Notes: New owner reassures Bucs
Nutting dispels thoughts of 'radical shift' in team's direction
BRADENTON, Fla. -- New Pirates principal owner Bob Nutting spoke to his club for the first time on Monday morning, bringing with him a message of commitment, enthusiasm and stability for the upcoming season.
"There's been a lot of speculation," Nutting said after the 45-minute meeting. "Any time you have a change in control, it's very unusual that [CEO and former principal owner Kevin McClatchy] and I continue to have as excellent a relationship as we really do. It's easy to think that a change in control can create a radical shift, and in this case, we wanted the team to know that a change in control didn't necessarily mean a change in direction. We're continuing on and moving forward."
Specifically, Nutting said, this means building on the oft-referenced successful second half of 2006, in which the Pirates went 37-35, and pleasing the fans with their efforts.
"We're a young team -- a team that tries hard and a team that's improving," Nutting said. "We've had a lot of tough history, so we need to persevere through that and continue on the track that we saw at the end of last year. We need to continue that momentum forward. We don't need to disrupt it."
The official "change of control" in ownership to Nutting from McClatchy, who was also on hand to briefly address the team, was approved by the MLB owners on Jan. 18.
Outfielder Nyjer Morgan said that the message from the two was well-received.
"Everything seems like it's going to be all right ... in the Major Leagues and the Minor Leagues," Morgan said. "The preparation's there, and [we're] just ready for an exciting season."
What ails Xavier: In a continued effort to learn what caused the intestinal inflammation that hospitalized him for three days last week, right fielder Xavier Nady underwent a barium swallow test, which can detect hiatal hernias, tumors and ulcers. Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said that the team would receive results of the test on Tuesday. Nady took part in a light workout Monday after returning to Pirate City, but he did not go full speed.
Tag team: Freddy Sanchez's second base learning experience continued on Tuesday, as the 29-year-old took grounders from manager Jim Tracy while Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski looked on.
"I'm not new, but I haven't been at second base as much as third base, so it's one of those situations where I'm trying to gather as much information as I can," Sanchez said. "And Maz, he's one of the best ever. I've seen videos of him, and that's impressive. The respect is already given, before he even steps on the field.
"The information he's been talking to me about and everything he's helping me with is helping me have even more respect and appreciation for him."
Sanchez looked at home on the right side of the infield, casually throwing a few backhands and timing hops with precision as they skipped neatly into his glove. He got through nearly two buckets of baseballs before Tracy bested him, a result of harder hits and farther reaches that Tracy said arose from a taunt earlier in the day.
"[Sanchez] said I wasn't going to get one by him, and I take that as a personal challenge," Tracy said. "We have fun with that."
The National League's 2006 batting champion expressed excitement for learning a position other than third to help build his stock.
"As long as I can get some at-bats, that's all that matters," he added.
And, Freddy, just what were you and the Gold Glover talking about out there, anyway?
"Oh, it's easy," Sanchez laughed. "He tells me what he thinks, and I pretty much do it."
New to the field: A few drills were added to the mix on Monday, including how to execute rundowns and pickoffs, and proper situational bunt defense.
Play ball: In their final practice before preseason games begin on Wednesday, the Pirates will play an intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET at Pirate City. The game will feature 12 pitchers: Shawn Burnett, Matt Capps, Paul Maholm, Marty McLeary, Josh Sharpless, Shane Youman, Jim Brower, John Wasdin, Bryan Bullington, Romulo Sanchez, John Van Benschoten and Allan Simpson.
In addition, right-hander Yoslan Herrera was named the starter for Wednesday's scrimmage against Manatee Community College.
Tracy warned not to expect any Major League position players to play until the preseason begins.
"What I'm focused on doing over the next couple of days is affording all of us an opportunity to see a lot of people that either we haven't gotten much of a look at going back to last Spring Training, and/or people coming into this camp that we want to take a look at and see what they're all about," he said. "I want to see some of the people that we haven't seen."
Assimilation: Japanese pitcher Masumi Kuwata learned a lot in his first 10 days of Major League camp, beginning with adapting to the difference between American and Japanese baseballs. In Japan, Kuwata said, the balls are smaller and more moist, and they have closer-set stitching. Kuwata admitted that the ball slipped from his hand many times during his first two bullpen sessions, but he added that during Monday's session, he felt much better.
"I don't know that he can do it much better than what I witnessed right there," Tracy said. "It was like an artist throwing. That's the precision he had with his pitches today. He's really beginning to get into the flow of things."
Kuwata had another rewarding experience recently, when the 38-year-old discovered -- and devoured -- his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
After workouts one day, Kuwata strolled into the players' cafeteria at Pirate Park, where he saw his trainer and teammates chowing down. A little suspicious because of the lack of cheese on the sandwich, Kuwata finally caved.
"I was so surprised, like, 'So, you're making a sandwich? And it's peanut butter and jelly. And that's it?'" he said. "I've tried it many times after that -- I like it. I'm really enjoying the American way of living."
He said it: "Baseball's not a game that you can perfect, so no matter who talks to me, I'm absorbing as much information as I can. He's one of the best ever, so I'm all ears." -- Sanchez, on working with Mazeroski on the transition to second base
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.