He leaned on a black bat, wore a black cap atop a black batting-practice jersey with silver and purple letters. Jim Tracy, after two rocky seasons managing the Pirates, nowadays works as the bench coach for the Colorado Rockies. In that capacity, he returned last night to PNC Park for the first time since leaving the local ballclub's employ after the 2007 season.
And the Colorado coach wearing No. 4 foresees potentially bright days ahead for his old Pirates, not black.
"You hear this cliche all the time, the old-time cliche," Tracy said from the steps of the visitor's dugout. "But let's be fair about it and say that, you know, you have a new group of people in the front office. You have a farm system that, in my opinion, they're trying to reinvigorate -- which, if you're going to turn the corner, that's absolutely what has to be done. You have some young players out on the field that I know a few of them, they're energy-type players, they're live bodies. Give them some time. It's a new group of people. You got to give it some time."
Tracy spoke of enjoying his time in Pittsburgh, where he still owns a home, where son Mark was hitting 13 home runs for Duquesne University entering a weekend series, where son Brian remains employed by the Pirates as an area scout. He didn't, however, enjoy the 135-189 end result of his two Pirates seasons.
"It's a wonderful place, that's the bottom the line," he said. "Actually, it's wonderful to be back.
"The organization, I don't have anything but good things to say about it. How could you not? ... I don't feel good about what took place in the two years. I wanted much, much more than occurred. But, unfortunately, it didn't happen. There are some great people in that [home] clubhouse. There are kids over there that I hold in the highest of regard, believe me when I tell you. Regardless of how things turned out or when, you know, one thing I can honestly say is I got everything that they had to give on any given day."
Reliever Craig Hansen threw about 20 pitches off a mound yesterday and pronounced that his previously problematic scapula and neck to be feeling "pretty good. It went well. Working on mechanics and following through, just to take some ache off."
Spasms have left him on the disabled list since late April, and some soreness remains -- "hopefully, a couple more days, and everything will be gone," he said. Hansen is scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow and, if all goes well, heads Monday to Pirate City in Florida to work three sideline sessions and then three games in extended spring training before embarking on a rehabilitation assignment, manager John Russell said.
"He was really progressing," Russell said of Hansen's pitching before the ailment prohibited from throwing. "It was unfortunate. That being said, Joe [Kerrigan, the pitching coach] and he have been able to do some things in between, especially the last few days, to get him back on track."
• Brandon Moss, on a 7-for-12 spurt with two doubles and a home run, got the night off. "Brandon's been doing some very good things," Russell said. "I don't want him to get frustrated [facing] a left-handed starter right now" in Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa.
• The walk-less streak by Pirates pitchers ended last night with a fifth-inning bases on balls by starter Paul Maholm. Back-to-back games against St. Louis without such a free pass marked the first time since July 3-4, 2004, that has happened for the Pirates.