Notes: Tracy stresses accountability

Notes: Tracy stresses accountability

BRADENTON -- Prior to holding his first official workouts as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jim Tracy delivered a succinct message to his new squad, a message that he hopes will set the tone for a new era in Pirates baseball.

"There was one word that pretty much summarized the few things I had to say today, and that's accountability," said Tracy. "We're going to be accountable.

"Age, payroll and all of that kind of stuff for me is out the window. You are going to be held accountable for your actions. We all have to do that. That's just part of the business."

Along with this renewed commitment to accountability, Tracy believes, will be an understanding of what it takes to be a winning organization.

"The message that I was basically trying to send to them was that this is not really a good place to be if you think mediocrity is going to be OK. It won't work," said Tracy, before continuing on with a mantra players are sure to be familiar with very soon.

"There are two types of baseball teams. There are those that play and there are those that play winning baseball. The fact of understanding what it is and what you have to do to play winning baseball, that's what we're focused on. That's what we began to focus on today and that's what we'll continue to focus on each and every day from this point forward."

The Pirates' first Spring Training workouts, much like the team's minicamp a month earlier, were heavy on exercises aimed at stressing the importance of fundamentals.

Catchers worked with coaches to improve their defensive abilities before taking batting practice, and position players returning from injuries, including Chris Duffy, Jody Gerut and Jose Bautista, took BP under the guidance of new hitting coach Jeff Manto.

Pitchers made their way through stations for bunting and fielding drills. Fourteen of the 30 pitchers on hand, including Kip Wells, Sean Burnett, Zach Duke, Oliver Perez, Mike Gonzalez and Salomon Torres, threw bullpen sessions of approximately 40 pitches. New pitching coach Jim Colborn stopped Duke and Perez during their sessions to offer pointers.

While Tracy cautioned his pitchers not to overtax their arms early on in camp, he encouraged them to experiment with the suggestions given to them by the new coaching staff.

"They have to have an arena to be able to do some things that are maybe a little bit different than what they normally do, experiment with some things, take some instruction from Jimmy Colborn, [bullpen coach] Bobby Cuellar and the rest of our people," said Tracy. "You have to allow them the opportunity to do some of that."

Hernandez, Cararra absent: Veteran right-handers Roberto Hernandez and Giovanni Carrara were no-shows for the first day of workouts.

According to Pirates GM Dave Littlefield, the Venezuelan native Carrara is having trouble attaining a work visa and will likely join the team in the next few days. Littlefield said that Hernandez's arrival has been held up by personal issues. He is expected to join the team early next week.

Van Benschoten sidelined: Right-hander John Van Benschoten, who was sidelined for all of last season while recovering from surgeries on both shoulders, was held out of the workouts Friday for precautionary reasons after experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder.

"He has had some light shoulder irritation that has bothered him a little bit," said Littlefield. "We just think that time-wise, we should back him off a little bit and get him pain-free before he starts throwing again."

Van Benshcoten threw his first bullpen session since the injury during minicamp. No timetable has been set for his return to the mound.

Mackanin joins Reds: Former Pirates interim manager and bench coach Pete Mackanin, who was slotted to manage Pittsburgh's rookie league Bradenton affiliate this summer, was hired Friday by the Cincinnati Reds as their Major League advance scout.

"I anticipated, relative to Pete's desire possibly to do something at the Major League level, that this may be something that would happen," said Littlefield. "But he did a nice job for us and I think a lot of Pete. We've had him in a variety of roles and I want to wish him the best of luck."

Littlefield will consult with director of player development Brian Graham before assigning a new manager for the Bradenton affiliate.

Old heroes return: The Pirates, under Tracy, will continue their policy of inviting former franchise greats to serve as special instructors during Spring Training.

Former player, manager and coach Bill Virdon was on hand Friday for the first workouts. Manny Sanguillen, recently-hired advanced scout Kent Tekulve and Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski will join the team later this spring.

"One of the things that young players have to not only learn but gain an admiration for is the respect factor of the game and the people who have participated in previous years or decades, and an understanding of the history of the organization that you are currently playing in," said Tracy.

"Seeing some of those people who have had an impact on an organization that is, in my opinion, very rich in tradition, I think that's a very special thing for them."

Bucs bits: Numerous Pirates pitchers were happy to learn that they will no longer be expected to participate in the annual mile run. According to conditioning coordinator Frank Velasquez, the dreaded endurance test is no longer necessary. "The players are reporting to camp in better shape," Velasquez explained. "And the guys who are behind will expose themselves eventually." ... Perez has switched his uniform number from 48 to 59. Colborn will now wear number 48 for the black and gold.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.