Notes: Players preach accountability

Notes: Accountability key for 2008

PITTSBURGH -- Shortly after Freddy Sanchez signed his multi-year contract, he made a guarantee of effort and responsibility to the organization. With the Pirates taking care of him, now, he said, it is his job to return the favor.

"I think starting with myself, a lot of us underachieved," Sanchez said. "I know for me personally, I'm not going to let that happen again. For me, I know I could have performed better last year, and I can only try and do what I can to get better."

Accountability.

It's been an underlying theme in the philosophy of manager John Russell, who hasn't shied away from saying that he will hold himself accountable for on-field performance. However, as the Pirates prepare to head into Spring Training, which begins next Friday, numerous players, including Sanchez, have already spoken stepped up to say that the players need to address accountability issues as well.

Does this new emphasis on accountability, therefore mean it has been lacking here in recent years?

"Definitely. And I'm not afraid to say that anymore," reliever John Grabow said. "I guess with every single team there are players that don't want to do the extra work and who don't really care. And I think those players aren't here anymore.

"[Russell is] definitely going to instill that in the players," Grabow added. "That stuff is not going to go on. If the players see things that aren't going on, they're going to have to go to a player and tell them to step it up a little bit."

Player moves over the offseason have rid the clubhouse of a handful of players who had caused friction with the team or with management. Members of the team have also spoken up about turning "extra work" into "required work" this season and to eliminate the oft-used excuses of youth and inexperience to sugarcoat a lack of success.

"There's obviously people in sports, on other teams, on our team maybe who don't feel [they need to be accountable]," starter Tom Gorzelanny said. "But obviously it's huge that you feel that you are going to the plate or you are going to the mound and pitching. We need to give it everything we have and not make excuses. We need to get to the point where we are accountable for the good things and also the bad things."

Added Xavier Nady: "Obviously, [accountability] starts with the group that we have. You've just got to play the game right."

As a result, expect Russell to set the tone for accountability, but with the need for the players to take the reins.

Burnett still a Buc: Former first-round pick Sean Burnett cleared waivers this week and has been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis by the organization. The left-hander will still be invited to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and is still in the mix to compete for a spot in Pittsburgh, according to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.

In what was a calculated risk by Huntington, Burnett had been removed from the club's 40-man roster last Friday in order to make room for the Pirates to claim infielder Ray Olmedo off waivers. The roster move wasn't a reflection of the Pirates' desire to sever ties with Burnett. Instead, the club was hopeful that no other club would be willing to take the risk of claiming Burnett, who has fought injuries in recent years and hasn't been in the Majors since 2004.

Down in the Caribbean: Though reliever Damaso Marte did not pitch in the Caribbean Series this week, he is not suffering from any lingering injuries after being involved in a car accident on Jan 29.

Marte, whose car was rear-ended in the Dominican Republic, had felt some neck stiffness immediately after the accident, but has since relayed to the Pirates that he is feeling fine.

"We've relied on the medical information we've gotten from the winter ball club and Damaso himself," Huntington said. "He's telling us he's having no issues and that he's fine. He wants to make sure that he's 100 percent [next Friday]."

Marte has resumed his normal offseason throwing routine and will be examined by the Pirates' medical staff when he reports to Bradenton, Fla., in a week.

Down in the Caribbean, part II: Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista will arrive at Spring Training as a member of the Caribbean Series champion Dominican Republic team. Bautista, who went 1-for-4 with two runs scored in Thursday's championship game, started all six games for the Licey club.

He finished the Caribbean Series 5-for-20 with two homers, four RBIs and six runs scored. Included among those four RBIs was a game-winning sacrifice fly in the 11th inning on Feb. 3.

Scouts honor: Scouting director Greg Smith added three additional scouts to his staff this week -- Jerome Cochran, Trevor Haley and Chris Kline. Cochran is assigned to Louisiana and Arkansas; Haley will cover Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky; and Kline, who was an assistant editor for Baseball America, will focus on Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.