While it is hard to image the Pirates breaking their streak of 17 consecutive losing seasons this year, the players do have a feeling of optimism with spring training on the horizon.
"We will be better than last year because, for one thing, all of our young talent has had a year to improve," right fielder Garrett Jones said. "We have also added a lot of veterans who can help us win. Most of all, though, is that we have a team that is hungry. Nobody is happy with the way last season ended."
The Pirates finished 2009 with a decimated roster that was the second youngest in the majors to Cleveland's. General manager Neal Huntington traded six of the Pirates' eight position-player starters last June and July, getting primarily rookies and minor league prospects in return. Not surprisingly, the Pirates were 18-41 after the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
However, the Pirates have had a chance to restock their roster with some veterans this winter, even if most of them won't be asked to take on huge roles. Second baseman Akinori Iwamura was acquired from Tampa Bay in a trade, while closer Octavio Dotel, right-handed reliever Brendan Donnelly, left-handed reliever Javier Lopez, infielder Bobby Crosby and outfielder Ryan Church were signed as free agents.
"I have no doubts we'll be better this season," Huntington said. "We put our young guys in a tough spot late last season. We had a clubhouse full of young guys who were still feeling their way along in the major leagues and trying to prove they belonged without having many veterans to look to as examples. It's different this year. Not only are the players we signed good players, but they fit what we're looking for as far as the type of people you want on your club."
--RHP Anthony Claggett and RHP Steven Jackson were outrighted to Class AAA Indianapolis and invited to major league spring training as non-roster players after clearing waivers. They had been designated for assignment to clear spots on the 40-man roster.
--C Hector Gimenez and INF Doug Bernier were signed as minor league free agents and invited to major league spring training. Gimenez, 27, split last season between Indianapolis and Class AA Altoona, hitting .276 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 89 games. Bernier, 29, hit .181 with 20 RBIs in 79 games for the Yankees' Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre farm club.
--INF Brian Friday was invited to spring training on a non-roster basis. The 24-year-old prospect hit .265 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 110 games for Class AA Altoona last season.
--Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski will be immortalized Sept. 5 when the Pirates unveil a statue of him outside PNC Park prior to their game with Washington. Mazeroski was selected to 10 All-Star Games and won eight Gold Gloves but is most famous for hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series to lift the Pirates over the heavily favored Yankees. It remains the only homer to end a Game 7 in the Fall Classic.
--Baseball America ranked the Pirates' farm system 16th among the 30 major league organizations.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 -- Players currently on the 40-man roster who took part in major league spring training with the Pirates last year.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hit one home run. I get all the credit, and I don't deserve it. You get in the Hall of Fame. You get a street named after you. I get a statue. Holy hell, how do you get a better life than that?" -- Bill Mazeroski.