MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - INSIDE PITCH
It was an award 21 years in the making.
The Pittsburgh Pirates finally recorded their first winning season since 1992, and the rare success led to Clint Hurdle receiving the National League Manager of the Year award on Nov. 12.
"I'm humbled to get to represent this organization," Hurdle said. "There were so many people involved. I'm just the guy in the dugout."
Ending the longest streak of futility in the major North American sports leagues, the Pirates advanced to the playoffs as a wild card. As a result, Hurdle earned 25 of 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, easily outdistancing runner-up Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Mattingly garnered two first-place votes for guiding a midseason turnaround that led the Dodgers to the NL West championship.
The Pirates didn't have a losing month all season, a sign of their consistency, and they never lost more than four games in a row.
In a statement, Pirates owner Bob Nutting said, "Clint's passion is infectious. He challenges everyone around him to push forward and improve a little bit every day. He is a great leader, a great citizen of Pittsburgh and a tremendous family man and human being."
Hurdle said, "Nobody was looking for credit, only the collective result."
The Manager of the Year voting covered only the regular season, but Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in the NL wild-card game, then pushed the eventual NL champion St. Louis Cardinals to the maximum five games in the NL Division Series. St. Louis captured the final two games to end the Pirates' bounce-back season.
In 2014, Hurdle will face the challenge of guiding one of the clubs regarded as a contender -- something of a new feeling in Pittsburgh.
MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - NOTES, QUOTES
2013: 94-68, second place in NL Central, lost to Cardinals in NL Division Series
TEAM MVP: CF Andrew McCutchen has a good chance to win the National League MVP award after a fine all-round season. McCutchen hit .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a .404 on-base percentage and .508 slugging percentage in 157 games. He became just the fourth major league center fielder since 1947 to have consecutive seasons of hitting .300 with a .400 slugging percentage and .500 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, joining Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. McCutchen also showed improvement on defense after winning his first career Gold Glove last season as he took better routes on fly balls and showed better accuracy with his throws.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: RHP James McDonald went from potential staff ace in 2012 to being released in 2013. McDonald made just six starts for the Pirates this season, going 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA before going on the disabled list May 1 with shoulder discomfort and never returning. He was released in early September after being designated for assignment. Last year, McDonald went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA in 17 starts before the All-Star break, but 3-5 with a 7.32 ERA in 13 second-half games.
TOP PROSPECT: RHP Tyler Glasnow had an outstanding first full professional season at low Class A West Virginia, going 9-3 with a 2.18 ERA in 24 starts. Despite not turning 20 until Aug. 23, Glasnow had 164 strikeouts in 111 1/3 innings while allowing just 54 hits. Glasnow issued 61 walks for an average of 4.9 per nine innings but the Pirates are hopeful the hard thrower will develop the ability to consistently repeat his delivery once the 195-pounder grows into his 6-foot-7 frame.
--LHP Francisco Liriano won the National League Comeback Player of the Year honor, making him the first two-time recipient of Comeback Player of the Year. Liriano, 30, endured a disappointing 2012 season with the Twins and White Sox, then broke his right arm last Christmas. Liriano missed the first six weeks of the 2013 season, but he finished 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts. He helped pitch the Pirates into the postseason for the first time since 1992, then earned the win as Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in the NL wild-card game. After a down season with the Minnesota Twins in 2009, Liriano was selected the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2010.
--OF Felix Pie was outrighted from the Pirates' 40-man roster, and he elected to become a free agent. Pie, 28, appeared in 27 games for Pittsburgh this year, hitting .138/.197/.172 with no homers, two RBIs and one stolen base.
--LHP Wandy Rodriguez exercised his $13 million player option for 2014. He could have tested free agency, but he was unlikely to land such a lucrative deal after being limited to 12 starts this year because of a strained forearm. Rodriguez, 34, went 6-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 2013.
--3B Pedro Alvarez had a memorable first postseason as he went 6-for-20 (.300) in six games with one double, three home runs and seven RBIs. Alvarez became the first player in major league history to drive in a run in each of his first six career postseason games, breaking the mark of five set by Nomar Garciaparra with Boston from 1998-99. Alvarez also led the National League with 36 home runs, becoming the first Pirates player to top the league in homers since Willie Stargell in 1973.
--RHP Gerrit Cole had a strong finish to his rookie season, going 1-1 with a 2.73 ERA in two starts in the National League Division Series against St. Louis, allowing one run and two hits in six innings while winning Game 2 then losing the winner-take-all Game 5 despite giving up just two runs and three hits in five innings. Cole was named the NL Rookie Pitcher of the Month for September when he went 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts.
--2B Neil Walker had a horrific NLDS as he went 0-for-19 in the five games. Ironically, Walker finished the regular season as the Pirates' hottest hitter, going 11-for-34 (.324) with six home runs in the last nine games. He also went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI in the Pirates' win over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL wild card game.
--LF Starling Marte went 1-for-19 (.053) in the NLDS and the only hit was a solo home run that accounted for the last run of the Pirates' 7-1 win in Game 2. Marte was limited to six starts and 30 plate appearances in September because of a badly bruised right hand.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This was one of our stepping stones and we have to take it in a positive manner. If you haven't failed, you haven't lived," -- CF Andrew McCutchen after the Pirates were eliminated in the NLDS.
MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - ROSTER REPORT
The Pirates, coming off their first winning season and postseason appearance since 1992, have a solid nucleus of players who are 27 or younger, including MVP candidate and Gold Glove center fielder Andrew McCutchen, National League home run co-champion and third baseman Pedro Alvarez, left fielder and leadoff hitter Starling Marte and rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole. Thus, the Pirates should contend for at least the next few years and, at the very least, shouldn't have to wait 20 years for another winning season.
BIGGEST NEEDS: A power-hitting first baseman is at the top of the list as Garrett Jones hit just 15 homers in 144 games. His lack of production forced the Pirates to trade for Minnesota's Justin Morneau on Aug. 31 and he failed to homer in 25 regular-season and six postseason games. A solid two-way shortstop would help as Jordy Mercer hit .285 in 103 games but was shaky in the field while Clint Barmes was solid defensively but batted .211 in 108 games. Though pitching is the Pirates' strength, they will look to bring in a solid veteran to add depth at the backend of the rotation.
DEPARTURE: OF Marlon Byrd (free agent, signed with Phillies).
FREE AGENTS: SS Clint Barmes, C John Buck, RHP A.J. Burnett, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, RHP Jeff Karstens, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Felix Pie
Burnett has hinted at retirement and says he will only pitch for the Pirates if he decides to keep playing, though that could change after he was bypassed in favor of rookie Gerrit Cole to start Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals. Morneau, acquired in a late-August trade, could be back if he doesn't try to break the bank. The Pirates have some interest in retaining Barmes but he would need to take a significant pay cut from his $5.5 million salary of 2013 and also accept a reduced role. It seems unlikely the Pirates will bring back Buck, Farnsworth or Karstens, who missed the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 3B Pedro Alvarez, 1B Garrett Jones, RHP Vin Mazzaro, C Michael McKenry, RHP Mark Melancon, RHP Charlie Morton, 1B Gaby Sanchez, OF Travis Snider, 2B Neil Walker.
The Pirates would love to work out a long-term contract with Alvarez but he and agent Scott Boras don't seem in a hurry to do so. Melancon and Morton also could be candidates for multi-year deals but it seems the Pirates have cooled on the idea of locking up Walker for the term. Mazzaro will be tendered after a fine year in middle relief but Jones, McKenry, Sanchez and Snider are in danger of being cut loose.
--RHP Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) did not pitch in the major leagues in 2012 and underwent season-ending surgery June 7 to debride his shoulder. He unsuccessfully tried to return in September but is expected to be ready for the starting of spring training.
--RHP Phil Irwin (nerve inflammation near right elbow) underwent season-ending surgery on his right elbow July 3 to reposition the ulna nerve. He is pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
--C Michael McKenry (torn lateral meniscus in left knee) underwent season-ending surgery July 30. He expects to be ready for opening day.
--RHP Kyle McPherson (reconstructive right elbow surgery) underwent season-ending surgery July 10. He likely won't return until the middle of the 2014 season