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03/04/09 3:51 PM EST

Coonelly fields questions in chat

Pirates president interacts with fans in monthly online forum

Pirates president Frank Coonelly visited with fans in an exclusive chat at pirates.com on Wednesday afternoon. The following is a complete transcript.

deane79pit: Barry Bonds is looking for work. If at all possible, could or would the Pirates bring him in at least as an invitee to Spring Training? Thank you.

fc_pirates_prez: dean79pit, Barry Bonds has had a great career and had many tremendous years in Pittsburgh, but we are not interested in inviting Barry to Spring Training. Instead, we are committed to the young players who are competing for outfield positions now in Bradenton.

SidWasSlow: How are Dan McCutchen and Bryan Morris progressing? From what I have read, these two pitchers acquired from the Yankees and the Dodgers have the highest upside.

fc_pirates_prez: SidWasSlow, we agree with you that Daniel McCutchen and Bryan Morris have significant upside. McCutchen is in Major League camp competing for a starting rotation job. He has thrown the ball well in limited action thus far. Morris is in Minor League camp and is among our top young pitching prospects in the Minor League system.

cbusbucco: With Adam LaRoche being a UFA after this season, what does our depth look like at first base? Is Steve Pearce looking like the first baseman-to-be?

fc_pirates_prez: cbusbucco, Steve Pearce is certainly an option at first base if Adam is not with the club following this 2009 season. Given Adam's status as a free agent following the season, we are looking to get Steve more time at first base.

weberla: It would be great if the Pirate could radio broadcast more weekday Spring Training games. Fans need Spring Training as much as the player to understand the talent, etc.

fc_pirates_prez: weberla, I agree, and as a result we just yesterday added three additional games to be webcast on pirates.com. The dates that we have added are March 6, March 9 and April 3. Hopefully you are listening to today's game on pirates.com. Our complete spring broadcast schedule can be found on pirates.com.

jerrymille: Would the pirates be interested in bring back a guy like Joe Beimel to add to the 'pen?

fc_pirates_prez: jerrymille, Joe Beimel has been used primarily as a left-handed specialist. He is someone who we have considered this offseason and have had discussions with his representative. To date, Joe has not been receptive to the type of contract we have discussed.

woodeneye: Will we see the Pirates be more aggressive on the base paths?

fc_pirates_prez: woodeneye, this is an area that we have placed significant focus this offseason. One of the many reasons that Nyjer Morgan is an exciting option as our everyday left fielder is the speed that he adds to our lineup. You are correct that we did not run much last year and that was the result of the fact that Nate McLouth was, at most times, the only player in the lineup with speed. With both Nyjer and Nate in the lineup, I would look for the Pirates to be more aggressive on the base paths.

Buccofe4vor: What does Andrew McCutcheon need to improve upon in order to be put into the Opening Day lineup?

fc_pirates_prez: Buccofe4ver, Andrew has progressed rapidly through the Minor League system had a very solid year at Triple-A last year. He improved his plate discipline considerably last year and that is an area that he will continue to work on as he faces Major League pitchers in camp. There is no question that Andrew can play the outfield at a Major League level right now. His challenge is to demonstrate that he is ready to be a productive hitter at the Major League level. We do not want to retard Andrew's continued development by bringing him to Pittsburgh before he is ready. Having said that, I would be very surprised if Andrew does not play in Pittsburgh sometime this season.

waudman89: Good afternoon Mr. Coonelly. In an attempt to become more in tune with the Pirates, I have purchased a 20-game plan. I would ask what you feel your short- and long-term prospects are for being competitive given our extremely competitive market?

fc_pirates_prez: waudman89, thank you very much for your investment in the Pirates and I can assure you that every member of the organization, from the front office to the players, is working extraordinarily hard to give you and our other loyal fans a winning team. While certainly biased, I am extremely excited about the direction of the club. I came to Pittsburgh a year and a half ago believing that we could win in Pittsburgh. I am now convinced that we will win in Pittsburgh. In the short term, the 2009 Pirates will play an exciting brand of baseball and, if we can get the starting pitching that we believe our group of starters can provide, I think that we will surprise a lot of clubs in the National League. In the long term, we added significant premier talent to the system in the two trades that we made last July and, importantly, in our 2008 Draft class. With players like Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Shelby Ford, Neil Walker, Brian Morris and Brad Lincoln, just to name a few, we are well on our way toward building an organization that consistently competes for championships.

schnoah2: Frank, could you please tell us who can not see the games directly how Gorzo's velocity is doing this year and how Veal is looking so far?

fc_pirates_prez: schnoah2, I am in Pittsburgh today so I didn't see Tom's two innings against the Twins this afternoon. Prior to today's game, Tom's velocity was fine and his command seemed to be better, although certainly not in mid-season form. Tom has worked hard with Joe Kerrigan and worked extremely hard this offseason to put himself in a position to win back a job in the starting rotation. Tom Gorzelanny pitching like he did in 2007 would certainly help us win in 2009. Donnie Veal, our Rule 5 selection from the Cubs, has been very impressive thus far in Spring Training. Donnie has had control issues over the last two years, but was, two years ago, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. Thus far, he has had great command of his pitches and, as a result, he has dominated many of the hitters he has faced.

dewars: Shelby Ford has had several good ABs. How is he defensively?

fc_pirates_prez: dewars, Shelby Ford was a late addition to the Major League camp at the suggestion of farm director Kyle Stark and has certainly taken advantage of his opportunity in big league camp. In addition to swinging the bat quite well as you indicate, Shelby has looked very confident defensively at second base. In short, Shelby has certainly opened a few eyes of John Russell and his Major League staff.

gorillagogo: Is Jose Tabata's shoulder a day-to-day type of injury or will he miss significant time this spring?

fc_pirates_prez: gorillagogo, thanks for your question. We had an MRA done on Jose's shoulder, which came back completely clean. He is dealing with some inflammation to the rotator cuff but should be cleared for full activities shortly.

buccos16: How will third base turn up after Spring Training?

fc_pirates_prez: buccos16, it is certainly early in camp, but both Andy LaRoche and Neil Walker have looked good at third base to date. Andy has hit the ball hard in every game he has participated in and Neil has looked more confident at the plate in this camp than in past camps. Both players have made several solid defensive plays at third. The expectation is that Andy will be our starting third baseman once camp breaks, but we certainly have options in Vazquez and Walker in the event that Andy does not perform.

gobucs09: From a pitching standpoint -- aside from signing Maholm -- what improvements can we expect from our five starters? Is Zach Duke a Major League caliber arm?

fc_pirates_prez: gobucs09, we have several more options in our rotation than we did at this time last year when we, in essence, had only five starters vying for the five starter positions. This year, we have at least eight, with the addition of Ohlendorf, Karstens and Daniel McCutchen. Both Ian Snell and, as I indicated above, Tom Gorzelanny, have worked extremely hard this offseason and in camp with Joe Kerrigan to regain the form they showed in 2007. Ian pitched three very strong innings for the Puerto Rico national team yesterday vs. the Twins. Zach Duke has also accepted the challenge that he must win a spot in the starting rotation and worked hard in the offseason, and looks much sharper than he did last year. In short, we expect bounce-back years from Snell and Gorzelanny, and that the increased competition will lead to much better results from our starting rotation. Maholm, as you point out, had a fine year last year and looks poised to build upon that performance in 2009.

tonysc: I know it's early, but can you see a measurable difference in the pitching staff since JK has been working with them? Early results from the Spring Training games seem very encouraging.

fc_pirates_prez: Thank you very much for participating in the chat today. This will be the last question. tonysc, you are right that it is very early in Spring Training but the most encouraging thing that I have seen is that all of our pitchers have really taken to Joe Kerrigan's teaching and are excited about implementing his plans and approaches. I expect that you will see us pitching inside far more and implementing very detailed game plans against the hitters we face this year. Joe is extremely knowledgeable about pitching and our players have embraced what he has been preaching.

pittguest: Thanks again, everyone, for joining Frank today. Please join him again next month on Wednesday, April 1, at 2 p.m. Also, be sure to keep checking pirates.com for potential special player guests as the season approaches and begins.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.