BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates president Frank Coonelly confirmed on Saturday that the team did not extend the contract of general manager Neal Huntington over the winter, as had been the case one year earlier. That means that Huntington's contract is set to expire after the 2011 season.
In addition, Coonelly provided a vote of confidence for Huntington, who is entering his fourth season as the team's GM.
"He's under contract for this season, and it's our expectation that Neal will be here for a long time," Coonelly said. "We'll continue to evaluate it as we go forward.
Similar questions about Huntington's status were asked at this time last spring. At that time, Coonelly said he preferred not to comment on contractual discussions. He held that stance until June, when word leaked out that the Pirates had quietly given Huntington a one-year extension over the winter.
Hurdle to team: This is the year to turn it around
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle held his first official full-squad workout on Saturday, shortly after addressing all 62 players in a morning team meeting. The message delivered by Hurdle in that meeting varied little from the one that he has repeated since taking the job.
There was talk about focusing forward and putting in the work needed to foster on-field improvement. And more than anything, Hurdle emphasized trust.
"That's one thing I'm a big believer in," he said. "I like to spend a bit more time with my players talking about it so they understand.
"There will be a group of men that turns this thing around here. It will happen. So why can't we? Why can't we be the start? We need to set our bar at the championship level, starting with the execution and a mindset. We've got to think that way. We've got to act that way."
Pirates president Frank Coonelly attended the meeting, but did not join Hurdle in addressing players. Afterward, though, Coonelly laid out his expectations for the 2011 Pirates in a brief session with reporters.
"I expect to see us compete," Coonelly said. "We're all about doing. As Clint said to the guys in there today, trying hard isn't good enough. This is a doing league and it's time for us to start doing."
Coonelly was asked if an improvement in the team's record -- which was 57-105 last year -- was tied into those expectations. Without citing a specific number, Coonelly answered in the affirmative.
"I think that we're poised to make a significant improvement," he said. "We don't want to put any limits on ourselves in terms of putting a number out there. We don't want to be limited by a number or a thought on Feb. 19. The expectations with the club better be championship expectations. Then we'll see where we are at the end of the season. I'm confident we're going to be far better than we've been the last several years."
Mazeroski arrives at Pirates camp
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Bill Mazeroski gathered around the infielders on Saturday, his presence completing the quartet of special instructors the Pirates invite to Spring Training each year.
Bill Virdon and Manny Sanguillen have been here since Day 1 of Spring Training. Virdon's focus is with the outfielders. Sanguillen carries his stool from field to field to observe the catchers. Former pitcher Kent Tekulve, after attending Chuck Tanner's viewing on Tuesday, arrived mid-week to supervise the pitchers as they field and throw.
And now Mazeroski, an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and Hall of Famer, has joined the group. His time, of course, will be spent with the infield corps.
Each of these four Pirates alumni won a World Series in Pittsburgh. Mazeroski and Sanguillen did so twice. For manager Clint Hurdle, who is making every attempt to emphasize the organization's storied past, there is no better history lesson than having history right there on the field.
"You've got four men that have been a part of greatness," Hurdle said. "Those men, right there, have a hunger to see this thing get real good again. That's why they're here. It's not like they're just hanging out. They want to make a difference. Not every camp has a Hall of Famer working it."
A group of 14 pitchers threw their first session of live batting practice to hitters this spring. After warming up, each pitcher threw two sets of 15 pitches as a pair of hitters rotated in and out. The second group of pitchers will throw live batting practice on Sunday. ... Right-hander Kevin Hart, who was slowed earlier this month with some inflammation in his right shoulder, threw on flat ground again on Saturday. ... The Columbus (Ga.) High School baseball team joined the Pirates on the field Saturday to shag fly balls during batting practice. The group will be back out on the field Sunday. Manager Clint Hurdle had the idea to invite some teams to help during the drill, and Pirates national crosschecker Jimmy Lester has a son on the Columbus squad. Two other local teams have been invited to help in the outfield next week. ... The city of Bradenton was scheduled to hold a Pirates pep rally from 5-7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on Old Main Street in downtown. The event, which is free to the public, will include autograph sessions and speeches by Hurdle, president Frank Coonelly and broadcaster/former pitcher Steve Blass.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.