Winter meetings day 1: GM speaks


NASHVILLE — Some odds and ends from GM Neal Huntington’s daily media briefing today that had to be cut out of my story for Tuesday’s paper …

»»» General assessment of today’s “action” at the winter meetings: “A typical day one. Moving day. You open up a lot of dialogue with clubs and agents. In some cases, you feel like you’re moving toward a destination. In others, you feel like you’re moving away. I think there’s a false sense of urgency, because everybody is in one place, we want to get things done and we’re a deadline society.”

»»» I asked if the Pirates had any internal options to act as closer if Joel Hanrahan is not around due to circumstances either man-made (such as a trade) or natural (such as an injury). Huntington, who of course knew what I was up to, smiled. “Joel’s our closer. We’ve got guys who are going to pitch in leverage situations in front of him that we’re comfortable with.”

»»» Mike Napoli today signed a three-year, $39 million deal, which was nearly double the annual cash the Pirates gave Russell Martin. Huntington’s take: “We felt they were very different players. We’re focused on someone who’s going to help our pitchers get better. Mike Napoli is a very, very talented catcher. We chose to go on the side of defense heavy.”

»»» The situations for 2013 in the outfield and at first base: “We’ve created depth and some choices for ourselves … in left, in right and at first. What we do at the end of spring training might not be the configuration we have on May 1. We have some young guys who we want to give opportunities because they’ve earned it. We’ve got some guys who’ve got to go out and do the job. We’ll have some good competition all the way throughout the course of the season. We’re going to commit to some guys, but if they can’t do the job, we’ve got some choices — Garrett Jones’ flexibility — the ability to play first or right field — is very nice for us. We’re looking forward to seeing what Gaby (Sanchez) can do. Travis Snider and Marte coming in with jobs. Alex Presley and Jose Tabata coming in to fight (for jobs). We’re going to have some very interesting decisions. We have some depth and some choices. We’re pleased with the options we have.”

»»» Will this spring training camp be make-or-break time for Tabata? “He’s still young enough and talented enough. With Taby, a big part of it is just conditioning. We need to get him back to where he was a couple of years ago. If we can do that, the athlete is going to show up again and the bat speed is going to show up again. He got in a bad spot last year. Young players do that on occasion; often, they bounce back. He’s not the first guy to go through some struggles in his second full year in the big leagues. He’s working hard in Florida with a personal trainer. We’ve checked in on him a number of times. We had some conversations about (winter ball) and agreed it was best for Jose to focus on strength and conditioning, to get into the best shape of his life and come into camp ready to compete for a job.”

»»» Right-hander Kyle McPherson had what Huntington said was “fatigue” in his shoulder and made an early exit from winter ball. “He threw the ball well there but just didn’t feel right, so we brought him home. He should be fine for spring training.”

»»» Also, posthumous congratulations to Deacon White, who today was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Pre-Integration Era Committee. White, who would turn 165 on Friday if he was still drawing breath, played for the Pittsburg Alleghenies in 1889, his final season in the National League (he retired in 1891 after one season with Buffalo of the short-lived Players League). In 55 games for the Alleghenies, White hit .253 with 26 RBI. His career batting average is .312 and he was a three-time league leader in RBI.