Nutting to Pirates players: Win a title
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Standing down the left-field line at Pirate City's Field 1 Wednesday afternoon, Pirates principal owner and chairman Bob Nutting looked around the facility and referred to the players finishing their workouts.
"There's a lot of talent out there playing baseball," Nutting said. "It doesn't look at all like it did three years ago."
When Nutting addresses the players this morning, he said, he will tell them the organization's expectation is to win a championship. Wednesday, he said he wanted the franchise to attempt to do so through a superior player-development system and cautioned against high-profile additions at the trade deadline that force the Pirates to part with the jewels of that system.
Posting the first winning season since 1992, Nutting said, is not the ultimate prize.
"If that had been the goal, honestly, [general manager] Neal [Huntington] would have gone about his work the last five years very differently," Nutting said. "We could have patched pieces together for a short-term blip to pop us over .500. I'm glad we didn't do it because I think what we did was the responsible and correct things for the long term of the franchise."
The Pirates have an opportunity to build on the promise displayed in the first two thirds of their 79-83 season in 2012, Nutting said, but he would prefer the team avoid parting with players that could help the team in the coming years.
"What I hope we don't do is mortgage the future to make it a very short term," he said. "I really don't believe the Pirates will be best served by a build-up and a break-down mentality. To the greatest degree possible, we need to focus on infusing talent in the organization."
Nutting said he wants the Pirates to open the season with their best possible roster rather than saving money for the trade deadline.
"We need to get to the trading deadline in a strong position," he said. "We are not in a position where we've held back and kept a big reserve. I don't think that would be the responsible thing to do. We're in a position now, we've got to take a run, we've got to push the chips in early in the season, and we've got to get a team on the field to compete as [close] to Day 1 of the season as we possibly can."
Nutting crystallized the balance between his desire to sustain the player-development system and his hopes to win this season when noting that the Pirates will field the highest payroll in franchise history.
"When we have resources available to us, we are not taking away from the important developmental system pieces that we are committed to, but we are absolutely maximizing where we can in the major league payroll because, fundamentally, we need to win in Pittsburgh," he said.
Despite his continued focus on the long-term health of the franchise, Nutting said he expects the team to "take a step forward." He said the contract extension given to manager Clint Hurdle should not be interpreted as a commendation for two consecutive losing seasons or an acknowledgement that change in baseball takes time. Instead, he said, the extension represented a commitment to stable leadership.
"The idea that an extension was somehow a free pass is exactly the message I don't want to send, and exactly the message that Clint would not hear," Nutting said.
"We've absolutely shown we're more than willing to make a change if we need to, irrespective of contract terms. Everyone in the organization knows that."
Wednesday morning, Nutting spoke at an event celebrating the renovations at McKechnie Field, the Pirates' spring training and Class A stadium. The renovations increased capacity to 8,500, tied for the fourth-largest facility in the Grapefruit League, and added a boardwalk with seating and a tiki bar in the outfield. The bullpens were moved behind the outfield wall, and the batting cages are outside the stadium instead of adjacent to the clubhouse.
NOTES -- A.J. Burnett will make the first opening-day start of his career April 1 against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park, Hurdle said. Wandy Rodriguez will start the next game, but the rotation beyond that has not been set. ... Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are among those scheduled to pitch Friday in an intrasquad game. They will throw two innings apiece, along with Kyle Waldrop and Kris Johnson. Hunter Strickland, Vic Black and Erik Cordier each will pitch one inning in the 5 1/2-inning game.
First Published February 21, 2013 12:05 am