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New CBA not Pirates-friendly

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which today was ratified by the players’ union executive board, is not as friendly as it could be to the Pirates. For example, capping signings in the amateur draft and international free agent market won’t do the Pirates any favors. The club will be allowed to spend $9.27 million in next year’s draft — only a bit more than half of what it spent in 2011 to sign its draft picks.

The new CBA also has outlawed minicamps, a change pushed through by the players’ union that I’m sure is very unpopular in the Pirates’ front office. The Pirates have held minicamps the past several years — a voluntary, week-long gathering that usually was held in Bradenton, Fla. Management used the camps to evaluate players’ conditioning, monitor injury rehabs and asses basic skills. The workouts usually were not very intense; just a warmup of sorts before spring training. It also was a good way to foster team building — a golf outing was always on the itinerary, and last year the players hung out together to watch the BCS championship game — and a venue to players and coaches to get to know each other.

Baseball’s economics drastically reduce the Pirates’ margin of error; it’s often impossible for them to overcome a poor roster decision, a prolonger slump by anyone or a slew of lingering injuries. Minicamp was a small step the team was able to take to try to avoid some of those pitfalls. But not any more.

»»» Today, managers were announced for the Pirates’ minor league affiliates. All the skippers return at the three highest levels — Dean Treanor at Triple-A Indy, P.J. Forbes at Double-A Altoona and Carlos Garcia at High-A Bradenton. At Low-A West Virginia, Rick Sofield replaces Gary Robinson, who moved into a scouting role. Dave Turgeon is back at short-season State College and Tom Prince returns to the rookie ball team. The two Dominican Summer League teams will be managed by Larry Sutton and Gera Alvarez. The Pirates will not field a team in the Venezuelan Summer League next year.

A few other changes: Scott Mitchell was promoted to minor league pitching coordinator. Brad Fischer, formerly an advisor, is now field coordinator. Bernie Holliday was promoted to director of mental conditioning, and will be aided by newly hired mental conditioning coordinator Tyson Holt.

»»» Jim Benedict gave up his role as pitching coordinator but will continue with the Pirates as a special assistant to GM. Benedict was pitching coordinator the past two years and last season was instrumental in right-hander Charlie Morton’s dramatic turnaround. “We can use (Benedict) in many more areas and expand his impact in his current role,” assistant GM Kyle Stark said. “He will impact our ML club, our system, and player acquisition at all levels. Scott Mitchell has shown he is ready for the pitching coordinator role. We’re excited about both guys and their impact on the organization.”

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