Notes: Bucs take GM change in stride

Notes: Bucs take GM change in stride

PITTSBURGH -- The players in the Pirates clubhouse were not surprised by the news that general manager Dave Littlefield had been relieved of his duties on Friday.

"It doesn't come as too much of a surprise," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "When we haven't had a good year and we haven't done much in the standings, and when they are bringing in a new CEO, you could pretty much see it coming."

Truth be told, the dismissal of the general manager won't have much of an effect on the players.

"It's not going to do too much for us as players," Wilson opined. "We go out there and play. The front office is the front office and we're down here in the clubhouse. We've got a job to do. It's just kind of side news for us."

Winds of change are sweeping the Pirates front office, and some feel that is not necessarily a bad thing.

"Obviously with what has gone on the last 15 years, and what has gone on the years that Dave [Littlefield] has been here, we haven't been too successful," said Wilson. "It's not entirely his fault as far as the team not going out and performing. But at the same time, not too many GM's are going to have their job after six straight losing seasons, no matter who you are. It's one of those things that are the business of baseball."

"You never know," pitcher Zach Duke offered. "Maybe some new faces here are what we need to get a winning attitude or a winning record here. You never know. There are lots of variables that go into winning ball games. Maybe this is what needed to be done."

First baseman Adam LaRoche was Littlefield's biggest offseason acquisition and was saddened by the news.

"I liked Dave," LaRoche said. "I just heard about it and I haven't gotten to think about it. I have a lot of respect for the guy. He's a great family guy and always treated me and my kids and my wife well. You won't hear anything bad out of my mouth. It's like releasing a great player, a guy that's a team player, and some things have to change. It's unfortunate."

"I think it was a little sudden," outfielder Jason Bay stated. "Obviously with what had transpired with the CEO and all that, I think a lot of people saw it coming. And no matter who you are, it's kind of tough. Obviously people want to see some more wins. On a personal note, Dave was the biggest reason probably that I'm here, and I give him thanks for that. I think it's tough for everybody, but I don't think by any means it was super shocking."

Bay will be interested in the direction the team takes.

"It will be interesting to see what they do and what direction we might go with the new CEO and the new GM," said Bay. "It's going to be a whole different offseason and a direction that I'm really looking forward to see what happens."

Tracy secure? While the dismissal of the general manager doesn't have much of an effect on the players, it has a major effect on the manager of a team. Bucs manager Jim Tracy was dismayed by the news of Littlefield's firing.

"It's obviously a very tough day," Tracy stated. "It goes without saying that you don't like to see anybody lose their job. I think that he's a very, very good man, a tremendous communicator, not only for different facets and things that take place at the Major League level, but throughout the organization.

"I can only speak about what has taken place the last two years that I've been here, and everybody has their take on it, but my personal opinion is that there's a lot of things here right now, at this point in time as of today, that are a ... a lot better than they were back in early November of 2005. Obviously the decision makers felt like a change was necessary, but this is a good man, in my opinion, that will land on his feet."

Tracy was asked if he felt secure in his job.

"Nobody has told me anything to the contrary," Tracy said. "I have a job to do and I can honestly tell you that, up to this point, I can hold my head up very high knowing the fact where I felt like we were when we began on Opening Day of 2006 and where we're at right now. This is headed in the direction that, as the manager of this club, you want to see it go."

LaRoche returns: LaRoche was back in the lineup against the Cubs on Friday. LaRoche has been battling swelling in his left knee after fouling a ball off his leg in Milwaukee.

"I'm still wrapping it," LaRoche reported. "But it's been sore now for probably two months -- just the back of it -- and then I hit the front of it. The whole thing swelled and that didn't help. But it's gone down and it's still sore, but I can play."

Duke update: Lefty Zach Duke allowed one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings in his final injury rehab start Thursday night for short-season State College. Duke rejoined the Pirates on Friday.

Duke also made two rehab starts for rookie-level Bradenton and one for Triple-A Indianapolis, notching a combined 2.25 ERA in 16 innings.

"I think the direction we will go with Duke, when we get to the point that we put him back on the active roster, we will be inclined to use him out of the bullpen -- not just take him and throw him in the rotation," said Tracy. "We'll let him work out of the bullpen. I think that's the best path to take as far as where he's at right now."

On deck: The Pirates host the Cubs in Game 2 of the series at PNC Park at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. Right-hander Ian Snell (9-11, 4.01 ERA) will be on the hill for the Bucs. The Cubs will counter with right-hander Carlos Zambrano (14-12, 4.35 ERA).

George Von Benko is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.