Pirates notebook: Philosophical conflict arises over team dynamics

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In the wake of a trade deadline at which the Pirates made no major moves, the team is forced to reconcile two diverging ideas.

Ahead of the Wednesday deadline, general manager Neal Huntington believed there was a big enough need to add an impact bat that he was willing to make what he deemed "stupid" offers of high-level prospects to make it happen.

After being unable to make a move, Huntington and Pirates management are faced with a reality that the roster they were willing to improve dramatically is the one that must carry the Pirates to the playoffs.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday the Pirates were comfortable finishing the season under either scenario.

"I think you look at it from the vein that you're going to gamble," Hurdle said. "And point being, we had a safety net. The safety net is the existing players that are out there. That's why you don't have to be insane."

The result is more a vote of comfort than a vote of confidence.

But, in the clubhouse, players embraced the idea that the mixture that has lifted the Pirates to the best record in the majors could end the streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons and reach the playoffs.

"Obviously, we're here for a reason -- it's because everybody in this room has done what it's taken to get here," said closer Jason Grilli, who will miss the next four to eight weeks with a right flexor strain.

Grilli has pledged to return by the end of the season, and the fact that the Pirates didn't add another arm to their bullpen is reason to believe him.

First baseman Garrett Jones said he and his teammates were aware the front office was exploring a variety of moves.

"They might have been trying to get some guys, it might have not worked out," Jones said. "Nonetheless, I think they have the confidence in us to play winning baseball. We've been doing it all year, and they believe in us that, as a group and as a core, we're the guys that can take it a long way."

Ultimately, shortstop Clint Barmes said, the front office will have to trust the players that put the Pirates in first place, "which is what we've been preaching all year.

"You go to every locker in this clubhouse, and everyone pulls for each other. We all believe in each other. There's no reason we can't continue to do that."

Crunching numbers

Of the Pirates' remaining 54 games this season, 33 (61.1 percent) are against teams that currently have a sub-.500 record. It is the largest percentage of games remaining against sub-.500 teams of any of the top three teams in the National League Central Division.

The St. Louis Cardinals have 28 of their remaining 55 games (50.9 percent) against sub-.500 teams, and the Cincinnati Reds have 28 of their final 53 games (52.8 percent) against such teams.

The Pirates have a .644 winning percentage this season in games against teams that currently have a losing record.

Slow going for Rodriguez

Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) has yet to throw off a mound in his rehabilitation program, but Hurdle said that is by design.

There have been no setbacks in Rodriguez's rehabilitation, but the Pirates don't have a time frame for him to return to the mound, Hurdle said.

For the past two weeks, Rodriguez has thrown softly on flat ground.

"I think I'll come back soon," Rodriguez said, "but I need to throw hard first."

Until he increases his velocity, Rodriguez said he won't know if he has fully healed. He has been on the disabled list since early June.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.


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