Pirates Notebook

Neal Huntington

PITTSBURGH-- The Pirates set a Major League record with their 17th straight losing season and are nose diving toward a 100 loss campaign, but getting better and improving doesn't seem to be a priority with some of the young players in the organization.

Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington revealed before Sunday's game against San Diego that very few players are interested in spending part of their winter in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Venezuela.

"Frankly, I wish players would embrace the idea of playing winter ball because it can be a great part of a player's development," Huntington said. "Outside of playing in the major leagues, these guys will never face a more pressure-packed situation than playing winter ball. That is their major-league season in Latin America and the stakes are very high because everyone is playing to win.

"I'm not sure that I've heard anyone who went down there and performed say that it didn't help them. The guys who go down there with the wrong mentality and get sent home early, they hate it. They're the ones who come back with the bad stories."

A good example of some one who benefited from playing winter ball is former rule five pick Evan Meek had a successful stint with Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific Coast League last winter posting a 1-1 record with a 2.93 ERA and 10 saves.

"It was a great experience and that is a great league down there," Meek offered. "There are great players – I really didn't know what to expect going down there, but I had a great time and it was good experience. You pitch differently down in that league than you would up here. There was a lot of backwards pitching – they throw a lot of breaking balls in that league. It was a great experience and I would do it again."

Huntington is clearly disappointed by the players indifference toward playing winter ball.

"I hate to sound like an old-timer, but a lot of these guys don't need the money that's down there," Huntington said. "It shouldn't be about the money. It should be about the development."

OHLENDORF DONE: General manager Neal Huntington confirmed on Sunday that right-hander Ross Ohlendorf will not pitch again this season.

"Ross has had a tremendous year this year," Huntington said. "We are thrilled with his progress. We felt like given his pitch count for this year, given his innings threshold for this year, that we pushed it about as far as we felt we should push it. It was an appropriate time to call it a season."

Ohlendorf finishes the season 11-10 with a 3.92 ERA in 29 starts. Those 11 wins are currently a staff high, though Zach Duke (10-14) has a chance to match or pass Ohlendorf in that category before the season ends. Duke is likely to make three more starts.

Looking ahead to next season Huntington indicated on Sunday that Ohlendorf, Duke and Paul Maholm will all head into the 2010 season with a rotation spot already locked up barring any injury or offseason conditioning issue.

BUCS OFFENSE AWFUL: San Diego handed the Pirates a 4-0 loss on Sunday at PNC Park. It marked 15th shutout defeat of the season for the Bucs.

The Pirates have a scored a total of 18 runs in their past nine games, prompting manager John Russell to finally acknowledge the obvious.

"We're not a very good offensive team right now," Russell said. "We're not doing some things we need to do."

Unfortunately Russell is not blessed with a lot of options offensively.

"I wish there was (something I could do to spark them)," Russell lamented. "They're just not swinging the bat well right now. We just need to have good at-bats, with guys on base, especially.We're not consistent, we have to find a way to get better."

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