Pirates Notebook: GM -- 'Meeting mania' offers some player insight
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CINCINNATI -- General manager Neal Huntington gathered most of the club's baseball operations staff here not for a wild weekend of chili and baseball, but rather for discussions. "Meeting mania," he called it.
At weekend's close, Huntington offered up comments -- some critical, some complimentary -- of a handful of Pirates and the "interesting" offseason of roster moves that awaits.
• Asked specifically about where Garrett Jones might play in 2011 Huntington said, "The best fit might be a platoon -- a platoon at right, a platoon at first, a platoon at both. We might be able to go get a right fielder and first baseman via trade. We might be able to go get an upgrade somewhere [else] on the field via trade. We might put all the money, all the resources into pitching. It's going to be an interesting offseason. We know that we're going to work hard to supplement this group.
"At the same time, we just can't throw $55 million at somebody just because it makes us feel better. We've got to believe he makes us a better [club]. We've got to believe, whether it's $2 million, $10 million or something higher, that this guy is ideally a multi-year fit, or in the interim fills a hole we can't fill internally."
• When asked if recent competitive games, if not series, against contenders were a good sign he said, "Those are legitimate tests for our players. Battling back against some playoff-caliber teams, hanging in there and battling the Atlantas and St. Louises and obviously here on the road in Cincinnati ... that's a great sign. What's a great sign is, it's [Andrew] McCutchen, it's [Jose] Tabata, it's [Neil] Walker, it's [Pedro] Alvarez, it's the guys who are going to be important pieces for us. At the same time, we've got to get runners over when there's a runner at second base and nobody out. We've got to hit the cut-off men on throws from the outfield. We've got to play the game the right way. ... We've still got the foundation, the fundamentals, to improve upon."
• On Walker: "Neil deserves a ton of credit. It's almost like the move to second base has taken the pressure off. The bat has really taken off. We've got some work to continue to be stronger, to continue to be more agile if he's going to stay at second base, which it looks like he's going to have every chance in the world to do. But like every other young player in our group, you've got to challenge them to step forward. None of these guys has made it. We don't have a player on the club that has had good, back-to-back major league seasons. We need a lot of them to have good, back-to-back major league seasons, and soon."
• On McCutchen: "In some ways, he's taken some great steps forward [this season]. In other ways, we've got some work to do. Defensively, the shift in philosophy early in the season [from playing] him shallow -- now it's to play him deeper, almost let him play free safety. So he's getting a very different angle, different reads and routes off the bat. He still has the physical ability to be a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. Offensively, [it's] letting him realize the bunt's a weapon for him. Realizing what he is and not trying to do too much ... driving the ball gap to gap. [Let home runs come naturally from good swings and] not because he goes up trying to hit a home run -- that's when you get a lot of ground balls to the left side of the infield. It's easier to feel like Andrew McCutchen has been here for 25 years. But he's finishing his first full season at the major league level. There's still a lot of years left."
• On where Lastings Milledge needs to improve: "Consistency on the bases and defense. Lastings has to get more of the ability to drive the ball more consistently. Batting average is nice. He needs to continue to learn to play right field; it has been a challenge for him. He's got the physical tools to do [all this]. He just needs to begin to apply those at a consistent basis. A lot of that is preparation, a lot of that is thinking about it beforehand, so that when he reacts he knows what he's going to do. Again, it's the development of a young player. To be successful at this level, it's a lot more than physical tools."
• Jones got the day off, his first one after 19 consecutive starts since Aug. 20, rather than face Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto against whom he failed to get a hit in 10 previous at-bats this season -- with five strikeouts and two walks. He was batting .181 since that most recent day off.
• Top prospects Luis Heredia, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie are expected to arrive in Pirate City within the week for the first round of the Pirates' Instructional League. The second round includes veterans.
First Published September 13, 2010 12:00 am