Coonelly: Pirates won't make changes at the top
Team president issues statement supporting Huntingon, Hurdle and others
NEW YORK -- Despite the team's second consecutive late-season collapse, and criticism leveled toward some of the organization's unorthodox training methods for prospects, the Pirates will not be making any changes at the top of their organizational charts.According to a statement issued Wednesday afternoon by Pittsburgh club president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington, assistant general managers Kyle Stark and Greg Smith, and manager Clint Hurdle will all be back in 2013. The full text of Coonelly's statement: "For the second consecutive year, we put ourselves in an excellent position to meet our objective of winning our division but did not play nearly well enough during the last two months of the season to accomplish it. Our fans are understandably disappointed and frustrated, as is every individual in the organization. "As soon as we finish this season as well as we possibly can, we will turn our full and total attention to evaluating why were unable to finish the job and what we must do differently to take the next step to becoming a championship team. There will unquestionably be changes made to the way in which we operate as a result of this thorough critical self-evaluation, but we will not be making personnel changes at the very top of our baseball operations department. Neal, Kyle, Greg and Clint are dedicated and intelligent baseball men in whom I have great confidence. "Confidence in and support of Neal, Kyle and Greg should not be misunderstood with acceptance of another poor finish at the Major League level. We must understand why the quality of our execution and play deteriorated so markedly in August. Finishing was the focus from spring training but it certainly was not achieved."
Walker could be shut down for final week
NEW YORK -- With Neil Walker having to sit out a second consecutive game for the first time since returning from injury, manager Clint Hurdle on Wednesday conceded the possibility of the second baseman just being shut down for the season's final week.
Walker has been playing every other day since ending a three-week absence due to the residual effect of lower back spasms and tightness on Sept. 14. But he sat out the second and third games of the series against the Mets.
"Yeah, we're talking about it," Hurdle said about the possibility of having Walker sit out the remaining seven games, as well. "When he feels good, adrenaline can flare up and he can play. And there's days he can't. You don't want to not let a man play who wants to play and is capable of playing."
Walker is not explicitly in favor of shutting it down. But he admitted his energy is not at Major League levels.
"I seem to have one good run in me every day. And after that first at-bat, it's gone," Walker said.
"The energy he has at the start has been tough to maintain," Hurdle said. "I just know that when he does play, the next day he's not at the same comfort level as he'd been the morning before."
The 27-year-old Pittsburgh native was well on his way to a career season when his back went out on Aug. 27. He already had a career-high 14 homers and had driven in 69 runs in 127 games, compared to 83 RBIs in 159 games last season.
Bullpen pivotal in setting franchise K's mark
NEW YORK -- Given how the distribution of mound work has changed between the eras, it was very appropriate for reliever Jason Grilli to notch the Pirates' 1,125th strikeout of the season on Tuesday night to set a franchise record.
This year's edition broke the record of the 1969 team, which had gotten 262 of its 1,124 whiffs out of the bullpen, or 23 percent.
On the 2012 staff, relievers contributed 437 strikeouts toward the record that stood at 1,127 by the end of Tuesday's game. That's 39 percent.
Among the 1969 relievers, Bruce Del Canton's 56 strikeouts were a team high. Both Grilli (85) and Joel Hanrahan (67) already have more.
Grilli was quick to acknowledge the contribution of the middle of the bullpen.
"I give a lot of props to guys like [Chris] Resop and [Jared] Hughes and [Tony] Watson," Grilli said. "They don't get enough credit for what they do, make really tough pitches in tough situations. They really set the stage."
The last word
"To be mentioned with those three names is pretty special. It means a lot to us. We can do a lot of damage, and we're always working to get better and help the team move in the right direction, too."
-- Garrett Jones, on hitting his 25th homer to join Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen (30 each) in matching the only other set of three Pirates to hit 25-plus homers in the same season -- Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Donn Clendenon, in 1966.
• Starling Marte was back atop Wednesday night's lineup for his first start in four games. Manager Clint Hurdle noted Marte had tweaked a knee on a slide in Houston, but added that "was not restrictive." Instead, Marte had missed some starts because "his at-bats got sloppy," said Hurdle.
• How is it possible for Joel Hanrahan to have picked up only three saves since Aug. 8? Since then, the Bucs have only four wins by three or fewer runs (the conditions for a save). During the same stretch, Hanrahan has closed out five games the Pirates won by four-plus, including Tuesday night's 10-6 victory over the Mets.
• Pedro Alvarez had his seventh game of the season with four-plus RBIs in Tuesday's 10-6 victory. That is tied with Texas' Josh Hamilton for the most in the Majors.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.