Pirates notebook: GM Huntington not planning staff changes

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Photo by Christopher Horner
Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, 4:42 p.m.

HOUSTON — General manager Neal Huntington will not purge the front office, coaching staff or development staff in the wake of the Pirates' second consecutive late-season collapse.

“I don't see making a change at any leadership position at this point in time,” Huntington said Sunday. “I believe in the people I'm working with. I believe in what we're doing and how we're doing it.”

When it comes to his own job, Huntington is at the mercy of owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly.

“If Bob or Frank decide to make a change and bring in a new general manager, that's their call,” Huntington said. “I sure hope they don't.”

Huntington was emphatic in his support of assistant general manager Kyle Stark, who has been criticized for implementing a Navy SEALs-style training program for the club's minor league prospects.

“Kyle Stark is a tremendous front-office executive — intelligence, character, ability,” Huntington said. “When you're a leader and you're willing to have a tough conversation, you tend to have people who may not always like you. That's what we're dealing with right now.”

In an internal email obtained by the Tribune-Review, Stark urged his staff to get players to “dream like a hippie,” “prepare like a Boy Scout” and “trust like a Hells Angel.”

“When you take one email and try to paint the whole man or our development system, it's inaccurate,” Huntington said. “That terminology was used to connect with 18- to 25-year-olds. They don't want to hear about ‘cohesiveness' or ‘team-building' or ‘preparation.' We're not trying to create Boy Scouts, native American warriors, Hells Angels or hippies. We're trying to get (players) to think like that. We're using images and metaphors to connect a message.”

Course adjustment

Huntington said there are “a multitude of reasons” for the Pirates' second-half funk. Some of it, he said, might be a matter of the team simply finding its level over the course of a 162-game season.

“As we've tried to evaluate metrically how we've gotten here, you look at the numbers, and we weren't supposed to be 16 games over .500 (on Aug. 1),” Huntington said. “We should have been closer to eight (games), which is still progress.

“Since Aug. 1, batting averages on balls in play have plummeted for our hitters and increased for our pitchers, especially with runners in scoring position. It doesn't mean it's bad luck, but ... yes, it means it's bad luck. We've done some things to not play well, and we've had some things go against us. Is the last six weeks the way we envisioned our season? Absolutely not. Every team has tough stretches. Ours, unfortunately, has been longer and late (in the season).”

Hurdle: ‘It's on me'

Manager Clint Hurdle was ejected in the second inning of Saturday's game when the score was tied at 1. After the game, someone jokingly asked if the loss should go on the record of bench coach Jeff Banister, who filled in after Hurdle was tossed.

“It goes on mine,” Hurdle said with a wry smile. “They all go on mine, and that's the accountability I've got to carry with this. We're just not finishing plays. We're not crisp, we're not performing at the execution level we need to, and that's on me. All of it falls back on the manager. I've got to find a way to get us performing better.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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