Coonelly: bucsin09, Kyle began the season in extended Spring Training with us and should be assigned to the Altoona starting rotation shortly.
kelowatts: Nice start to the season. Tell me, if you can, how close the Pirates were to signing Adam Dunn?
Coonelly: kelowatts, thanks for the kind words. This past week has certainly been difficult and frustrating for the organization, but we remain excited, as are you, by our start. There are many positive signs that we have seen beginning in Spring Training and extending into the first month of the season that should bode well for us as we address some of the shortcomings that we have displayed thus far.
With respect to Adam Dunn, we never got close to what he was seeking. First, we liked our options in the outfield and second, we did not have the payroll availability to make a two-year, $22 million commitment to Dunn.
jm_bucsfan: Why did John Russell let Ian Snell throw 131 pitches in a game last week? It seems inconsistent with the philosophy of the organization.
Coonelly: jm_bucsfan, we have been asked that question on several occasions over the last week. We certainly have an organizational philosophy to protect our pitchers from injury/overwork. In this particular case, however, J.R. believed that Ian was in control of the game and still pitching with command, velocity and control. There is not any magic number of pitches above which a starting pitcher cannot go. Numerous factors, such as number of stressful innings, are taken into account.
woodeneye: After 26 games, does management see any areas that need to be addressed now? And what moves will be made, if any?
Coonelly: woodeneye, it is a bit too early to make fundamental moves based on what we have seen over the first month of the season. However, we have already further solidified our bench by picking up Delwyn Young in a trade with the Dodgers. Delwyn has already demonstrated that he is a dangerous switch-hitting bat off the bench and could play a larger role as the season progresses.
Overall, we are very pleased with the performance of our starters. The bullpen had been strong early but has had a tough week. J.R. will continue to work to find the right mix in the bullpen, and will now need to move Tyler Yates and John Grabow into closing opportunities. The bullpen is certainly an area that we will continue to monitor closely and make further moves if warranted. While he gave up two runs last night, Evan Meek has performed extremely well this year, both in Indianapolis and in his recall to Pittsburgh. Like our starting pitching, our defense has been vastly improved this year. We currently rank sixth in the NL in fielding, while we finished last year 11th in the league. With Ryan Doumit out and with Nate McLouth missing nearly a week, we have struggled in the area of power production. There have been encouraging signs from both Andy LaRoche and Brandon Moss that they are finding their power strokes.
kegger1923: Can you give an indication of what the Draft budget will be this year? Will the aggressive drafting and signing continue? Will the increased emphasis in the Dominican reduce draft resources?
Coonelly: kegger1923, outstanding question. As an organization, we need to be aggressive in the Draft every year. The last thing we can do is pat ourselves on the back for the strong Draft we had in '08 and believe our work is done. We will be equally aggressive in the draft this year (and every year to follow) even as we continue to increase our focus in international markets such as the Dominican Republic. In other words, while our investment in the academy in the DR and our increased focus on all international markets is reflected by signings of players in South Africa and China, we view the amateur Draft as a core component of our talent acquisition.
ctbuccofan: Despite the recent slump, a sweep of the Cards would leave the Bucs only 2 1/2 games out of first. Is the positive attitude of Spring Training still noticeable in the clubhouse, even with the injuries to Doumit, Jack Wilson, Nate, and now Capps?
Coonelly: ctbuccofan, the players are still extremely positive about their chances this season. As you correctly noted, we certainly have had our share of early-season injuries. They are not an excuse, of course, and we are better prepared to deal with those injuries this year than we were last year. The offseason signings of Ramon Vazquez, Eric Hinske and Craig Monroe, and the acquisitions of Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz should allow us to weather these injuries. While our play over the last week has certainly been frustrating to everyone in the organization, the players still believe in what we are building here in Pittsburgh and we believe in their ability to compete on a nightly basis.
kelowatts: Hi again, Mr. Coonelly. What is the update for Phil Dumatrait? Do you think he'll be able to fill in with the fifth spot any time soon?
Coonelly: kelowatts, nice to hear from you again. Phil has had a minor setback in his rehabilitation. He was shut down from throwing for a very short period of time. He should resume throwing shortly, and we hope that he will be in a position to begin a rehab assignment in the next several weeks. As a result, Phil will not be an option for the rotation for at least a month and a half.
dsnelqendo: Any concern over Pedro Alvarez having a 43% strikeout rate vs. lefties at the Class-A level?
Coonelly: dsnelqendo, what we are seeing with Pedro is what we see with most elite prospects when they first join professional baseball. Pedro obviously put up impressive numbers during his time in Major League Spring Training camp. In Lynchburg, he has continued to post impressive power numbers (five homers, 21 RBIs) but has not yet hit for average. You are correct that he has struck out far too often. He has also, however, walked 16 times. It is clear that most pitchers do not want to challenge Pedro. Often times, young power hitters become frustrated when they are being pitched around, thereby expanding their strike zone and becoming susceptible to strikeouts. We are confident that this is all a part of his development process and that he will be more successful when he learns to swing only at strikes.
statstv: I am a big Pirates fan in Harrisburg, Pa. We cannot get any games on TV. Even MLB extra innings blacks out games. Any hope that you will get a station in Harrisburg to televise games?
Coonelly: This will have to be the last question of the day. I want to, again, thank everyone for participating and for your passion for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
statstv, I have heard from many, many frustrated Pirates fans from Harrisburg who cannot pick up our games on FSN or the MLB Extra Innings package. I am working diligently to get our games on in some form in the Harrisburg area. We have the same issues in Columbus, Ohio and Buffalo, N.Y. You can assist in this regard by calling/writing your cable operator and requesting that it carry FSN Pittsburgh. In the meantime, we are doing everything that we can to pressure the cable operators to carry FSN Pittsburgh and/or to have our games shown on another station. Trust me, we are keenly interested in having all Pirates fans watching Pirates baseball.