The Pirates made a splash at the wire Saturday, adding former American League MVP Justin Morneau with the hope the longtime Minnesota Twins first baseman will help the franchise reach the postseason after a 20-year chase.
Morneau, wearing No. 36 and a massive smile, arrived mid-game and was greeted by handshakes, smiles, and a bear-hug by catcher Russell Martin just after 9 p.m. By then, his new team led, 7-1, in the sixth.
He said the view coming through the Fort Pitt tunnel, with PNC Park lit up in front of him, was a moment he won't forget.
"You look up and see the stands full. I knew what the score was, I checked the score when I landed, and we were listening on the radio on the way in," said Morneau. "To see the boys up big and to come into that situation against the team you're battling with for first place was pretty special. Something I'll probably never forget."
The Pirates parted with outfielder Alex Presley and will add a player to be named that general manager Neal Huntington called "significant" to complete the trade.
Huntington said the franchise will pay the remainder of Morneau's salary -- around $2.3 million according to an industry source -- a price that will knock the club over budget for 2013.
"We felt that this move gives us a better chance to play in October, gives a better chance to win a division, and gives us a better chance to advance deep into October, if not win it all," said Huntington. "We felt we're at a little bit of an interesting point in the franchise's history. These are not moves we want to make habits of. But we felt like this move allows us to get to October better."
Morneau, 32, had spent his entire career with the Twins before boarding a Saturday flight out of Dallas bound for Pittsburgh. He is hitting .259 this season with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs while in the final year of a six-year, $80 million contract.
The four-time All-Star, and league MVP in 2006, had nine homers in August -- production the Pirates hope will continue.
"Our guys have seen small mechanical adjustments. We've seen tangible reasons for why he's hit nine home runs in the month of August, we've got some confidence he'll continue to do that, especially as he gets out here to the Clemente Wall," said Huntington.
Morneau landed just before 8 p.m., arrived at the stadium in the fourth and was in the dugout by the sixth.
Outfielder Andrew Lambo was optioned to Class AA Altoona to make room for Morneau and will be recalled Tuesday.
Morneau's acquisition ended a busy week for the Pirates, who also acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Bucks from the New York Mets Tuesday. Huntington said that should do it.
"Never say never. I think we've closed up shop for this year's club and are looking forward to a fun September and October," said Huntington.
He said the price for Morneau was too steep in July, but owner Bob Nutting gave the green light to make it work now.
"That's a credit to Bob Nutting. He's allowed us to go a pretty significant amount over budget to be able to make this move," said Huntington.
"Justin's been a guy we've talked about for a long time with the recognition he's been a great player in the past. We've watched him a lot this month of August to get a feel for [him]. Is he just hot? We've had a couple of looks say it's legitimate. He can help us."
In the clubhouse, news of his arrival was met with optimism.
"Everybody knows we got better with the addition of Justin," said Martin, who has known him since age 16. "He's an ex-MVP, a productive at-bat, going to give you a good at-bat every time he's out there and is going to give you a good at-bat every time he's in the lineup."
Manager Clint Hurdle spoke with Morneau by phone before his arrival, then turned around in the sixth to see him in the dugout.
"I turned around, and there he was," said Hurdle. "It was a good visual. We've chatted a little bit and will catch up more [Sunday]. Just wanted him to get his feet on the ground and enjoy what's going on here. He's going to add a lot of value, a lot of different ways. Not just the skill set, but mental toughness, physical toughness. We look forward to having him join the dance."
Saturday was the final day players can be added to an organization and be eligible for the postseason roster. Morneau cleared waivers two weeks ago, which allowed the Twins to negotiate a deal with any team.
Morneau's addition puts the future of Garrett Jones, another left-handed first baseman, in jeopardy. Though he drove in four runs Friday night, Jones is hitting .240 this season with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs.homepage - breaking - pirates
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published August 31, 2013 7:00 PM