can read the entire transcript here.
What do you think are in the plans for Milledge, Delwyn Young and LaRoche?
This is a good question, but a tough one to answer given that the Pirates are still evaluating how each might fit into the team’s long-term plans. All three of those players are arbitration-eligible, so each is due a decent pay bump as a result. It’s not a guarantee, however, that each will be offered arbitration.
I think it’s a safe bet that Milledge will be tendered a contract given that the outfielder is still just 25 years old and could be an option if the Pirates decide to go with a platoon in right field. He was acquired just a year and a half ago, and I can’t see the Pirates giving up on him just yet.
Young fills a good role off the bench for Pittsburgh, but the club ultimately has to decide if the pinch-hits are worth the increase in salary. If the Pirates believe they can get that offense from other internal options for less money, there’s always a chance Young could be on his way elsewhere.
LaRoche’s situation is most tenuous, and how he fares down in winter ball will weigh heavily in the Pirates’ evaluation about whether to keep the infielder around. LaRoche is playing all four infield positions in Venezuela. His only shot at hanging onto a roster spot with the Pirates is to show them that he can be an effective extra infielder and that he can hit without consistent at-bats. LaRoche definitely didn’t show the latter in 2010; consequently, don’t be surprised if he is gone before Spring Training.
Are the Pirates sure enough on some of their younger players to consider offering them long-term contracts?
It’s not common for teams to begin approaching players with less than one year of Major League service time about signing long-term deals. Yes, it happens occasionally — as it did a few years back with Evan Longoria and the Rays — but it’s not the norm. That said, it’s probably a bit too early to expect extensions being offered to Pedro Alvarez or Jose Tabata, even though each is still viewed as integral pieces of the club’s future.
McCutchen, however, could be a different case. The outfielder has now played more than a year and a half in the Majors and would seem to be a prime candidate for a contract extension in the next year or two. He is still under the team’s control for five more seasons, but by inking him to a long-term deal now, the Pirates would get two things. They would have financial certainty (in other words, they will know exactly how much will be allocated to McCutchen’s salary each season). And they could try to buy out a year or two of free agency from the center fielder.
Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan could also be candidates for multiyear deals, possibly something similar to the two-year deal given to Matt Capps in 2008. Like McCutchen, Meek and Hanrahan have had sustained success for more than one year and have shown signs that such success isn’t a fluke.
On Monday, the Pirates released their 2011 Spring Training Schedule. The Bucs will play 17 home games at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.
2011 PITTSBURGH PIRATES SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE
February 26 VS Tampa Bay (Port Charlotte) 1:05 p.m.
February 27 VS Tampa Bay (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
February 28 VS Baltimore (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
February 28 VS Tampa Bay (Port Charlotte) 1:05 p.m.
March 1 VS New York (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 2 VS Minnesota (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 3 VS Toronto (Dunedin) 1:05 p.m.
March 4 VS Philadelphia (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 5 VS Philadelphia (Clearwater) 1:05 p.m.
March 6 VS Toronto (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 7 VS Tampa Bay (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 8 VS Minnesota (Fort Myers) 1:05 p.m.
March 9 VS New York (Tampa) 7:05 p.m.
March 10 VS Baltimore (BRADENTON) 7:05 p.m.
March 11 VS Tampa Bay (Port Charlotte) 1:05 p.m.
March 12 VS Philadelphia (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
VS Toronto (Dunedin) 1:05 p.m.
March 13 VS Boston (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 14 VS Baltimore (Sarasota) 1:05 p.m.
March 15 Off Day
March 16 VS Toronto (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 17 VS Baltimore (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 18 VS Philadelphia (Clearwater) 1:05 p.m.
March 19 VS Boston (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 20 VS Houston (Kissimmee) 1:05 p.m.
March 21 VS Minnesota (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 22 Off Day
March 23 VS Houston (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 24 VS Baltimore (Sarasota) 7:05 p.m.
March 25 VS Tampa Bay (Port Charlotte) 1:05 p.m.
March 26 VS New York (Tampa) 1:05 p.m.
March 27 VS Tampa Bay (BRADENTON) 1:05 p.m.
March 28 VS Minnesota (Fort Myers) 1:05 p.m.
March 29 VS Philadelphia (Philadelphia) 7:05 p.m. *
March 30 VS Philadelphia (Philadelphia) 4:05 p.m. *
* exhibition games
Erin Andrews was interviewed by Fanhouse recently in which she defended sideline reporters and why we are important. I really enjoy watching her because she is good at what she does and she is a positive influence in the industry. Andrews is speaking out on the recent controversies involving females working in sports, “Why can’t you worry about the way you look and also like sports?”
Defend the importance of sideline reporters.
Sideline reporters are needed for a couple of very important things. I don’t think they’re needed for the ‘fluff’ stories, everyone reads those stories all week long in the newspaper. I don’t think they’re needed for that. When they’re needed – a prime example was when Dennis Dixon was leading the (2007) Heisman race, looks like Oregon’s going to win the national championship then he blows out his knee. Oregon said he’s OK. I’m down there watching, I’m reading the trainers’ lips to him. The trainer starts crying. Right there and then I report it. I knew it was over. The guys upstairs in the booth, they didn’t see that; the cameras didn’t see that. The biggest thing sideline reporters bring are things the guys up there and the camera can’t see.
What are your thoughts about those who criticize attractive female reporters?
I think it’s hilarious that you can’t worry about getting your roots done, working out, worrying about what shoes you’re wearing and have cool jewelry and know sports. I think it’s weird you can’t do those things. Why can’t you worry about the way you look and also like sports? We (females) can multi-task, right? I used to harp on this – I want to prove to people that I know more, that I’m not here because of what I look like or that (it’s because) I’m a female.
I think one of the things that taught me a lot about all the work I’ve done and the (working) relationships I have in the industry last year when I was going through the worst experience of my life (the stalking). I got phone calls from coaches – that I thought never really cared too much about me or gave a second thought – coaching me as their players. Saying ‘you better get back on the sidelines, we want to see you on the sidelines. Don’t let this idiot win. The game will not be all right unless you’re working the sidelines’ and that really proved to me … I don’t care what the naysayers say, I don’t care what message boards have to say, I don’t care what some media has to say, these coaches want me back. So I’ve proved to them, I know my stuff.
On Wednesday afternoon before the game against the Braves, Penguins Sidney Crosby took batting pratice at PNC Park. He was joined with other memembers of the Penguins team as well. Crosby, shown in this video here, even blasted a few home runs.
Hey Crosby, if your looking for second job?..
- Before the game on Wednesday against the Braves, the Pirates presented Bobby Cox with a check for $5,000 toward his charity of choice (the Homeless Pets Foundation). It was the last time Cox would be a manager for the Atlanta Braves at PNC park. He ended his career 57-56 against the Pirates.
- Brandon Moss is excited to be getting an oppurtunity to play with the Pirates again saying: “I didn’t think I was going to have this opportunity and had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was going home. For some reason this season, the way I was playing in Triple-A, made me really see that I belong here and that I can be a really good major league baseball player. To have the opportunity to be here, when you didn’t think you were going to have it, it just feels great.”
- According to Elias Sports Bureau, Tuesday night was only the third time in the last 30 seasons that a team that was at least 40 games under .500 shut out a team that was at least 20 games over .500. The Tampa Bay Rays did it against the New York Yankees in 2001, and the Pirates did it against the New York Mets in 1985. (-Trib Live)
- Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to 15 games, the longest by a Pirates rookie since Rennie Stennett’s 18-game streak in 1971.
And for the first time this season i made it in the top 50.
First of all, I wanted to thank everyone who reads my blog. It really means a lot. I enjoy doing this and I hope you guys enjoy reading it.
And secondly, congrats to all the winners. I noticed a lot of the blogs are women which is really awesome.
And lastly, thanks to Mark who runs the mlblogs. My photo was part of the panel showing the winners. (Top left, next to Pirates MLB.com Reporter, Jenifer Langosch)