PITTSBURGH -- Management touted some lofty expectations heading into 2010, throwing out the word "playoffs" back in January and telling fans that they should expect on-field improvement this year.
Entering play Thursday with 65 games completed, the Pirates were a National League-worst 19 games under .500 and mired in a 10-game losing skid. The team has eight fewer wins than it did at this point last season, which ended with 99 losses.
Cognizant of the expectation level he set earlier this year, Pirates president Frank Coonelly expressed his frustrations with how the season has played out to this point.
"The level of disappointment is so high I can't accurately give you a word for it," Coonelly said. "I'm extraordinarily disappointed and frustrated by the play. We certainly knew we had challenges this year, but we were excited to attack those. More important, we do believe we can turn it around. While the play on the field at the Major League level has been very disappointing, we've had real growth and development from players we expected and hope will be the core of the franchise. They're all here now. We see them as being part of the core that turns this franchise around."
While meeting with reporters on Thursday, Coonelly answered questions on a variety of other topics as well.
-- On the decision to acquire second baseman Aki Iwamura, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday, for a $4.85 million price tag this offseason: "Ultimately I take final responsibility. Not only did I hire [general manager] Neal [Huntington], but Neal consults with me on trades and so ultimately I take all responsibility. ... It was a decision to fill a need, and if we are going to ask our general manager that you cannot sign any player or acquire any player via trade who you are not 100 percent sure is going to meet or exceed expectations based on past performance, then we're going to have a general manager that does nothing."
-- On who made the final call to promote Pedro Alvarez on Wednesday: "It was Neal consulting with [farm director] Kyle Stark. It wasn't made because we were struggling on the field in the Majors. It's a decision they'd been contemplating for at least a week. ... It was not from me. It did not come from above."
-- On public criticism that a number of recent trades haven't produced ample return: "Not all of them have worked out as we'd hoped. That's the case anytime you make trades. The one thing that is missed in the analysis of the success or lack of success of the trades is the assets we had to trade. I believe the assets we had to trade were not nearly as valued in the industry as they were valued here in Pittsburgh."
In-stadium balloting over, vote online
PITTSBURGH -- In-stadium voting for the 2010 All-Star Game ended at PNC Park on Thursday, though fans still have an opportunity to cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 clubs sites through July 1.
The most deserving Pittsburgh All-Star candidate continues to be Andrew McCutchen, though the center fielder isn't currently among the top 15 National League outfield vote-getters. That's despite the fact that only two NL outfielders currently have a higher batting average than McCutchen, who entered Thursday hitting .314. Among NL outfielders, he ranks third in hits (77), second in stolen bases (17), sixth in on-base percentage (.383) and sixth in runs scored (39).
Pirates fans wanting to make a final push for McCutchen or anyone else must now do that online. Starting rosters will be announced during the 2010 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on July 4. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.
Guillen sees positives in Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- Though the Pittsburgh fanbase remains restless, a Pirates team, carrying a 10-game losing streak into play Thursday, apparently has a believer in White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen has a little more familiarity with the Pirates than most American League managers since he's faced Pittsburgh in five of his seven seasons as Chicago's manager. Now, seeing the Pirates bring up top prospect Pedro Alvarez on Wednesday and reading all the reports about the organization's young talent, Guillen compared the Pirates to some AL clubs he saw rise out of the cellar and into contention during the past decade.
"I look to what I said about Detroit, to what I said about the Rays," Guillen said. "They were building little by little, and they put all the people together. [If] they're a little patient, then they're going to have a pretty good ballclub. You see the talent they have up there and they're growing right now.
"Make sure you listen to this: Three or four years, two years, two or three years, look at this ballclub. It will be a different ballclub. Now they're bringing the best prospect out of the [organization] and they're in the right place in the right thing."
The Pirates entered Thursday having lost seven of their last eight games against the White Sox.
Ronny Cedeno was kept out of the starting lineup for the second straight day Thursday, though that is not the result of any injury. In explaining his decision to start Bobby Crosby instead, manager John Russell said: "We haven't played Bobby a lot. We are going to need him at some point. I thought he was not getting the playing time that we needed to keep him out there and we had two left-handers in a row." ... With his ninth-inning single on Wednesday, center fielder Andrew McCutchen became the fastest Pirates player to reach 200 hits since Arky Vaughan did so in 1933. It took McCutchen 171 games to reach the mark, one more than it took Vaughan. ... Minor League infielder Jarek Cunningham is rolling with a 16-game hitting streak for low Class A West Virginia. Cunningham, an 18th-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, has hit .371 with six doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs since the streak began on May 31.