TV ratings up; McKechnie makeover


The Pirates ranked ninth among MLB teams this season in local television ratings. According to Nielson Media Research, 4.8 percent of all TVs in the Pittsburgh market tuned into Pirates games this past summer. The Phillies were first with a 9.7 household rating, followed by the Cardinals (8.9), Brewers (7.9) and Red Sox (7.9). The Pirates finished just ahead of the Yankees, who had a 4.3 household rating.

Root Sports Pittsburgh saw its ratings for Pirates games jump by 49 percent over last year — the third-largest increase in MLB. The Pirates also appeared in national broadcasts on Fox and ESPN.

»»» As a I reported a few days ago in the Trib, the Pirates will play two exhibition games on April 2 and 3 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. It’s the third straight year the Pirates have closed out spring training in Philly. The Pirates and Phillies will open the regular season on April 5 at PNC Park.

The Pirates have not yet released their full spring training schedule. A few other teams have put out their schedules, though. Here’s a partial list of games involving the Pirates:

March 8: @ Phillies (Clearwater); March 12: vs. Phillies (Bradenton); March 16: vs. Phillies (Bradenton); March 24: vs. Astros (Bradenton); March 25: split squad @ Astros (Kissimmee); March 27: @ Phillies (Clearwater). The Pirates will not play the Atlanta Braves this spring.

»»» The Pirates are lobbying government officials in Manatee County and Bradenton, Fla. to approve a proposed $9 million renovation of McKechnie Field. The stadium is the Pirates’ spring training home and also hosts games for its High-A affiliate. Plans call for the addition of about 3,000 seats, which would boost capacity to 9,500. There would be an enclosed grandstand, a “walk of fame” and expanded seating, including a Pirates Cove and tiki bar, in the outfield.

McKechnie Field opened in 1923, when it was used by the St. Louis Cardinals. After the Pirates took over in 1969, the field was updated in 1993 and 2007.

»»» GM Neal Huntington admitted it’s a longshot that the team will exercise Paul Maholm’s $9.75 million contract option for 2012, but said the decision to let Maholm become a free agent is not yet final. That’s true; the deadline is five days after the end of the World Series. Huntington said the Pirates could pick up the option in order to trade Maholm. That’s also true — but the chances of that happening would be close to nil. The Pirates shopped Maholm this summer and found no takers. So it would be unexpected, to say the least, if Huntington suddenly found a trade partner for a pitcher with an inflated price tag and who ended last season on the 60-day disabled list.

»»» Don Long, who was the Pirates’ hitting coach under ex-manager John Russell, was hired as the Atlanta Braves’ minor league hitting coordinator.