08/15/12 7:12 PM ET
Pirates confident in Mercer's future at short
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Burnett presides over players-only meeting
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' A.J. Burnett called for and presided over a players-only meeting prior to Wednesday's game against the Dodgers."Sometimes you've just got to get together and clear the air. Get everybody breathing again," Burnett said minutes before the players' assembly in their PNC Park clubhouse. When he takes the mound late Thursday afternoon, Burnett intends to be pitching for a split of the four-game series with Los Angeles, not looking to avoid a sweep. The veteran pitcher, whose leadership has been as valued as his 14 wins, called the meeting after the Bucs' fifth loss in six home games was an unsavory 11-0 beating by the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, meeting with the media at the same time as the players' conclave proceeded outside his office, implied this was not the first such occasion. "Who's to say how often and when they've met? They're appropriate with their timing; they have been throughout the season," Hurdle said. "It's all part of players taking ownership of what they're doing and how they do it. I trust them." As a former player and coach who has been on both sides of the closed door, Hurdle likes for his players to take such initiative. "Have the reactions to past meetings been positive? It all depends on how you define positive," Hurdle said. "They say what needs to be said, there are always a couple of individuals who get it moving. It all comes out -- feelings, thoughts, observations, comments. "It's a self-cleaning. An honest evaluation from other players. The group I've had here has always come out [of these meetings] in a much better place." The Pirates entered Wednesday's game with an August record of 5-8, after three consecutive winning months had thrust them into the National League Central race. Ten losses in their last 16 games had pushed them six behind the first-place Reds and reduced their lead for an NL Wild Card spot to a half-game over both the Dodgers and the Giants.
"I see collectively a lot of guys in the blender right now."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, trying to describe his players' mental state during the recent tailspin.
ROOT Sports, which has been getting unprecedented ratings for its telecast of Pirates games, added Thursday's series finale against the Dodgers to its broadcast schedule. The 4:05 p.m. ET game from PNC Park originally was not due to be aired. Outfielder Starling Marte was singled out by Baseball America as the International League's best batting prospect, best defensive outfielder and most exciting player in its recently released ratings. Marte has been the Bucs' regular left fielder since being called up on July 26. Going into Wednesday night's game, the Pirates' opposition had scored first in 12 of 13 August games. The only exception was Erik Bedard's 4-0 shutout over Arizona in the opener of the ongoing homestand. Catcher Michael McKenry, behind the plate for Wandy Rodriguez's start on Wednesday, was batting .378 in his last 15 games, and had hit safely in 10 consecutive starts.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.