Pirates Notebook: Tracy gets defensive about use of Burnitz

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Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
PNC Park ground crew member Steve DiMatteo pushes water off the grass in the outfield, but the game still was postponed by the rain yesterday.
Click photo for larger image.

Minor-league report

Thursday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (18-15) lost at Charlotte, 6-0. RHP Marty McLeary (0-1, 2.29) allowed two runs and two hits in four innings. He struck out five and walked one. DH Ray Sadler (.196) went 2 for 4 with a double.

ALTOONA (20-13) was rained out against Binghamton.

LYNCHBURG (15-16) was rained out at Wilmington.

HICKORY (12-19) lost at Greenville, 6-2. RHP Todd Redmond (3-2, 3.09) allowed one run in three innings. CF Andrew McCutchen (.325) hit his fifth home run, a two-run shot, in four at-bats. His 21 RBIs are second most on the team. C Steve Lerud (.231), the Pirates' fourth-round draft pick in 2003, committed his third error and eighth passed ball.

Jim Tracy, at his pregame media gathering yesterday, appeared more agitated than at any point since becoming the Pirates' manager.

What set him off was a question about how much longer he can stick with outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, who, despite being 2 for 31 in May, again had his name at No. 5 on the lineup card for the postponed game against Arizona.

"I'm not going to answer that. I'm just not," Tracy said, raising his voice. "I'm not going to say that, by May 14, if so-and-so doesn't have two hits in a game, his [rear end] is out of there. I ain't doing that. If you played the game, then you know that you go through ..."

He pointed to the clubhouse.

"You think those guys are enjoying this? You think it's fun for them to be going through it? And do you think that they're not also aware of the fact that, over the course of the past three weeks, we've done nothing but play winnable baseball games, all but one or two? Where you're one hit away? ... It's no fun for them."

Burnitz was booed by the PNC Park fans Wednesday after failing to run out a grounder in the eighth inning with the Pirates down by three runs. Tracy did not deny Burnitz's lack of effort, but he defended his right to take that approach by saying afterward to a reporter: "Do you think he's going to be safe?"

Tracy tried to explain yesterday why he prefers to avoid criticizing players, although he has done so with younger players on occasion.

"They don't need to get up in the morning and read a lot of stuff in the paper that their manager is completely down on them or disconsolate with them. They need to know I'm there with them, OK? ... That's when you need somebody to put their damn arm around you and say, 'Hey, let's go.' "

He then described his options for benching ineffective players as limited.

"Everybody keeps asking me questions about how much longer you're going to go with this or that. Right now, I've got a bench with two guys with bad legs, a backup catcher, an infielder and an outfielder. So, everybody, don't ask me any more questions about how much longer we're going with this guy or that guy and make it seem like I have a plethora of choices. I don't! I don't! We're trying to make this group go as best we can."

Shortstop Jack Wilson and catcher Ryan Doumit are limited to pinch-hitting because of strained hamstrings.

Bay dropped in order

The rainout rendered it moot, but Tracy dropped Jason Bay to sixth in the order, which would have been his first time in that spot since 2004.

Tracy said the move was aimed at lifting a burden from Bay, who is 6 for 33 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight of nine Wednesday night.

"It's very important that we don't just keep piling more and more on top of him," Tracy said. "It's to give him a day to have an opportunity where he feels there's a little more room around him to sort things out."

Tracy flatly rejected the idea of a day off for Bay, who has started 224 consecutive games, saying, "There is no discussion whatsoever about that."

All-young approach?

With the $15 million, rookie-laden Florida Marlins coming to town tonight, Tracy was asked his view on the merits of going with an all-young roster.

"You know what? As long as the identity is out there that that's the direction that we're taking and the course over the long haul, it can turn out to be a very good thing," he replied. "As the guy in charge, you've got a group that you can mold the way you want, that you can have a philosophy in place and have an entire group of people who understand it and can implement it and stay within the framework of it. ... It can get pretty good."

McCutchen in exhibition

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' first-round draft pick last summer, will be one of 11 minor-leaguers the team uses in the Hall of Fame Game Monday against the Cincinnati Reds in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The others are starters Wardell Starling, Josh Shortslef and Todd Redmond; relievers Josh Sharpless, Scott Strickland and C.J. Nitkowski; infielders Brian Bixler and Craig Stansberry; and outfielders Rajai Davis and Adam Boeve.

Tracy will announce today which regulars will get the day off. One who likely will not is third baseman Joe Randa. He is eligible to come off the disabled list the following day, and the Hall of Fame Game could function as a primer for his return.

Buried treasure

The blister on center fielder Chris Duffy's right hand subsided to the point he removed his bandage yesterday. He has not started since May 4.

Tracy said Wilson and Doumit are "making progress," but he had no target date for their full returns.



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