Coonelly: Hello everyone and welcome to today's chat. I hope you all had a happy and healthy holiday season. Let's get to the questions.
gobucsin10: Will you be at Somerset on Jan. 24 for the Winter Caravan?
Coonelly: gobucsin10, I will be at Seven Springs in Somerset the 24th as we kick off our annual Winter Caravan of visits to many of our fans in Western Pa., West Virginia and Ohio. We always look forward to coming to Somerset, and in fact, several of us are at Seven Springs today as we are holding meetings with our many outstanding radio affiliates. bucsfanin10, if you are able to make it, please introduce yourself on the 24th. I'd love to meet you.
bornin79: Is this recent process of rebuilding meeting your expectations?
Coonelly: bornin79, thank you for your question. You were born in a great year for the Pirates. Our expectations are extremely high in terms of building a championship team again in Pittsburgh. We will never be satisfied with the speed with which the building process has taken place but I can tell you that the talent level in our organization today is markedly higher and deeper in every perspective than it was two years ago. We have rebuilt the scouting and player-development systems and focused our energy and resources on strategic investments in young talent and outstanding instructors and facilities. I am very pleased with the processes that we have in place throughout the organization and am confident that these strategic investments and emphasis on scouting and player development will begin to translate into wins at the Major League level.
bucsin09: How much more activity do you expect between now and Spring Training?
Coonelly: bucsin09, I expect there to be quite a bit more activity for the Pirates between now and the beginning of Spring Training. [GM] Neal [Huntington] and his staff are working around the clock to improve the club. We have made offers to several free-agent players and have continued to have dialogue with other clubs with respect to potential trades. I expect that we will be adding additional talent, particularly in the bullpen, to the Major League club before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 17.
cream14: What will the Pirates do at third base with two really talented players in Neil Walker and Andy LaRoche? And then you've got [prospect] Pedro Alvarez with power.
Coonelly: cream14, the type of "problem" that you describe at third base is the type of problem we would like to have at every position on the diamond. Andy LaRoche has worked extraordinarily hard to become a productive Major League player. He made tremendous strides in that regard last season, particularly defensively. Andy's September performance at the plate should demonstrate to Andy that continued hard work this offseason and in Spring Training, he can be poised to have a breakout year in 2010. Neil Walker is still a very important player in our system and we are working hard with Neil to put him in a similar position. Pedro Alvarez obviously is a highly talented young player who had a very productive first professional season last year and is working very hard this offseason. We look forward to seeing Pedro in Bradenton and ultimately in Pittsburgh. If Pedro is ready in 2010, a position change for Andy is certainly a possibility but not the only solution to what I described as a very good problem to have.
jwilson316: Any interest in Khalil Greene to compete for the shortstop position? He was born in Butler, so some local ties there.
Coonelly: jwilson316, thanks for your question. No. Our baseball people were very interested in attempting to sign Bobby Crosby as a free agent both to provide us with an option at shortstop and to provide the versatility to play several positions on the diamond. We were fortunate to secure Bobby, and as a result, would not have an interest in Khalil Greene.
booferks: Are you done with the outfield at this point, or are you looking to make a move?
Coonelly: booferks, as I indicated in the previous question, Neal and his staff are continuing to work very hard to improve the club for 2010. He has had conversations with several free-agent players, including players who would provide us with an option in the outfield. We certainly like the players who we currently have in the outfield (Milledge, McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Brandon Moss) but are constantly looking to improve the club.
ankiel101: Will Rick Ankiel be playing for the Pirates?
Coonelly: ankiel101, your screen name suggests that you are a big Rick Ankiel fan. We too like Rick Ankiel and what he can bring to a ballclub. We think that Rick is certainly a good candidate to have a rebound season in 2010 and have expressed our interest to his representative. Therefore, Rick is certainly among the players who we have indicated an interest in to fill an outfield position.
cream14: What are we going to do at first base with no more Adam LaRoche? Will Jeff Clement be ready in time before Garrett Jones takes that spot or Steve Pearce?
Coonelly: cream14, we are very excited about Jeff Clement's bat and certainly we'll certainly give Jeff an opportunity in Spring Training to show he should be our everyday first baseman. Steve Pearce did not have the type of year that he wanted to have last year, but is working extremely hard this offseason and we expect Steve to show up in Bradenton determined to demonstrate that he should be our everyday first baseman. Garrett Jones certainly had an outstanding rookie season last year and should be penciled in at either first base or right field. I would not expect that we would be adding a first baseman in the free-agent market.
Coonelly: One more question for this month.
bucoron: If you are satisfied with the option of Jason Jaramillo at catcher, why has there been no thought to putting Doumit at first since he has the ability to play the position? That would be a help until Jose Tabata is ready to go.
Coonelly: bucoron, we like what Jaramillo brought to the club last year when he filled in for Doumit when he was out with his broken wrist. However, Ryan, as he demonstrated in 2008, can be an extremely productive catcher. Having a dangerous offensive bat like Ryan's at the catcher position allows us to have other dangerous bats in right field and first base. I know that Ryan has played some first base and right field in the past and his ability to do so certainly gives [manager John Russell] the option to keep Doumit's bat in the lineup while resting him from playing the demanding defensive position of catcher on occasion, but we like what Ryan brings to the club as our catcher.
Coonelly: Thanks again, everyone for joining me. I appreciate all the questions. I will talk with you all again next month and I look forward to opening Spring Training in Bradenton on March 2.