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Pirates president endorses GM Huntington

Saturday, July 2, 2011

WASHINGTON — Pirates president Frank Coonelly sounded as if he's ready to extend general manager Neal Huntington's contract.

"I will say what I've said for a number of years now, and nothing has changed: I expect Neal to be the GM of the Pirates for a long time," Coonelly told the Tribune-Review on Friday. "I think he's done a very solid job putting this organization together and getting our baseball operations to the type of championship level we're looking for."

It was the strongest endorsement of Huntington yet by Coonelly, who is in town for the third-place Pirates' series against the Washington Nationals.

Coonelly was criticized last June after revealing he had extended Huntington's deal through 2010 but didn't released the information until eight months later.

"When we get a new contract done this time, we'll certainly inform everybody," Coonelly said with a chuckle.

Huntington is signed through the end of this season. He repeatedly has said his contract status is not a distraction for him.

Coonelly credited Huntington for revamping the farm system to where it has enabled the Pirates to ride out several injuries this season.

"Three years ago, when we had injuries and brought players up, we fell back," Coonelly said. "Now we're not falling back. Chase d'Arnaud, Alex Presley and Josh Harrison can come up and fit right into the team as productive members. I think Neal deserves a lot of credit for the fact that the minor-league system is in a much better place than it was three years ago."

In a two-week span last month, the Pirates lost catchers Chris Snyder (back) and Ryan Doumit (ankle) and had Triple-A starting catcher Jason Jaramillo go down with a bum elbow.

"Not a lot of teams could withstand that," Coonelly said. "Again, to Neal's credit, picking up Mike McKenry from (Boston) at a point when there was very little available has really helped the team."

Manager Clint Hurdle said Huntington has been "shaking the trees" trying to swing a trade to improve the team's lackluster offense. But with so many close division races, teams have been asking for the Pirates' top prospects in trade talks — a route the club is not willing to take, even with first place in the NL Central within reach.




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