Perrotto: Nutting showing loyalty to Huntington & others, hardly a surprise to Pirates insiders in the organization


By John Perrotto Many Pirates fans wanted general manager Neal Huntington to be fired and assistant GMs Kyle Stark and Greg Smith to go with him. Some Pirates fans called for manager Clint Hurdle and coaching staff to be fired. And those on the lunatic fringe of Pirates fandom, wanted everyone gone, even longtime clubhouse attendant Jimmy Welsh. Well, all the above are staying, club president Frank Coonelly announced Wednesday and that hardly comes as a surprise to Pirates’ insiders. They insist that owner Bob Nutting never gave any serious thought to firing any of the key people in the organization, regardless of how bad the Pirates’ second straight late-season collapse has been and how much the their minor-league training methods have been brought into question in recent weeks. “The one thing about Bob that you have to understand is that he doesn’t put a lot of stock in outsideRead More »

Perrotto: With sixth best record in National League, Huntington finding it difficult to improve club via trade through waivers


By John Perrotto Neal Huntington isn’t as much frustrated as he is somewhat amused. The Pirates have continued to look to trade for players to bolster their roster since the non-waiver trading deadline passed on July 31. However, the problem is that many of the players the Pirates had interest in never made it to them on waivers. “We’ve never been in that position before (in his nearly five years as GM), where there were so many teams in front of us in the claiming order,” Huntington said. “I guess you could say it’s the one downside to winning but I would be glad to be in this position every year.” Considering the Pirates have the sixth-best record in the 16-team National League, there have been plenty of teams ahead of them who have been able to claim players. MLB tries to make the waiver process ultra secretive and HuntingtonRead More »

Tabata embracing, finding his best role as a leadoff hitter


By John Perrotto Jose Tabata is not the same player the Pirates thought they were getting when he was acquired in a six-player trade from the New York Yankees three years ago in Neal Huntington’s first major deal as the general manager. Tabata, then in Class AA, was considered a bit of a troublemaker then. He walked out on the Yankees’ Trenton farm club during a game because he was frustrated with his performance. As far as his playing ability, scouts projected Tabata as someone who would hit fifth or sixth in the batting order because of his power potential. Yet Tabata, who was activated from the disabled list on Monday after missing 43 games with a strained left quadriceps, has turned out to be completely different. For openers, the 23-year-old outfielder doesn’t cause any trouble. He always seems to have a smile on his face and plays the gameRead More »

Dog Days of August setting in for Pirates, Starting Rotation


By John Perrotto The dog days of August are more than a baseball cliché. August is the toughest month for players. They have been going almost non-stop since spring training in mid-February and fatigue starts to set in during a long, hot summer. The dog days of August haven’t been good in the early going for the Pirates as they began by getting swept at home in a four-game series by the Chicago Cubs, who have the second-worst record in the major leagues behind Houston. The sweep, which concluded Thursday night at PNC Park, has dropped the Pirates two games under at 54-56 and seven games behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central. The Pirates held a percentage point lead in the division following games of July 24. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage are also mindful that it is the dog days of August forRead More »

Perrotto: Pirates not able to look to Indy for help at the plate


By John Perrotto The Pirates’ offense has yet to hit its stride nearly two months into the season. The Pirates are 13th in National League in runs scored with an average of 3.65 a game. They are also 12th in on-base percentage (.311), 14th in batting average (.236) and 15th in slugging percentage (.356). Manager Clint Hurdle has basically taken over the hitting coach responsibilities from Gregg Ritchie but that hasn’t sparked the Pirates’ hitters. Hurdle tried shuffling the batting order Wednesday with left fielder Jose Tabata batting leadoff and center fielder Andrew McCutchen in the No. 3 hole–the spots they occupied at the beginning of the season–but the Pirates lost 4-2 to the Atlanta Braves in 11 innings at PNC Park. Other than moving guys around on the lineup card, there seems to little Hurdle or the Pirates can do to get an offensive jolt. Class AAA Indianapolis hasRead More »

Huntington’s assessment of Dana Eveland an indictment of how thin pitching is in the organization


By John Perrotto Sometimes, it just seems that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the Pirates. Such was the case again on Tuesday night, even though hometown hero Neil Walker’s first major-league home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning, lifted the Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Walker’s dramatics came hours after the Pirates’ woeful lack of talent again showed when they felt compelled to trade Class AA Altoona right-handed reliever Ronald Uviedo, a middling prospect with a solid chance of at least reaching the major leagues, to the Toronto Blue Jays for left-hander Dana Eveland, now on his fifth major-league team at the ripe old age of 26. General manager Neal Huntington’s assessment was both sobering and an indictment of how thin pitching is in the organization from top to bottom. “He’s hadRead More »

Pirates decision to cut ties with reliever Matt Capps not a surprise


The word “surprising” kept coming up in news reports of the Pirates failing to tender closer Matt Capps a contract by the midnight Saturday deadline, allowing him to become a free agent. However, it really wasn’t a surprise. The Pirates shopped Capps aggressively at the winter meetings last week in Indianapolis and there were clear signs they would cut him loose if he did not agree to a contract on their terms. While general manager Neal Huntington had said in September and again in December that he planned to tender Capps, he never said so definitively and always left a hint of doubt in his words. Huntington is firmly part of the new wave of general managers who take into account statistical analysis as much as they do scouting in making decisions. One of the tenets of the sabermetricians is to never to overpay for a reliever because you rarelyRead More »

Day 3 Winter Meetings: John Russell on Ronny Cedeno


By John Perrotto The starting shortstop job will be Ronny Cedeno’s to lose when the Pirates begin spring training in February. However, Cedeno will need to perform decently. “Ronny did a lot of things well after we got him last season,” Pirates manager John Russell said Wednesday at Major League Baseball’s winter meetings. “However, there were times when he was inconsistent. He needs to tighten that up a little bit. He’s proven he is capable of playing at the major-league level but he needs to show he can do things consistently enough to play every day.” Cedeno hit .258 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 46 games for the Pirates in 2009 after they acquired him from Seattle as part of a seven-player trade on July 29 that shipped Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to the Mariners. Though he made just four errors, Cedeno did not score wellRead More »

Morton, Hart playing their way out of a spot in the rotation for 2010


By John Perrotto When the dust had settled following the seven trades the Pirates made from June 3-July 30 that completely reshaped the roster, manager John Russell thought he was sure of one thing. “What I really like about these trades it that we have a very solid rotation now,” Russell said. “We’re strong from 1-5.” It turns out Russell was only three-fifths right in his assessment. Barring an unforeseen major off-season acquisition, only three rotation spots will be set when spring training begins in February. And those spots will belong to pitchers who have been in the rotation all season _ left-handers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm and right-hander Ross Ohlendorf. The two starters acquired in trades, right-handers Charlie Morton and Kevin Hart, have been major disappointments. Morton, picked up from Atlanta in the Nate McLouth trade, is 3-8 with a 5.35 ERA in 15 starts. Hart, acquired fromRead More »

Colorado Rockies are shaping up as the most likely trade partner for Ian Snell


PITTSBURGH _ There was plenty of speculation swirling around the Pirates’ clubhouse Sunday morning that another big trade was about to go down. General manager Neal Huntington, manager John Russell and the coaching staff held a long meeting in Russell’s office before the Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers 6-3 in the afternoon. More than one person in the clubhouse seemed convinced right-hander Ian Snell was headed out of town. They might be right. There are indications the Pirates are willing to trade Snell and the Colorado Rockies are shaping up as the most likely trade partner.