Pirates president Coonelly evaluating GM Huntington's performance

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates so far have not offered to extend general manager Neal Huntington, whose contract is up after this season.

"It's our expectation that Neal will be here for a long time," president Frank Coonelly said Saturday morning. "He has not been extended at this point. We'll continue to evaluate it as we move forward."

Huntington was hired in September 2007, shortly after Coonelly joined the front office. Huntington was secretly given a one-year extension in October 2009, and Coonelly did not reveal it until eight months later.

Former manager John Russell also was given an extension in October 2009, then was fired one day after the 2010 season.

During Huntington's tenure, the Pirates have gone 67-95 in 2008, 62-99 in 2009 and 57-105 last year. In that span, Huntington has tried to restock the farm system via the draft and trades.

"I'm never satisfied, but I'm certainly pleased that we're moving quickly in the right direction," Coonelly said.

Hurdle's message: "All in"

Manager Clint Hurdle spoke during a team meeting yesterday morning before the first official full-squad workout. Hurdle delivered a simple message.

"We need to focus forward," Hurdle said. "We have work to do. We need everybody all in. We talked about trust; that's something I'm a big believer in. There will be a group of men that turns it around here, so why can't we be the start?"

Coonelly did not address the players at the meeting. Owner Bob Nutting will not visit camp until later this week.

Great expectations

What are Coonelly's expectations for this season?

"I expect to see us compete," he said. "We're all about doing. As Clint said to the guys, trying hard isn't good enough. This is a doing league, and it's time for us to start doing."

Coonelly did not want to predict a win-loss total — "I've gotten in trouble for that before," he said — but he said he expects to see "a significant improvement" over last year's 57-105 mark.

"The expectations for the club had better be championship expectations, championship mentality, championship execution," he said. "I'm confident we're going to be far better than we've been the last several years."

This year's collective payroll for the 40-man roster will be around $45 million. Coonelly said resources remain if the Pirates perform well and need to add a player midway through the season.

"We've said all along that we're looking forward to the day that we need to make that decision, and we're prepared to make it," Coonelly said. "We're prepared to add players if we need guys to get us over the hump."

Lucky number

The Pirates' new, bright yellow workout tops make it easy to spot Hurdle as he moves from field to field at Pirate City. When he mixes with a bunch of players or coaches, you can spot him from behind by the big number 13 on his back.

Hurdle wore No. 10 from 1977-81 with the Kansas City Royals. When Hurdle was traded to the Reds in 1982, he asked for No. 10.

"They cussed me out and said it was Sparky (Anderson's) number," Hurdle said.

Hurdle got No. 30. The Reds eventually retired Anderson's No. 10 in 2005.

"When I was traded (to New York), I and asked for No. 10 again and they cussed me out again," Hurdle said. "So finally I went to the (Mets') equipment manager and said, 'What's a number that nobody wants?' He told me, 13. I said, 'Bring it on.' "

Hurdle wore 13 with the Mets in 1985 and again with the Cardinals in 1986.

Shortstop Ronny Cedeno wore No. 13 last season. Over the winter, Cedeno called Hurdle and offered to give up his number.

"I told him, 'You're making good decisions already,' " Hurdle said.

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