Coonelly: Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining me again this month. Let's get started. Also, I want to congratulate former Bucco Bert Blyleven, an integral part of our 1979 World Series club, on just being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
bucsin09: Hi Frank; Happy New Year! Are the Bucs essentially done with their offseason changes?
Coonelly: Happy New Year to you, bucsin09, and to all Pirates fans. Neal is continuing to work to improve the club and, in particular, is looking to add a bullpen piece or two. Neal continues to talk to representatives for free agents and attempt to identify trades that will improve the club. While we accomplished a significant amount during the Winter Meetings with the acquisition of Correia, Overbay and Diaz, we are likely not finished.
oscar43: In your November online chat you said in response to a question about pitching "There is no question that we need to improve our pitching in 2011, particularly our starting rotation." Do you feel the addition of Scott Olsen and Kevin Correia meet that need?
Coonelly: oscar43, I very much believe that adding Kevin Correia to the rotation and acquiring Scott Olsen to compete for the 5th starter spot has bolstered our starting rotation for 2011. I am also convinced that the most significant improvement in our rotation will come from pitchers who were in the organization in 2010, whether they be pitchers who pitched in Pittsburgh or our minor league system.
nolan955: If the Pirates have the capacity to make a meaningful increase the payroll, why not offer long-term contract extensions to McCutchen and Alvarez like the Rays have done with Longoria?
Coonelly: Reaching long-term contracts with core players such as Andrew McCutchen and, we believe, Pedro Alvarez is an important component to building a sustainable winner. It, of course, takes two parties to reach an agreement but this is a contracting approach that we have implemented.
deane79pit: Hey Frank, a year ago at this time we were looking forward to Alvarez and Tabata call ups (not anticipating the surprise of Walker). Who could we see come up this year? Maybe Gorkys, B-Morris, Locke, Negrych? Thanks!
Coonelly: deane79pit, you are right that we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Alvarez and Tabata last year while hoping that Neil Walker could also be a part of our future this time last year. It was exciting to watch these three young players become three of the best rookies in the National League in 2010. For us to be successful over the long term, it is critical that we continue to bring such talent to the Major League level from our minor league organizations. From our other players who we believe to have a shot to make a meaningful impact in Pittsburgh this year are Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson, Jeff Locke and Alex Presley. The development of other players may, and probably will, surprise us in 2011.
cshint2121: What is the most likely scenario for Jameson Taillon, will he start at SC, WV, or Bradenton?
Coonelly: The assignments of our minor league players are several months away, but Jameson Taillon has a legitimate chance to start his professional career at the West Virginia Power.
jimdgobucs: How do you feel about Charlie Morton going forward?
Coonelly: We continue to feel that Charlie has all of the tools necessary to be an effective starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Charlie obviously struggled mightily last year but seemed to find a level of confidence during the last month of the season. He continued to make progress during a brief winter league stint and will be given an opportunity to win the 5th starter spot in the rotation.
cshint2121: What are the future plans of Stetson Allie, does the organization see him as a starter or relief pitcher?
Coonelly: cshint2121, we believe that Stetson Allie can be a top of the rotation starter and he will be given every opportunity to demonstrate that he belongs in a starting rotation. Obviously, Stetson has the tools necessary to pitch at the back end of the bullpen as well, but we will first look to confirm our belief that he can start.
bucbybay: There has been talk about bringing Jack Wilson back at short. Have you given any consideration to this?
Coonelly: Jack spent a considerable portion of the 2010 season on the disabled list. We have not had any conversations with Seattle regarding Jack.
cshint2121: Why Overbay instead of Derek Lee or Lance Berkman?
Coonelly: cshint2121, when we looked at offensive, defensive and leadership qualities, we thought that Lyle Overbay provided us with the best overall package at first base.
oscar43: How is Steve Pearce recovering from knee surgery?
Coonelly: Steve Pearce has been working hard in his rehabilitation and should report to spring Training ready to compete for a job on the Major League club. Steve's injury last year was unfortunate because he had worked extraordinarily hard to get in the best shape of his career, and that extra work was evident in his play.
Coonelly: Let's take one more. I appreciate your participation and look forward to chatting with you next month from Bradenton, FL...
bucs 100: Are you still looking to acquire middle relief & starting pitchers? It seems we could still use more.
Coonelly: bucs 100, great question on which to conclude today's chat. As I indicated earlier, Neal is continuing to attempt to improve the team and continues to evaluate the available pitchers on the free agent and trade markets. While we have several exciting young internal candidates for the bullpen such as Dan Moskos, Tony Watson and Diego Moreno, Neal continues to look for bullpen help. In addition, while we are comfortable going to Bradenton with Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln, Scott Olsen, Brian Burres competing for the 5th starter spot, Neal also continues to explore the starting pitcher market. As we indicated at the outset of this offseason, the one thing we did not want to do is to block the talented young starters who led the Altoona Curve to the Eastern League championship last year, such as Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson and Jeff Locke. These young starters have an opportunity to demonstrate that they belong in Pittsburgh at some point in 2011.
Coonelly: Again, thanks for your interest in the Pirates and let me take this last opportunity to congratulate Bert Blyleven on his remarkable achievement.