One of the most frequently asked questions about the upcoming organizational shuffle surrounds the status of Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy and his coaching staff. Though Tracy is contractually signed through next season, his record of 133-185 has led to speculation surrounding his job security.
The answer to that question will have to wait. Citing the need for evaluation before action, Huntington wouldn't speculate on Tracy or anyone else's status beyond the season.
"I need to learn about the Pittsburgh Pirates -- who we are, what we do, how we do it -- and at this point to speculate on any one individual, personnel member, staff member, player, I'm not equipped to do that," Huntington said. "Out of fairness to all those people, I understand that there is some instability. I understand that instability creates discomfort. It's my duty to walk through that information gathering and evaluating process appropriately."
How long will this evaluation process take?
"I wish I had an answer for you," Huntington responded. "I will do it respectfully and graciously. I've been on the other side of the equation, with a new executive coming in and wondering what my future held. But I want to make sure the process is thorough, and I want to make sure the process is fair."
This isn't the first time Huntington and Tracy have crossed paths. Before joining the Dodgers organization, Tracy spent 1995-98 as a bench coach for the Montreal Expos. During that time, Huntington worked primarily in the Expos' player development department.
"I know of him from years ago," Tracy said. "I, personally, feel like he's going to do a very good job here. I think the thing that is very pronounced is that he has taken no shortcuts in the appointment to this job, as to where he's started and what he's done and some of the people he's been associated with."
Tracy is well aware of the inquiries surrounding his job security. While he emphasized his desire to finish out his three-year contract, he also reiterated that ultimately the decision of whether or not he will return next year remains out of his hands.
"If moving forward, I am the guy that he wants to continue to manage this club, that's exactly what I want to do," Tracy said. "If they have other plans and decide to go in a different direction, that's their choice."
Instant impressions: With the buzz around the Pirates clubhouse prior to Tuesday's game, it was evident Huntington passed task No. 1: getting off on the right foot with the players. Huntington briefly introduced himself to the players and addressed the team in a closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon.
According to the players, Huntington's main message was to get across his assurance of an open-door policy.
"I know there is a natural barrier between players and the front office, and he wants to get rid of that," said first baseman Adam LaRoche. "He said, 'Anything that goes on, feel free to call me or whatever'. As a player, to hear that right out of the gate is pretty nice."
It was a refreshing introductory statement, and one that some players said hasn't always been in place in the past.
"The players are paid to play, and that's one part of it, but how we're dealt with as people, not just players, is a huge part of it," Jack Wilson said. "That's why I'm so encouraged by what Neal had to say, because it seems like that is a priority with him. In my experience with that job, I don't think it has been that much of a priority."
Numerous Pirates players admitted they expect changes to come during the offseason. What exactly those changes are and how far they stretch remains the issue most anticipated in the clubhouse.
"I just think that regardless of if you've won 10 years in a row or have lost 10 years in a row, you can become accustomed to the monotony of things," Jason Bay said. "Now some things are going to be different along some lines. Obviously we need a little change to get things moving along. It's going to be exciting to go into Spring Training and see what the differences are and see where we're headed."
What's up Doc? Wilson rejoined the team on Tuesday, a proud father and feeling much better than when he left last Tuesday's game early with tightness in his right hamstring. Though he wasn't in Tuesday's starting lineup, Wilson said he feels healthy enough to return to the field.
"I went out and had a little practice yesterday," said Wilson, the proud dad of a new baby girl, Jersi, born early Thursday morning. "Granted it was with my 5-year-old, but we were running around. I also ran the bases pretty hard yesterday and sprinted."
As for Bay, his sore right knee will keep him out of action for most of the final week of the season. While Bay will be available to pinch-hit, his availability to play in the outfield will be limited. That availability will be determined on a day-to-day basis.
Rotation matters: Tracy announced on Tuesday that Tom Gorzelanny will make the start for the club on Saturday, giving the left-hander one more shot at reaching the 15-win mark this season. After Gorzelanny's loss on Sunday, Tracy remained undecided about whether Gorzelanny would take the mound again in 2007.
Gorzelanny, however, saw the decision as clearly black and white.
"I'll make sure I do," the lefty said Sunday of making one more start. "The last two starts, they've been crappy, and I'm not going to sit here and say I'm done. I'm going to go out there and pitch the next game, and I'm going to win. We're going to win."
As for Sunday's season finale, Tracy will not send scheduled starter Ian Snell to the mound, making Tuesday's start the final one of the season for Snell. While Tracy hasn't named a replacement starter, it most likely will be Bryan Bullington or John Van Benschoten.
On deck: The Pirates will continue their three-game series with the NL West-leading Diamondbacks on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Right-hander Matt Morris (9-11, 5.02 ERA) will make his final start of the season, and he will face Arizona righty Livan Hernandez (11-10, 4.85).
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less