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Littlefield earns contract extension

MILWAUKEE -- For Pirates general managing partner Kevin McClatchy, the decision to extend the contract of general manager Dave Littlefield was all about being fair.

"Dave deserves to see this thing through," McClatchy said Monday after the Pirates announced Littlefield's contract had been extended by a year, through 2008.

Only the organization's 11th general manager, Littlefield had been working under a contract that ran through 2007.

"We've progressed quite a bit since Dave took over (July 13, 2001)," McClatchy said. "He's earned this extension."

McClatchy believes the organization is on the verge of ending a stretch of 13 consecutive losing seasons.

Sitting on the visitors' dugout bench before the regular-season opener against the Brewers yesterday, McClatchy took a long look at some of the reasons for his optimism -- reasons that are the result of Littlefield's work.

McClatchy said the main reason for Littlefield's extension was his successful replenishment of a farm system now full with on-the-verge talent.

"When Dave was hired, the first thing I asked him to do was improve our farm system," McClatchy said. "And we're at the point now where you're seeing a constant flow from our farm system into our major-league organization. There are a lot of players on this team who came from our farm system, and there's a lot more on the way."

Yesterday, three of the Pirates' eight positional starters came directly from the organization's improved farm system: center fielder Chris Duffy, second baseman Jose Castillo and catcher Humberto Cota.

Also on the roster are farm-system products Zach Duke, Ian Snell and Paul Maholm -- three-fifths of the Pirates' 2006 rotation.

Nate McLouth and Matt Capps, two more products of the farm system, played their way onto the Pirates' major-league roster out of spring training. Mike Gonzalez will be the club's closer, and Ryan Doumit might soon become the everyday catcher.

Littlefield has made trades that secured the services of Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, Sean Casey, Damaso Marte and Freddy Sanchez. Recently, he locked up to long-term extensions for Bay, shortstop Jack Wilson and reliever Salomon Torres.

During the past offseason, Littlefield landed the highly respected Jim Tracy as his new field manager.

Of course, there is that small point of Littlefield having never managed to put a winner on the field.

"We're at the point where that streak of consecutive losing seasons is a chain around our neck that gets a little bit tighter every season," McClatchy said. "The opportunity to break that chain once and for all is coming. I can see it.

"Dave is the guy who had the plan. Now he has earned the chance to see it work out."

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