Notes: Tracy sees bright future soon
Manager points to efforts of veterans to keep team together
NEW YORK -- There are two different adages when it comes to understanding numbers in baseball: Either numbers don't lie or numbers can be deceiving. In the case of the Pirates this season, a little of both are true.
For example, the Bucs lead the Major Leagues in one-run losses with 24 and are nearing their total from last year (28). In those games, manager Jim Tracy believes the Pirates could legitimately have won close to 20 of those. Because of that, the Pirates skipper feels his squad is close to turning the corner.
"I think it's important to realize where we've been and how close we've been," said Tracy. "A timely hit here, a quality pitch at the right time there, and we would be looking at a different picture right now."
Tracy knows and understands when fans look at the standings and sees the Pirates sitting at the bottom of the National League Central with the worst record in the league, the initial thought is one of despair. Numbers would say this team isn't good and changes are in order. But Tracy sternly believes the organization does not need to make any moves.
On the contrary, the manager wants the Pirates faithful to know the team has learned enough in the first part of the season to start making those one- and two-run games count.
"The way you learn how to respond to situations like that, sooner or later young people are going to figure out how to handle situations like that and do a much better job at succeeding," said Tracy.
Tracy noted the fact that of the seven possible starting pitchers they have or have had this year, five are 24 years old or younger.
"Eventually, you'll be able to look back on this part of our growth and realize where we've been and how far along we've come," said Tracy. "We no longer want to be satisfied with those moral victories that everybody loves to talk about. We have to bear the brunt of it and keep moving forward."
Tracy praised his coaching staff and the veteran players for helping the youngsters for getting through the difficult times. In the bullpen, Tracy mentioned Roberto Hernandez and Salomon Torres. Of the position players, he said Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa have been instrumental in the team's progress.
"They've shared their knowledge and experience with the younger guys and have helped them deal with the rough spot of the season," said Tracy. "Now it's a matter of us being more interested in doing what's necessary to throw us over the top."
While the Pirates are on a pace similar to the 1962 Mets, who lost a record 120 games -- with 38 coming by one run -- Tracy believes this squad has certain components that signify a positive direction is closer to being realized.
Tracy pointed to the first-half performances of All-Star Freddy Sanchez, who leads the National League with a .363 batting average entering Monday's games; Jason Bay, who was voted as an All-Star starter with 20 home runs; and his young pitching staff that includes youngsters Ian Snell (24), Paul Maholm (24), Tom Gorzelanny (23) and Zach Duke (23).
"There's an awful lot of talent here," said Tracy. "There's a lot of things that are going on right out here on this field."
Around the way: Burnitz started his career with the Mets organization in 1990 and made his Major League debut in 1993 with New York. The 37-year-old spent two seasons with the Mets before being traded to the Indians before the 1995 season.
Burnitz again made an appearance with the Mets in 2002 and 2003 before the Mets traded him to the Dodgers. While his seasons with New York weren't as productive as he would have liked, Burnitz said it is a thrill to return to the Big Apple.
"This was one of more memorable stops in my long career," said Burnitz, who has played for seven different squads. "Obviously, because it's where I got my start. And also, because even though I didn't have as good of of numbers as I would have liked to have, but before I got traded the second time, I started to do well, which was good."
In 2003, Burnitz batted .274 with 18 home runs and 45 RBIs in 65 games before going to the Dodgers.
The San Diego native said one of the best things about coming back to New York is catching up with some of the clubhouse workers who are still employed at Shea Stadium.
"Coming up through the system and being here, you get to know these guys and it's great to come back and see them again," said Burnitz. "I'll always remember these guys, random guys who have stayed."
Several of the clubhouse staff members said players like Burnitz make the job worthwhile.
"Jeromy's one of those guys who you would hope every player was like," said visiting clubhouse manager Tony Carullo. "He's a people person and he remembers you, and is a genuinely good guy."
Bucs bits: Jose Hernandez said he still feels tightness in his lower back and will need a few days, at least, until he is ready to play again.
"I got up [Monday] morning and it took a few minutes to get up and walk around," said Hernandez, who Tracy praised for being one of the players who has been invaluable in getting the club through the first half of the season. "I couldn't stand up straight and I needed to sit back down until it got loose."
Tracy said Hernandez would be day-to-day and was uncertain when he would return. The shortstop, who aggravated his back while making a double play, said it has been tight for a while.
Chris Duffy went 1-for-4 with two RBIs and a run for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday night. It was his first game since missing two months because of personal reasons.
Up next: Duke (5-7, 4.92 ERA) will make his 18th start of the season against Mets lefty Tom Glavine (11-2, 3.34) on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. ET at Shea Stadium.
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.