Frank Coonelly: Bucs Didn't Have To Add A Ton Because Of Strong Starting Pitching Core

Coonelly explains quieter offseason and 2019 outlook

The Fan Morning Show
April 01, 2019 - 11:14 am
Frank Coonelly

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan)- It's the 2019 Home Opener and what a joyous occasion it is for Pirates fans. 

The Fan Morning Show broadcasted live from the PNC Park press box and were joined by Pirates president Frank Coonelly this morning. 

Coonelly went into some detail about the Opening Day festivities planned for today but then settled in to talk about this year's squad. He says the organization felt they didn't need to make a splash signing in the offseason because of the players, and pitchers in particular, already on the roster. 

"Last year we saw a core group of players coming together that can win together. We didn't have to add a ton because we had a strong starting pitching core coming back," said Coonellly. "Obviously we made a change with the fifth spot in the rotation bringing in [Jordan] Lyles in for [Ivan] Nova. I think we could have strengthened ourselves there."

"We had a very strong relief core. We added [Nick] Burdi as a healthy addition to that team. We believe we have a strong relief core. We had some areas, some strategic needs within the position player group that we added to. Lonnie Chisenhall, unfortunately second to last Spring Training game, he gets hit with a pitch, breaks a finger, he's going to be out for a little bit. Bringing Kang back was important, solidifying the infield with Erik Gonzalez was really important for us. We had a very strong core group of players that we believe in and we think they're ready to take that next step forward in 2019." 

Related: Pirates President Frank Coonelly Knows Starling Marte Needs To Be Better

Make no mistake, this Pirates team's bread and butter is on the mound. Coonelly confirmed that. 

"The great teams that win championships, it all starts with starting pitching and then a strong bullpen that makes sure you win those games that you have leads in late," said Coonelly. "We need to pitch extremely well. It's a strength of this team, we've talked about it as a strength, getting six, seven, eight innings out of a starter is critical because you can't continue to bring in the relief pitchers every single night. Although we have what I believe will be even a deeper core of relief pitchers coming in here. We saw Nick Burdi over the spring and he was outstanding. The mix of 97 [mph] and just a killer slider has really played and we saw it on Opening Day in Cincinnati. He adds to that length of [Keone] Kela, and [Kyle] Crick and [Richard] Rodriguez, obviously ending up with Felipe Vazquez who we think is one of the best closers in the game." 

He believes the infield defense will improve overall as Kang looks nimble, Gonzalez has range, Frazier can play average to above average defense and Josh Bell continues to work extremely hard to improve with the glove. 

As far as the free agent market that still has some interesting names in the mix...

"I think our team is set now. We like our team and we'll continue to, as injuries occur, we might have to make some adjustments but we like our team. I really think we've added to and improved our bench," said Coonelly. "Once Gregory [Polanco] comes back and Chisenhall is back you've got Chisenhall, you've got Melky Cabrera who is a professional hitter from both sides of the plate, with Colin Moran being a corner bench player now he can really be an addition to the bench."

"The season is a 162 game rollercoaster ride. So we know that there'll will be times in which we are going to have to add whether it's from the system or whether it's from outside we'll have to add and we'll address those when he come to those." 

With the waiver trade deadline being taken away this season, the non-waiver trade deadline because that much more important and Coonelly hopes to be heavily involved in that deadline. 

"We hope to be in a position where, as we are in mid-July, we're looking to add because we're in the middle of the hunt in the National League Central. If we're in that position, if we're in the hunt in the National League Central, we'll look to add where we have needs at that particular time." 

You can hear the entire interview with Pirates president Frank Coonelly on The Fan Morning Show below. 

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