PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan)-Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington joined Greg Brown Sunday for his final weekly show from the first half of the season.
The Pirates find themselves in another pennant race as the first half closes today and it has a great deal due to the play of center fielder and reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, who shined in an extra inning win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night. McCutchen homered in the 9th inning to tie the game and homered again in the 11th inning to lift the Pirates to a 6-5 win in 11 innings.
“That is the fun part about Andrew, is just how he continues to grow and develop as a leader as a player and as a man and he is pretty good on all three of those fronts but to watch him get better and better,” Huntington said. “He is having a better year this year than he did a year ago and having an impact on us and what is fun is he is starting to get the national recognition, to see him voted into the All-Star game just to see him get at least some cause he deserves more but it’s fun to see him get some of the national recognition he deserves.”
Huntington was asked by Greg about the possibility of approaching McCutchen now about reworking his contract and extending the all-star center fielder.
“Andrew McCutchen is a great player. It is our pure hope and we will do everything in our power to have him be a Pirate for his entire career but you look at the industry now and that just doesn’t happen,” Huntington said. “The Derek Jeters of the world are the rare exception. When the New York Yankees can’t keep all of the players they want to keep the reality is there are going to be some good players that change teams when they get deep into their free agent years, but that said we certainly hope and will do all that we can to keep Andrew in a Pirates uniform for a long time if not hopefully for his whole career.”
The Pirates find themselves in the mix at the mid season break (just two-and-a-half games back entering into Sunday’s game vs. the Reds) and it’s with an offense that may not have hit it’s stride yet.
“We have some guys who are maturing got some guys who are coming into their own and we look forward to what the second half will bring,” Huntington said.
Huntington also said this offense has a chance to be real dynamic if they can get one of those white hot streaks Pedro Alvarez usually has during the course of the season.
Pedro Alvarez, despite having an up and down year, continues to work hard at improving and according to Huntington has the full backing of his teammates.
“He is a great teammate. He shows up to play everyday and again he might not have that fiery disposition that fans tend to love but this guy does care and gets it and he gets after it and he works hard and wants to be great,” Huntington said. “His teammates see that. They see how hard he works to get through this and how much this is weighing on him. They are there for him, pulling for him, rooting for him but at the same time they are getting after it trying to win every game we play.”
The one major concern the Pirates may have right now is the bullpen and Huntington says they will look to make upgrades whether it’s internally or externally.
“There are only so many players out there that can help us,” Huntington said. “Sometimes the best upgrades are to get guys back on the right track.”
Francisco Liriano will return to the Pirates rotation today against the Cincinnati Reds in the final game of the 2014 first half and he will also be heading the rotation in the second half as he will get the ball Friday night against the Colorado Rockies to open the 2nd half of the 2014 campaign.
Huntington says he is flying to Minneapolis today with his sons to take in the All-Star festivities but there will be time to discuss business with the other general managers to see if he can make upgrades to this team for the stretch run.
“To be in a pennant race and to have so much of it within our control if we can make some adjustments as a team, If I can see what is out there that makes sense to add to the club and our young players continue to develop and most importantly we stay healthy we have put ourselves in a position to have a very interesting August and September and striving for October but we have work to do,” Huntington said. “It doesn’t feel like we are right in the middle of a pennant race. It feels like we are kind of fighting ourselves and there are some things we can do better and there are some things I can do better to lead this front office in a better position.”