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Bucs extend manager, GM through 2011; note 'disappointing play'

Pirates president Frank Coonelly this afternoon confirmed general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell have contracts with the team through the 2011 season.

Since spring training, Coonelly had steadfastly declined to comment on the status of his top two lieutenants. However, in recent days, national media had speculated that Russell might soon be fired, prompting Coonelly to issue a statement via e-mail.

"While we have demonstrated in the past that a contract will not prevent us from making a change if one is appropriate and thus contract status truly is irrelevant, we will confirm that during the offseason we exercised the club's 2011 option on JR's contract and added a fourth year (2011) to Neal's contract," Coonelly wrote.

"We did so because we believed that they were successfully implementing the organization's vision of building a baseball organization that could compete for championships on a consistent basis. We understood that returning this once-proud organization to championship baseball would not happen overnight and that the progress that we were making towards reaching our goal made such extensions appropriate.

"Despite our very disappointing play ... thus far this year, we remain convinced that we are making progress towards our goal. We demand performance at all levels of the organization and will continue to hold each and every person in the organization accountable for that performance.

Coonelly lauded Russell's performance in the face of near-constant roster upheaval.

"While dismissing the manager when the club is performing poorly is common in this industry, it is not the appropriate response in this case," Coonelly said. "JR's contract status has played no role in this determination. "

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