Pirates Notebook: Coonelly wants more Phillies, Mets

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CHICAGO -- The Pirates would appear to have as little to gain from Major League Baseball's interleague play as any of the 30 franchises: They still have no assigned natural rival -- hello, Cleveland? -- and see no huge upswing in attendance.

Still, team president Frank Coonelly, said he is "in favor" of continuing interleague play, albeit with two significant modifications.

"While it certainly presents scheduling challenges, it's great for our fans to be able to see the teams and stars of the American League," Coonelly said from New York, where MLB owners and executives met meeting this week. "League-wide attendance numbers and our own in Pittsburgh continue to demonstrate that fans like to see teams from the other league."

The Pirates' average for interleague play last year was 27,736, well above the overall average of 20,113. But that was driven almost entirely by three sellouts to see the New York Yankees. In 2007, when there was no such lure, the upswing was less than 2,000.

Coonelly's first modification would be to get the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets to Pittsburgh more often, even if it means moving to the East Division.

"Our challenge, particularly in the NL Central, is that the combination of interleague play and the unbalanced schedule means that we only see rivals like the Phillies and the Mets one time a year in Pittsburgh," he said. "We need to have these rivals in Pittsburgh more often. That can be accomplished through realignment or a more balanced schedule."

His other modification, as he has stated often, would be to have Cleveland become a natural interleague rival. The Indians visit this year, June 23-25, but only because the divisions lined up.

"I have not been told no, but I have not been told yes, either. I am continuing to press the issue," Coonelly said. "It will be important for us to fill PNC Park when the Indians come to town this year to again demonstrate the power of our rivalry with Cleveland."

Adjustment for Sanchez

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez's 5-for-36 slump was enough to prompt him to alter his approach for the game last night.

"I'm going to treat every count like I've got two strikes and just get back to putting the bat on the ball," he said. "I've never struck out like this in my life."

He had 11 in those 36 at-bats of the slump, 32 for the season. That puts him on pace for 120 for the full year. Always known for outstanding hand-eye coordination, he never has had more than 76.

But neither was he known for driving the ball as hard as had most of the first six weeks, as evidenced by those 15 doubles, two triples and three home runs.

"I'm going to take something off the swing, at least for now," he said. "I have to."

Buried treasure

• The Pirates extended their affiliation with Class AA Altoona by four years until 2014. They have been tied since the Curve's inception in 1999, and the franchises' agreement had been set to expire next year.

• The Pirates traded outfielder Brad Corley, their second-round draft pick in 2005, to the Colorado Rockies for future considerations. Corley, 25, was batting .221 with four home runs and 14 RBIs for Altoona.

• Reliever Dave Davidson, designated for assignment by the Pirates two weeks ago, had the same fate yesterday with the Florida Marlins after one appearance, a five-run, 52-pitch inning Friday.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog .


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