Inside the Pirates: We will ... what?

Players take a swing at finishing off team's marketing slogan

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The Pirates' marketing slogan is 2 years old and two words long.

But what if it had one more?

We will ... what?

Various versions of the team's advertising campaign -- print, broadcast and on banners around PNC Park -- complete the slogan with words such as "compete," "persevere," "excite," "celebrate" and "prepare." But there never is one that sticks. The message is meant to be flexible, to convey multiple impressions.

A cynic might say, of course, that it is too ambiguous. Or that it lacks teeth. And this might be because the one word never used is the one Pittsburghers undoubtedly would welcome the most:

"Win," Matt Capps said.

"Win," Paul Maholm said.

"Win," Xavier Nady said.

Those three were some among a dozen players asked the question last week: If you were in charge of marketing for the Pirates -- currently, a vacant post, by the way -- what third word would you use to complete the "We will" slogan?

Half of the players, including those mentioned, chose "win."

"That's my first thought," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "But the question from there is: Win what? The World Series? It's tough to promise winning when there are so many factors, including injury. But I guess it would still be good to have everybody thinking about it."

Center fielder Chris Duffy went a slightly different way:

"We will have fun," he said. "To me, that's what the game is all about. If we're having fun, we're winning games. And if we're winning, the fans are having fun, too."

Shortstop Jack Wilson liked that idea.

"We will enjoy," he said. "If we're enjoying ourselves, everyone else will, too."

Closer Salomon Torres took two takes.

"We will try."

He shook that one off.

"Too iffy. Too insecure."

He snapped.

"I've got it: We will surprise."

Outfielder Nate McLouth might have had the best one, given the playing conditions in the past week.

"We will freeze."

X marks spot at end of long, long trail

There is a widely held perception that trades and other player acquisitions usually are made on whims. A phone call, a handshake, and the deal is done.

Not so, certainly not with the Pirates.

It took six months, for instance, from the time Dave Littlefield contacted the Atlanta Braves about Adam LaRoche until the January day the deal was done.

It was after two years of observation that the Pirates claimed reliever Juan Perez off waivers from the New York Mets when he hit the wire last summer. And that came with the firm recommendation of Jackie Bowen, one of Littlefield's special assistants, who knew Perez well from his eight years with the Mets.

But there might be no case like Xavier Nady, a player Littlefield coveted and tracked for at least three years, maybe longer, before getting him from the Mets in the Oliver Perez trade last summer.

Remember, it was Nady that Littlefield sought in 2003 rather than Jason Bay to complete the Perez-Brian Giles deal with San Diego. The Padres refused to deal Nady, so the Pirates settled for Bay.

"Yeah, I've heard about that," Nady said with a laugh. "I only hope I can make Dave proud here."

Fresh angle on a learning Curve

It would be folly, at this stage, to compare the situation to that of, say, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But the Pirates will allow that one reason they are pleased to have their top two youngsters, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, playing for the same affiliate this season, Class AA Altoona, is that they will push each other.

"It's going to be especially good for Neil," one minor-league coach said. "Everywhere he's been, he's used to being the man, going back to his high school days in Pittsburgh. If he wants to be the man now, he's going to have to be great."

Cuban in the c-c-c-cold

It was not so much impressive to the Pirates that Cuban defector Yoslan Herrera threw five solid innings -- one run, four hits -- in his Altoona debut Wednesday. Rather, it was that he took the mound at all.

The temperature in Akron was 39 degrees with a 10 mph wind.

Not exactly Havana.

"We're talking about someone who never felt something that cold in his life," said Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo, the man who signed him. "And he had to adjust."

Usually, Herrera's fastball is timed at 88 to 92 mph. The gun in that game showed him averaging 83 mph. But he worked around that with his other four -- yes, four -- pitches to keep hitters off balance.

"This kid's makeup is just off the charts," Gayo said. "One of the best I've had."

Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
At long last, the Pirates will answer the question: We will ... what?
Click photo for larger image.
Today

Doubleheader: Pirates (RHP Ian Snell 0-1, 2.08, RHP Tony Armas 0-1, 13.50) vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Barry Zito 0-2, 8.18, RHP Matt Cain 0-1, 2.77), 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Key matchup: Free baseball vs. the elements. The storm that postponed the game last night is expected to continue into today. If the doubleheader is washed out, the Giants will have to make an unscheduled second visit to Pittsburgh.

Of note: Save your dollar on the scorecard. Everyone on the Pirates will be wearing No. 42 today in recognizing the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's entry into the majors.


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Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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