PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' A.J. Burnett called for and presided over a players-only meeting prior to Wednesday's game against the Dodgers. "Sometimes you've just got to get together and clear the air. Get everybody breathing again," Burnett said minutes before the players' assembly in their PNC Park clubhouse. When he takes the mound late Thursday afternoon, Burnett intends to be pitching for a split of the four-game series with Los Angeles, not looking to avoid a sweep.
The veteran pitcher, whose leadership has been as valued as his 14 wins, called the meeting after the Bucs' fifth loss in six home games was an unsavory 11-0 beating by the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, meeting with the media at the same time as the players' conclave proceeded outside his office, implied this was not the first such occasion. "Who's to say how often and when they've met? They're appropriate with their timing; they have been throughout the season," Hurdle said. "It's all part of players taking ownership of what they're doing and how they do it. I trust them." As a former player and coach who has been on both sides of the closed door, Hurdle likes for his players to take such initiative. "Have the reactions to past meetings been positive? It all depends on how you define positive," Hurdle said. "They say what needs to be said, there are always a couple of individuals who get it moving. It all comes out -- feelings, thoughts, observations, comments. "It's a self-cleaning. An honest evaluation from other players. The group I've had here has always come out [of these meetings] in a much better place." The Pirates entered Wednesday's game with an August record of 5-8, after three consecutive winning months had thrust them into the National League Central race. Ten losses in their last 16 games had pushed them six behind the first-place Reds and reduced their lead for an NL Wild Card spot to a half-game over both the Dodgers and the Giants.