Pirates general manager Neal Huntington made a rare appearance in Charleston, W.Va. for Sunday’s game between the Lexington Legends and the West Virginia Power and I (along with the Charleston Daily Mail’s Derek Redd, who covers the Power in addition to Marshall University sports) got the chance to ask him a few questions.
Huntington gave me an update on the Pirates’ rehabbing pitchers as well as John McDonald.
In McDonald’s (the infielder, not the pitcher) case Huntington said he complained of how his elbow had been bothering him while receiving treatment after his back locked up earlier this week in extra innings against Milwaukee.
“We’re treating both at the same time,” Huntington said. “We fully expect that he’ll be healthy and ready to go.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing Huntington brought up was the case of Jeff Karstens, who made his most recent rehab start for Altoona on Saturday. With the somewhat surprising results (in a good way) Pittsburgh has received from guys like Jeff Locke and Jeanmar Gomez, I asked Huntington how he would go about deciding who fills what role when the ailing arms start to make their way back to PNC Park from their minor league rehab stints.
“Jeff continues to work back and we’ll have a decision to make with him at some point and time — rotation or bullpen,” he said. “We’ll worry about that piece by piece and we’ll put plans in place. We’ll have Plan A and B and C and probably all the way down to Z. If you had asked me on April 15 where our rotation was going to be it would probably would have been a different configuration than it is now. That’s the nature of the beast and in our minds that’s why it’s important to have pitching depth. Starting depth in particular because it is a game of attrition and unfortunately guys do go down.”
Huntington on James McDonald:
“James McDonald is beginning a throwing program again. We’ll probably get him a couple sides and get him out on a rehab here, I expect in a couple weeks. A week to two.”
On Charlie Morton:
“He’s got about three more starts minimum if there are no more hiccups along the way and he continues to progress and build his pitch count.”
I also got to ask Huntington about the relationship between the Pirates and West Virginia. Once upon a time the Charleston Charlies were Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate and featured future Pirates (and Charleston Baseball Hall of Famers) Dave Parker, Kent Tekulve, Willie Randolph, Art Howe and Dave Augustine.
The Charleston franchise was reborn as the West Virginia Power in 2005 with the opening of Appalachian Power Park and were affiliated with Milwaukee until 2009 when the Pirates returned to the Mountain State.
The partnership has been a good one so far, Huntington said.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Our guys have been very positive on the fans, the community and the facilities. It’s a good development environment and it’s a good environment to be in. We appreciate the support we’ve gotten here and we appreciate the relationship we have with the front office and the ownership group.”
The decision to return to Charleston fit within the Pirates’ plan to keep as many of their minor league teams as possible close to Pittsburgh and according to Huntington was made easier considering the history the Pirates have with West Virginia’s capital city.
“When we talked with the ownership group and the front office initially about coming back here that was I think something that was an interesting draw to them,” Huntington said. “As we learned more about it and the history, obviously we want to have as many of our teams as close to Pittsburgh as we can because we love our fans to have the ability to go ‘I remember him in A-Ball’ and maybe take a trip to Bradenton to go see them in the Florida State League or instructional league or run to Altoona.”