Pirates' Coonelly says patience is exhausted
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BRADENTON -- Long-suffering Pirates fans should know that team president Frank Coonelly also has run out of patience. He won't be happy with just good effort anymore.
He wants more tangible results. And he is all but demanding them.
"Trying hard is not good enough," Coonelly said firmly Saturday morning at Pirate City after listening to new manager Clint Hurdle address the entire team before the first official full-squad workout of spring training. "This is a doing league, and it's time for us to start doing."
And it isn't just the players and coaching staff whose performances are being evaluated daily. General manager Neal Huntington, in the fourth and final season of his original contract, also likely will see his Pirates future determined by how this team plays.
"He is under contract. Our expectations are that Neal will be here for a long time," Coonelly said. "He has not been extended at this moment. We'll continue to evaluate it."
The Pirates hit bottom last season with a 57-105 record, their 18th consecutive losing season, a record for major professional sports in North America. The 57 wins were the franchise's fewest since 1952. Although Huntington has preached patience in the past, there is no patience anymore from Coonelly.
This team's nucleus includes several promising young players. And the talent level throughout the organization is better than it was a few years ago. Yet the only thing that will matter is dramatic improvement from the 2010 disaster.
"We're poised to make significant improvement. We're not going to put limits on ourselves with a number [of wins]," he said. "I'm confident we'll be far better than we were the past several years."
Although the Pirates have had one of the lowest payrolls in the league, Coonelly said he would welcome the day he would be faced with the decision on where to spend to add pieces to a contender.
"We've said all along, we look forward to the day we need to make that decision. We're prepared to add players if we need guys to get us over the hump," he said. "I look forward to that day when we're in that position."
Although finally finishing with a winning record again would show progress, that's not what he wants.
"For us to be successful, we have to win championships. That's the goal, the objective. We won't define success as anything short of a championship."
• Manager Clint Hurdle was happy with the 31/2-hour workout Saturday, leaving the field under perfectly clear skies, the way it has been all week. "It was a good day, a very good day. Guys were focused and ready to work," Hurdle said. "There will be a group of men who turn this around, so why can't it be the group that is here?"
• The spring training routine changed somewhat Saturday morning for the first official full-squad workout. Instead of the usual early start in the batting cages and various small group sessions, the entire squad gathered in the clubhouse, left together and assembled in a nearby cafeteria/meeting room to hear Hurdle addressed the team.
• Pirates legend Bill Mazeroski, a special assistant, also arrived Saturday at Pirate City. Mazeroski will work with the infielders for the next week. Also at the opening practice were Pirates legends Manny Sanguillen, Kent Tekulve and Bill Virdon.
• Most Pirates have found living accommodations nearby for spring training, but newcomer Matt Diaz commutes daily from his home in the Lakeland area, about an hour and 20 minutes away. He was insistent about leaving for home after the first workout, making sure he was there for his 3-year-old daughter's birthday party. "It's a Princess Pool Party, you're invited Clint," Diaz said to Hurdle before the workout. Hurdle's response: "Is the pool heated?"
First Published February 20, 2011 12:00 am