Pirates Notebook: Littlefield says team's basics are 'better'

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Pirates have improved at the basics since last season, general manager Dave Littlefield said, but there remains work to do.

"I think it's better," he said yesterday of the team's fundamental play, which has been a central -- and largely negative -- issue of late. "When I look at our bunting, frankly, it's a lot better. And there are other areas. But, when you go through a period of losing a few in a row and some games get away, those are the things that get highlighted."

He also expressed a view that, because shortstop Jack Wilson is the only position with more than three full seasons of major-league experience entering this year, some learning still was taking place on the job.

"It's something Jim Tracy and I have talked about, that there's minor-league development and major-league development, too," Littlefield said. "When you look at experience, we have a very young group as you go around the diamond as compared to other teams."

At the same time, he acknowledged that the Pirates have fared poorly at times, notably the series at Yankee Stadium and the one that concluded at Angel Stadium yesterday.

"You see it, and you don't accept it. You can't accept it. We have a team built on starting pitching that isn't going to score a lot of runs. We've got to play as clean as we can, and we pay attention to that all the time. When we're winning, we'll make mistakes that some people will look by. Not us."

GM: Roster staying steady

Littlefield advised against expecting a seismic personnel move in advance of the July 31 trading deadline.

"Our team is basically the team we have," he said. "We're always looking to improve, obviously, but we also have to keep improving with the group we have, keep building from it. It's not like you can just sprinkle some magic dust to make it better."

Bayliss sent to minors

The Pirates optioned reliever Jonah Bayliss to Class AAA Indianapolis immediately after the game yesterday.

No roster replacement will be named until tomorrow, but it is sure to be John Wasdin coming off the 15-day disabled list.

Wasdin, out since May 2 because of a sprained right thumb, has made five starts for Indianapolis. with decidedly mixed results: He is 1-1 with a 5.97 ERA, a .297 opponents' batting average and nine home runs. But he also has struck out 31 while walking none.

Bayliss had a 7.53 ERA in 38 appearances, and opponents batted .315 against him with five home runs.

On Paulino's defense

Catcher Ronny Paulino was held out of the starting lineup because of an injured arch to his left foot, though he did enter the game as a late substitute.

He was hurt in the second inning Saturday night when Howie Kendrick slid into him, the latest in a series of drops by Paulino on plays at the plate.

Tracy was asked if the coaching staff is working to address the matter.

"We do it enough," Tracy replied. "I mean, you don't simulate collisions. That wouldn't be a very good idea. But there are situations in spring training where you use a machine that shoots the ball in from specific spots from different locations in the outfield to work on positioning stuff with relation to home plate to catch the ball in time. Yes, we do."

"Those are tough plays," Littlefield said. "But, as I think he certainly would agree, there are some he would like to have caught."

Buried treasure

Outfielder Nate McLouth did not play again because of a stiff neck, but indications were that he could return for the Florida series tomorrow.

Third baseman Jose Bautista, in a 1-for-14 slump, was rested in favor of Jose Castillo.

The Pirates' total bill for reliever Dan Kolb, designated for assignment Thursday, was about $100,000. The team paid eight prorated days of his major-league salary of $1.2 million. Everything before that was prorated off a minor-league salary of $100,000.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
Sunday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (43-32) lost at Toledo, 7-6. RHP Marty McLeary (4-2, 3.21) allowed two runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. RHP Franquelis Osoria (2.39) had his second blown save in as many nights, giving up three runs in the ninth -- all unearned -- on two hits, a walk, a hit batsman and an error. LF Matt Kata (.333) went 3 for 4 with a triple, a walk and an RBI.

ALTOONA (36-36) won at Reading, 5-4. RHP Yoslan Herrera (2-5, 5.43) allowed two runs and six hits in five innings. 3B Neil Walker (.314) went 0 for 2 with two walks. CF Andrew McCutchen (.225) went 1 for 3 with a walk.

LYNCHBURG (32-39) beat Myrtle Beach, 10-5. LHP Kyle Bloom (7-6, 4,84) allowed five runs, four earned, in 6 1/3 innings. 1B Jason Delaney (.344) went 1 for 3 with a double and two walks.

HICKORY (29-42) beat Greenville, 8-4. RHP Mike Crotta (3-5, 4.82) allowed four runs in five innings. 1B Kent Sakomoto (.285) went 2 for 4 with a double and three RBIs.

STATE COLLEGE (2-4) lost to Jamestown, 11-1. RHP Brandon Williams (0-1, 2.25) allowed three runs, one earned, in four innings. SS Smelin Perez (.333) went 2 for 3 with a triple and double.

BRADENTON (3-2) beat the Orioles, 6-4. RHP Jose Diaz (1-0, 0.82) pitched six shutout innings. 3B Carlos Silva (.313) went 2 for 4 with an RBI.

 


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