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Pirates owner Nutting dismisses sale rumors

| Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates are not going anywhere, and for the first time in years, neither are many of their best players.

Principal owner Bob Nutting staunchly repeated Tuesday that the franchise is not for sale. And, speaking at a team meeting, Nutting said the Pirates could be a buyer at the trade deadline — if they are in the playoff hunt.

"The last couple of years. there's been the concern of who's going to be with the team in September," Nutting said. "That's much less of a discussion now. This team needs to jell, to set its own standards and perform.

"We're going to see, throughout the season additions to the team, I would hope."

Team president Frank Coonelly also addressed the players and coaches before yesterday's first full-squad workout. He raised comparisons between this club and the 1960 Pirates, which won the World Series after a decade of futility.

"The expectation level has been raised," Coonelly said. "We believe this team can be the one that turns this franchise around. And instead of being concerned about subtractions from the team, this is a core to which we can add."

That's welcome news to the players, most of whom grew weary of what seemed to be an endless cycle of trades.

"It's good, knowing we're not going to dismantle it again," third baseman Andy LaRoche said.

The Pirates should have the financial flexibility to add players. Their expected Opening Day payroll of about $35 million likely will be the lowest in the majors.

Coonelly gave what he called "a strong vote of confidence" to general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell. However, neither Nutting nor Coonelly would discuss the management team's contract status.

"That's not a great topic on the first day of spring training to speculate on who's going to be here," Nutting said. "Organizations are build on long-term (commitments), not speculation. They are built on people who are performing effectively. I have a lot of faith in the leadership that's been put in place, both on field and in the front office."

Last year, one week into spring training, the Pirates extended Russell's contract for 2010. He has a club option in his contract for 2011. Huntington is in the final year of a three-year contract.

Nutting bristled when asked about a recent offer by Penguins co-owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux to purchase the Pirates.

"It's pretty clear," Nutting said. "The team has not been for sale, the team is not for sale, and the team is not going to be sold."

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