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Pirates' Coonelly: No changes at top coming

| Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 5:38 p.m.

NEW YORK — Despite the team's second consecutive second-half collapse, Pirates president Frank Coonelly on Wednesday endorsed bringing back top front-office executives Neal Huntington, Greg Smith and Kyle Stark, in addition to manager Clint Hurdle, for another season.

Coonelly said in a statement that the team for a second consecutive season put itself in position to meet the objective of winning the division. He said there will “unquestionably be changes made” to the way the team operates after a “thorough critical self-evaluation” after the season, but those changes will not extend to the top of the baseball operations department.

The statement concluded: “Confidence in and support of Neal, Kyle and Greg should not be misunderstood with acceptance of another poor finish at the Major League level. We must understand why the quality of our execution and play deteriorated so markedly in August. Finishing was the focus from spring training, but it certainly was not achieved.”

Huntington, who is with the team for its final road series against the Mets, said he's here to do the job to the best of his ability.

“As long as I want to be here and as long as Frank and (owner Bob Nutting) want me to be here, that's not going to change,” he said. “A 90-year contract or a 90-day contract doesn't impact how we do the job. It doesn't impact our approach to it. Every decision we make is for the betterment of this organization, balancing the short term, the moderate term and the long term. It's nice to know we're going to continue going forward, but it doesn't impact what we've done or how we've done it or what we're going to do going forward.”

• Second baseman Neil Walker, who had hoped to play at least every other day, was missing from the starting lineup for a second consecutive game. The nagging back injury Walker has been fighting for a month is making it difficult to get through nine innings with him feeling as good at the end as he felt at the beginning. Hurdle said the team has considered shutting down Walker for the season. “You don't want to not let a man play who wants to play who's capable of playing,” Hurdle said.

Tom Filer, the team's pitching coach at Triple-A Indianapolis who is among the minor league coaches currently with the Pirates, was hit in the side of the head by a thrown ball during batting practice. He left the field to seek medical attention from the training staff.

— Karen Price

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