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09/23/12 3:26 PM ET

Huntington blames 'survivor' mode for Bucs' struggles

HOUSTON -- The guys in uniform in the dugout have their explanation for the mentality that handicaps performance and team success: "Trying to do too much."

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington on Sunday offered his own take on the phenomenon, and blamed it at least partly for the team's last-month slide:

"We define players in one of three categories, and one of them is 'survivor.' A survivor is someone who cares about surviving, about staying in the big leagues," Huntington said. "We've had some guys fall back into survivor mode these last two months."

Asked whether that mode has contributed to the Pirates' 4-16 September record entering Sunday's game, Huntington said, "Absolutely."

"It isn't a selfish mindset, so to speak," Huntington continued. "But you see men on first-and-second and nobody out, and instead of making sure to get the runner over, you try to hit a three-run homer. Instead of trying to continue an inning, we're going to get the big hit.

"It's well-intended, but when you get outside of your game and try to do too much -- the age-old excuse -- you start to get yourself in trouble. Instead of trusting the teammates behind you, instead of trusting that they'll be able to rally ... 'I'm gonna try to hit the 11-run home run'."

The GM's overall quick assessment of the Pirates' slide from a record 16 games above .500 on Aug. 8 to being in danger of ending a 20th consecutive season with a losing record?

"Shock is not the right word," Huntington said. "Concerned, frustrated are better words."

Harrison gets start at second vs. Astros

HOUSTON -- Josh Harrison's reveille call -- his knockout slide of St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina on Aug. 28 -- has gone unanswered. The versatile infielder, however, remains manager Clint Hurdle's go-to guy when he feels his scuffling lineup needs a jolt.

Harrison thus was back in the starting lineup for Sunday's series finale here, at second base. It was Harrison's first start in 11 days, and only his fifth in September.

"As we look at the numbers and try to find ways to push forward, we're looking for a spark," Hurdle said. "Josh has been able to provide that from time to time."

Regular second baseman Neil Walker remains on an every-other-day playing schedule as he deals with the residual effects of lower-back tightness, but September call-up Brock Holt has emerged as the semi-regular at the position.

The Bucs have shuffled reserves quite liberally all season, but Harrison is the one guy who has been on the roster the entire time. He has appeared in 94 games, including 47 starts at five different positions. Sunday's was his 11th start at second.

Correia proving he belongs in rotation

HOUSTON -- Kevin Correia is quick to point out his inability to "enjoy it with what's going on right now" with the Pirates.

But the veteran right-hander is finding satisfaction in what he has been able to do with a second chance in the Pirates' rotation.

Correia was nudged from that rotation on July 26, when the team dealt for left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez, even though at the time Correia was riding a six-game winning streak.

"We just picked up a real good starting pitcher and I was the one who had to make room for him. So I didn't feel I'd pitched myself into the bullpen to begin with," Correia said. "But that's what people thought from the outside.

"I'm going to be a free agent after this year, so going back in the rotation to prove myself if I want a job next year, it's nice to be able to do that."

For nearly a month after his ouster, Correia pitched only four times, twice in spot starts. But he has been back in the regular rotation since Aug. 20 -- when he'd volunteered to start in San Diego the night after having pitched two innings of relief in a 19-inning game in St. Louis.

Since rejoining the rotation, Correia has posted a 2.52 ERA in seven games.

"It's been a weird, tough year," he said. "Hopefully we can still turn it around and salvage something, play well and get the bad taste out of our mouth going into the offseason."

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.