Pirates Notebook: Nutting sets the bar high
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates must get better.
And not just by a little bit.
After 18 consecutive losing seasons, and a 57-105 record last season, there will be no sense of satisfaction from going .500; nothing short of a pennant should be the objective.
That was the message sent from owner Bob Nutting to members of the team and staff Monday morning during a closed-door meeting at the club's spring training facility at Pirate City.
After the address, which has become customary the past few seasons in the early portion of camp and lasted less than a half-hour, Nutting met with reporters.
"The real message was a change in level of expectations," Nutting said. "It is critically important that they understand, and we understand, that 2011 is not going to be a year where small bits of incremental progress are going to be adequate. Until we win a National League championship, we are not going to be satisfied with incremental progress. It is critically important they understand that right up front."
Nutting's message hit the mark with first-year manager Clint Hurdle.
"I do think it is good that [the players] can put a face to a name," Hurdle said. "I do think it is good when you can hear what your chairman of the board, what your owner, deems as important.
"Bob was very clear, clean and accurate with his message."
A topic that Nutting wanted nothing to do with was the long-term contractual status of general manager Neal Huntington, whose contract is up at the end of the season and has yet to be extended. On Saturday, Pirates president Frank Coonelly said of Huntington: "He has not been extended at this moment. We'll continue to evaluate it."
Monday, however, Nutting was asked "whose head is on the block?" if there isn't progress made this season.
"It is not the right time to start speculating on 'what if we fail?' " Nutting said. "What we need to do is be focused on what the goal is, what the target is, and be committed to achieve it.
"It is too early to start speculating. It is not productive and not the right use of energy."
The owner said he understands how patience has run out with some fans and listens when they offer criticism.
"I absolutely listen to it; it makes a huge difference," Nutting said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and appreciation of, the fans. That's the reason the franchise exists. That's one of the reasons Pittsburgh is such a tremendous baseball town and sports town. We owe our fans every opportunity to listen."
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez missed workouts with muscle spasms in his neck. He is receiving treatment, and his status is day to day. Huntington said it was a case of Alvarez having a sore neck when he woke up Monday morning.
Also on the injury front, left-handed starter Scott Olsen, who is fighting for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, is still battling back from a hamstring injury last week and went through a limited workout this morning.
"A little frustrating, but I'm just working through it right now," Olsen said. "I just know this is the time to take it slow and get back, can't do anything dumb to rush back. I want to get back out there, but I can't re-injure that thing."
First Published February 22, 2011 12:00 am