The Pirates have three more games before the offseason truly begins, when the composition of the 2012 club takes center stage.
That roster likely will contain many of the young players who contributed this season.
"We're going to continue to grow and develop," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "For me, the most encouraging thing about this season is the core of the production that got us to first place on July 25 is going to be here next year."
Derrek Lee's '12 plans are not as certain. Lee, a free agent after this season, joined the Pirates at the trade deadline and hit .341 with seven home runs after joining the team.
"There's no question that if you have a veteran presence that performs, he can make a big difference for you," Huntington said.
Lee missed games due to a broken hand after he was hit by a pitch, but performed consistently upon returning and also has played good defense at first base.
"We'd like to have him return," Huntington said of Lee, 36. "It's a two-way street. He's got to walk through some things. Is he going to play next year? Does he want to play in Pittsburgh next year or does he have a better opportunity to do something different?"
Huntington said the '12 rotation did not have much vacancy, but the nature of injuries to starting pitchers will necessitate finding pitchers capable of stepping in.
"We needed six starters, really five for the majority of the season once Ross [Ohlendorf] went down," Huntington said. "Chances of that happening again, you just look at the odds, are not very good."
The free-agent market this winter is not as strong as other years, Huntington said, but the Pirates may still add or trade for players. He said they would be willing to trade prospects to do so.
"It may come via trade, we have some prospects we're willing to talk about how to make this club better," he said.
Huntington said revenue from the increased attendance this season will funnel back into the team, and the payroll will increase with the maturity of the roster. The Pirates have 11 players eligible for arbitration and their contracts will increase the payroll in the offseason, Huntington said.
"[Closer] Joel Hanrahan is going to become more expensive this year and that's a great thing," Huntington said.
Hurdle acknowledged the crowd after a video of himself thanking the fans started a loud round of applause at the game.
Hurdle and Huntington each have spoken about waking up and growing the fan base, which they believe will respond to winning baseball.
"The ballclub has a lot of the same characteristics as the city," Hurdle said. "It's a blue-collar bunch."
Huntington said he knew the potential the fan base held from previous visits as a scout.
"We've still got a lot of people to win over, we've still got a lot of people to win back, we've got a lot of people to pay back for their patience," he said.
Left-hander Jeff Locke will start the final game of the season Wednesday against the Brewers in Milwaukee, Hurdle said. Locke has allowed seven earned runs and 16 hits in three starts spanning 122/3 innings this season.
The season attendance of 1,940,429 was the fourth-largest total in franchise history.
Bill Brink: email@example.com .