Pirates notebook: DUI case leaves Nutting unhappy
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates likely will not discipline president Frank Coonelly because of his arrest for drunken driving, principal owner Bob Nutting said Saturday morning after addressing the team.
"I think we're going to try to move forward at this point, but in no way minimizing my disappointment and his own disappointment in the action," Nutting said when asked if the team would discipline Coonelly.
Coonelly was arrested Dec. 22 in Ross Township and charged with driving under the influence, driving the wrong way and careless driving, according to Allegheny County court records. A charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license was dropped.
"As a father with three daughters who are driving on the road, I was very concerned, very disappointed," Nutting said. "Frank came directly to me, came to the senior staff at the Pirates. He was very up-front, very responsible, accepting responsibility for his actions, which were unacceptable in every way."
Coonelly's formal arraignment is scheduled March 20. His attorney, Robert Del Greco, said Coonelly plans to enter the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which, as a first-time offender, will allow him to avoid trial and have charges dismissed if he complies with certain obligations.
Nutting said the organization has the interest and financial ability to sign players to long-term contract extensions, but not an immediate need to do so.
"We said from the very beginning that we have a plan to build talent and then to retain and build on talent that are key pieces of the organization," he said. "[General manager] Neal [Huntington] has a clear understanding of what those key pieces are."
The Pirates signed Jose Tabata to an extension last season but failed to reach similar agreements with Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker despite negotiations. Both will be eligible for arbitration after this season. The only player signed past 2013 is Tabata, though Pedro Alvarez has a contract option for '14.
"It may not be an absolute urgency, but we absolutely have a commitment and a desire to see that happen," Nutting said.
The money the Pirates might have spent on the amateur draft will remain in the baseball operations department, Nutting said, but won't necessarily go to the major league payroll.
The new collective bargaining agreement restricts how much teams can spend in the first 10 rounds of the draft.
"Some of the efficiencies that we very effectively took advantage of the last few years, more aggressively than anybody else in baseball, some of those windows have been closed," Nutting said. "We are actively looking for, where do those reopen, because we need to be smart, we need to be more efficient, more effective than any other team in baseball."
The Pirates spent more than any other team on the draft in '11, but project to open this regular season with a payroll around $50 million, among the lowest in baseball.
The Pirates could have acquired pitcher A.J. Burnett from the New York Yankees while assuming much less of his contract, Nutting said, but preferred to retain their quality prospects.
"There are very few handicaps that Neal has, but one of them is, we are all committed that we are not going to sacrifice future, we are not going to sacrifice talent, we are not going to sacrifice high-end prospects," he said.
• What: Pirates vs. Toronto Blue Jays in the first exhibition game of the spring, Dunedin, Fla.
• When: 1:05 p.m. Saturday.
• Of note: The Pirates open the home portion of their schedule 1:05 p.m. Sunday vs. Toronto.
First Published February 26, 2012 12:04 am