By Rob Biertempfel
BRADENTON, Fla. — Owner Bob Nutting held his annual closed-door meeting with the players this morning. Later, he took questions from reporters for about a half hour.
Thoughts about the team: “I think we have a really solid core that is maturing and pulling together, so I’m enthusiastic about being able to supplement, both with internal talent coming up through the system as well as a few external. I think overall we have a group that can jell together and be a very good baseball team.”
On whether Andrew McCutchen could end his career with the Pirates: “What is simple, what is clear and what is true is he is a remarkable person. I thought his piece in the Players’ Tribune was really well done. It didn’t surprise me that it was well done, given the tremendous character and inner strength that Andrew has. He’s been tremendous on the field and off the field. I appreciate him. I could spend the rest of the morning saying nice things and wonderful anecdotes about Andrew. If there were a way to keep him, clearly it would be wonderful to see him in a Pirates uniform. He loves Pittsburgh and Maria loves Pittsburgh, and we love Andrew.
On whether manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington will get contract extensions beyond 2017: “Neal and Clint are both really strong, really good. I love working with them. I’m very comfortable with them. I think they’re very comfortable with us and the organization. The contact extension is not something that’s top-of-mind for me. It’s not an issue at this point. But they are tremendous talents.”
On whether last season’s poor finish indicates ownership lacks the will to do whatever it takes to build a winner: “I really think that there are two different issues. We ended up with the season we did (in 2016) because the team and organization underperformed the level of talent that we had. I don’t think it was nearly so much that we didn’t have sufficient talent to make the run. We had some very good players who did not perform up to the expectations that we had. I really think it’s far more execution than what we put together.”
On Jung Ho Kang’s third DUI incident in South Korea: “We are absolutely disappointed that he has put himself and the organization in this circumstance. As importantly, he is disappointed and embarrassed that he has put the team in this place as well. What I hope is that as he works through his challenges in (South) Korea, and he comes back and is able to join the team, that the development system we’ve put in place — the character development, developing players as whole people, whether it’s Pirates Charities, leadership programs, taking accountability — we have been committed for a decade to making our organization about more than just the swings. We’re trying to develop character. We’re trying to develop community commitment. I think, frankly, we’ll be well positioned to help Jung Ho get back on his feet, get himself re-established, be in a community that will support him, and at the same time we will hold high level of expectation and demands on him. Prefer not to be here, but look forward to getting him back.
>>> UPDATE 12:06 p.m. – Francisco Cervelli said he’s feeling pain in the bottom of his right foot, which is why he’s not been on the fields yesterday and today. “I don’t know what I did,” Cervelli said. “There was some pain, so I came inside yesterday and Todd (Tomczyk, head athletic trainer) said, ‘It’s too early for this.’ ” Cervelli said he plans to work out on the fields on Tuesday.
Cervelli said there is no blister, just pain and discomfort. Previously, he wore two kinds of inserts in his shoes — a support insert in his left shoe and a basic cushy insert in the right. Now, he’ll switch to a more therapeutic insert for his right foot.
>>> Alen Hanson took ground balls exclusively at third base today, working with David Freese. … Josh Bell fielded grounders on the Mazeroski half-field behind Field 1.
>>> Today’s workout will be short. No bullpens, no live batting practice. Most of the players probably will be off the fields by 12:30 p.m. Some of them will attend a Miracle Field even at 4 p.m. today.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.