With the Pirates on a 109-loss pace in their 18th straight losing season and team president Frank Coonelly venting his frustration by saying things like “losing stinks” during an online chat with fans, it’s no surprise that general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell are on the hot seat.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today followed up with Coonelly, asking him about the job security of Huntington and Russell, and got this response:
I have been extremely disappointed in the team’s performance. We are evaluating every aspect of our operation in order to determine how we can get the club moving in the right direction immediately.
While we have made tremendous progress executing a sound plan to overhaul a broken system and return this once-proud franchise to its tradition of winning baseball, we have only one benchmark by which we measure ourselves and that is wins and losses at the major league level. By that benchmark, we have badly underachieved.
Not exactly a vote of confidence.
I tend to think the Pirates have a brighter future than their current record suggests because they’ve broken in a pretty promising trio of young players this season in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker, who along with 23-year-old Andrew McCutchen gives the lineup some nice building blocks.
Pitching is another story and obviously they’re a long way from contending for anything but a .500 record, but I do think they’re on the right track. Still, at the end of the day Russell has a ghastly .379 winning percentage in three seasons on the job and Huntington has been in the charge of the Pirates’ latest rebuilding effort since September of 2007, so it’s tough to blame Coonelly for losing patience.
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.
GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”
Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.
Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.
Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.
The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.