Thursday, May 11, 2006
Tracy upset with questions about start, lack of changes
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Tracy, appearing to grow testy with ongoing criticism of his personnel moves, will keep playing slumping outfielder Jeromy Burnitz and argues his ability to make moves is being adversely affected by injuries.
Tracy planned to make a significant lineup change before Thursday afternoon's game against Arizona was rained out by dropping Jason Bay from No. 3 to No. 6 in the batting order. But Tracy kept the weak-hitting Burnitz fifth in the order despite a 2-for-32 slump that has cut his average to .185.
Tracy also defended his decision to keep giving regular playing time to others who have not produced during the Pirates' 10-25 start -- including utility man Jose Hernandez -- by saying he has few options. Hernandez has a .150 average and only three RBI in 40 at-bats.
Shortstop Jack Wilson and catcher Ryan Doumit are fighting through hamstring injuries that have prevented them from starting since last weekend but are not serious enough to put them on the disabled list.
"I've got two guys with bad legs, so don't ask me any more questions about how long I'm going to go with this guy or that guy and make it seem like I have a plethora of choices here," Tracy said Thursday, his voice rising during a meeting with reporters. "We're trying to make this group go as best we can. You don't have a multitude of options."
Tracy didn't say if the Bay change would last more than a two or day. Bay was the Pirates' one consistent run producer the last two seasons, hitting 58 homers and driving in 183 runs, but his average is down to .252 during a 3-for-14 slide.
Bay went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts and a double-play grounder in a 7-4 loss to Arizona on Wednesday night, failing to drive in any of the seven runners on base.
"We want to let him have an opportunity where he feels like there's a little more room around him to sort some things out," Tracy said.
Burnitz has one hit in his last 26 at-bats but was strongly defended by Tracy after being asked if the outfielder had to start producing soon to keep playing. Burnitz was also booed Wednesday for not running hard on a groundball he possibly could have beaten out.
"I'm not talking that, by May 14, if so-and-so doesn't have two hits in a game his a-- is out of here," Tracy said. "If you played the game, then you know what he went through. You think those guys are enjoying that, think it's fun for them to be going through it?
"It's no fun for them. And they don't need to get up in the morning and read a lot of stuff from their manager, that he is completely down on them or is disconsolate with them," he said.
The Pirates increased their payroll by approximately $12 million to $47 million -- mostly by adding first baseman Sean Casey ($8.5 million), Burnitz ($6 million) and third baseman Joe Randa ($4 million) -- in an effort to end a streak of 13 consecutive losing seasons.
However, Casey has been out for nearly a month with a back injury and probably won't return for another month. Randa (.221, one homer, seven RBI) and Burnitz (six homers, 16 RBI) haven't produced. Randa is on the disabled list with a sore right foot and, even when he returns, might back up Freddy Sanchez (.298, three homers, 13 RBI).
Opening Day starter Oliver Perez (1-4, 7.71) has also pitched poorly and, because of Thursday's rainout, will be skipped in the rotation.
The 10-25 record is not the worst in club history after 35 games -- the 1952 Pirates were 6-29 en route to going 42-112, the worst record in club history. But each of the last four Pirates teams to lose 100 or more games, those of 1953, 1954, 1985 and 2001, had better records after 35 games.