Addition and subtraction


BRADENTON, Fla. — It was a refreshing change today to hear ownership talk about the Pirates adding players in mid-season instead of trading guys away.

During a 50-minute team meeting this morning, principal owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly addressed the players. Their message was that the roster revolution is over and if — if, if, if — the Pirates are competitive, the trading deadline could mark the arrival of a player who could help a playoff push.

“We’re through the times when we’re going into the season thinking, Are we going to keep the team together or not?” manager John Russell said. “This is the group we want to move forward with.”

Last season, the endless cycle of jettisoning veterans finally brought team morale to rock bottom. After Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson were dealt, the Pirates went 19-41 to close out their 17th straight losing season. “If the record of the team had been different last year, some of the moves and changes would have been different,” Nutting said.

Really? When Nate McLouth was traded June 3, the Pirates were 25-28 and just 5 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central. When Sanchez and Wilson were dealt July 29, the Pirates were in a hole — 43-58 and 11 games out of first place — but still could see some daylight.

If nothing else, management’s message today gave the survivors of 2009 some hope for 2010.

“It makes you want to put in the extra effort, knowing that if it’s close your work hasn’t gone in vain,” pitcher Zach Duke said. “Last year, we took the opposite approach. The moves started happening when we were four games out. Instead of adding, we felt we still needed to rebuild. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again. Hopefully, if we’re in that position again, we’ll get a piece or two that will put us over the hump.”

More on this, as well as Octavio Dotel’s minor injury just four days into camp, in tomorrow’s Trib.