Russell mingles with fans online
Pirates manager fields questions in Monday's chat
Pirates manager John Russell visited with fans in an exclusive chat at pirates.com on Monday afternoon, discussing Spring Training and players in the organization. The following is a complete transcript.
kanganzhu: Both [Jason] Jaramillo and [Robinzon] Diaz will battle for the backup catcher position. Since both are relatively new to the organization, could you give us your early impressions of both players as they fight for the roster spot?
Russell: Jaramillo comes from us in a trade for Ronny Paulino. We're excited to have him. I was fortunate enough to work with him when I managed the Phillies in Triple-A. He was my catcher. He's a student of the game with solid catch and throw skills. He's a switch-hitter, which is valuable and gives us options.
Diaz came over in a trade last year for Jose Bautista. Again, another pretty solid catch and throw guy who has shown ability to hit at the Minor League level. We're fortunate to have both of these guys in Spring Training and we feel comfortable with both of them being solid options for us as backup catchers.
bucsin09: Dear Mr. Russell, Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule. They say each manager has his own style and influence. Do you think this is true, and, if so, are you still "forming" your style?
Russell: I would say that each manager has his own style, but equates more to how he handles situations as opposed to actually running the game. Running the game consists of being prepared and knowing what you have available on any given night. The influence a manager will have is again individual according to the manager. My style characteristics are paying attention to detail, preparation and putting ourselves as a team, and as players, with a chance to win every game. The question is still forming your style. Just like a player, if you think you've got the game figured out, then you should retire.
preachered: This year's team looks much the same as last year's. In what ways do you think we're improved?
Russell: Coming into this season at this point in Spring Training, we are a better team in a lot of ways. We have more depth. We added talent to our system that we did not have last year. If you look at our top 10 prospects by Baseball America, many of them were not with us at this time last year. We've added depth in our starting rotation, which again we did not have last year. We've added two bench players thus far in [Ramon] Vazquez and [Eric] Hinske who give us more versatility and production off our bench. The additions of [pitching coach] Joe Kerrigan and [first-base coach] Perry Hill give us what I believe to be one of the strongest coaching staffs in baseball.
dcaudill5: With the new long-term deals signed and you having your contract exercised, it seems there is more stability than in the past. Does this increase any of your expectations for the upcoming season?
Russell: I think stability in an organization is very important. I appreciate the faith and confidence, not only in [general manager] Neal [Huntington], [chairman] Bob [Nutting] and [president] Frank [Coonelly], have shown not only to myself with my extension, but the organization as a whole that we are moving in the right direction. It's important to recognize our core players such as [Paul] Maholm, [Ryan] Doumit and [Nate] McLouth with their multi-year contracts. We are committed to building and sustaining a championship team.
duke4life: John, do you see Nyjer Morgan as a starter this season?
Russell: What Nyjer did toward the end of last season, the progress and work that he put in this offseason, Nyjer has put himself in a great position to be our everyday left fielder. He adds a special dynamic to our lineup with his energy and life on the field, and the ability to help create runs for our offense.
zsejayo: Andrew McCutchen has been among the top, if not THE top prospect in your organization for a while now, and he was a step away in Triple-A in 2008. Is there any scenario where he could break camp with the big club this spring?
Russell: Andrew is one of the top prospects in our organization. He's a tremendously talented player and has made great strides toward the end of last year and the offseason. There is a scenario that he has a chance to make our club out of Spring Training and we would like for him to be the complete player that he's capable of being, to be able to make adjustments not only defensively but offensively. That being said, if we see these adjustments and growth in Spring Training, the opportunity is always there for him to break camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
shamtown: Is there any real chance we see Pedro Alvarez with the big club this year?
Russell: We are very excited to have Pedro Alvarez in camp and a part of the Pirates organization. We look forward to his progression with the ultimate goal of playing in Pittsburgh. That being said, when he arrives in Pittsburgh, we have the same feelings of him as any other young player when he is ready for that step.
sean82fta: What type of role do you see Sean Burnett in this year? Will he start at all or will he be strictly in the bullpen?Russell: We are very pleased with the progress that Sean made last year when moving from a starter to the bullpen. He worked very hard last year in Triple-A and came to Pittsburgh and made a definite impact. He was very effective vs. left-handed hitters and our main focus in Spring Training is to continue to work on getting right-handers out as well. We expect our pitchers in the bullpen to have versatility and to not be a left-handed or right-handed specialist. Sean has put himself in a great position to be a very solid relief pitcher that we can count on in many situations.
pirates360: Was Jose Tabata invited to Major League Spring Training?
Russell: Yes, Jose was invited and is in big league camp. We are very excited to have him in our organization. He is one of those new players that jumped into our top 10 prospect category. We see tremendous upside in Jose and look forward to the day that he arrives in Pittsburgh.
kanganzhu: Ian Snell obviously had a disappointing season in 2008 compared to 2007, and is now fighting for a starting rotation spot. How does the organization plan on evaluating Snell's performance while in camp and during his participation in the World Baseball Classic?
Russell: With Ian pitching in the World Baseball Classic, we will obviously be in close contact with the Puerto Rican team, monitoring his progress and pitch count. We feel very good where Ian is at this point. He has worked very hard this past offseason and while he's been here at Spring Training. He is ahead of where he would normally be at this point and we will have plenty of time with Ian Snell and ample opportunity to prepare for the season.
wewill1992: What does it mean to have the experience of both Kerrigan and Hill on your side?
Russell: We feel in adding Kerrigan and Hill we have added two of the premiere coaches in professional baseball to solidify one of the best coaching staffs in baseball. Joe brings not only experience and knowledge, but a great passion and great work ethic on a daily basis. Perry also brings extensive experience and a track record of creating gold glove infielders. His attention to detail and tireless work ethic make him the best in the game.
balfdog61: Hinske was a nice free-agent pick -- what role will you use him in?
Russell: We are very pleased to have Hinske on our club. Not only does he bring a veteran presence, but also the experience of being on winning teams. He will be a valued member of our bench with the ability to play the outfield and the corners on infield when needed. He also has the ability to give us everyday at-bats if the need arises with injury or if we have less-than-average performance from other players.
pitt_guest: Thanks again, everyone, for joining manager Russell for today's chat. He will take one more question.
wewill1992: What does it mean to you to be the manager of the Pirates?
Russell: A sense of pride would be the first thing that comes to mind to be part of a historic franchise and to be associated with a great sports town. I appreciate the support and confidence of Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington, and the support and passion of our Pirates fans. I look forward to a great season and many more to come.
pitt_guest: Thanks again, everyone, for joining us. Please join Frank Coonelly for his monthly Web chat on Wednesday, March 4 at 2 p.m. ET.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.