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Pirates may be settling on Indians' Huntington as GM

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are planning a news
conference as early as Tuesday to announce their new general
manager, a sign they may have settled on Indians executive Neal
Huntington as their choice.

Despite conflicting news reports that Huntington was or wasn't
the Pirates' pick, he emerged as the front-runner late last week
and there has been no sign since from the club that it has moved
its search elsewhere. He currently serves as a special assistant to
Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro.

Huntington, 37, would replace Dave Littlefield, who was fired
earlier this month after failing to produce a winning season since
being hired in July 2001. The Pirates were assured of their fifth
season with 90 or more losses since 2000 when they lost 8-0 to the
Chicago Cubs on Sunday, their ninth consecutive loss.

Frank Coonelly, hired less than two weeks ago as the Pirates'
president, issued a statement Sunday that the team has not altered
its search.

"We are not changing direction or rethinking our position,"
Coonelly said in the statement. "Instead, we are moving forward
with our search process in an extremely thorough and deliberate
manner. This is a critical hire. It is important that we find the
right person for the general manager position who can move our
baseball operations forward. I am extremely confident that we will
accomplish that goal."

The Pirates apparently settled on Huntington quickly, even
though they are the only major league team currently seeking a
general manager and their field of candidates is deep.

Huntington formerly was the assistant general manager to
Shapiro, but is now mostly in a scouting role and has fallen behind
vice president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and assistant
general manager John Mirabelli in importance among Cleveland
baseball executives.

The Indians apparently were worried that the Pirates would
pursue Antonetti as a possible GM, only to be surprised when they
focused on Huntington instead.

Huntington formerly was Cleveland's assistant director of minor
league operations and the club's player development director. He
also was the assistant general manager, but was pushed down to the
lesser role of assistant to the general manager.

The Pirates' Brian Graham, who once worked with Huntington in
the Indians' organization, apparently will keep his front office
job if Huntington is hired. Graham is currently the club's interim
general manager.

The Beaver County Times, citing unnamed baseball sources,
initially reported Friday that the Pirates had chosen Huntington,
who also works as an advance scout for a portion of the season.

The newspaper backtracked on that report Sunday, posting a story
on its Web site that the Pirates were reconsidering the move
because principal owner Bob Nutting and Coonelly were unhappy that
news of Huntington's apparent hiring had been leaked. However, the
paper later updated that story to report Huntington remained the
choice.

The Pirates are also believed to have talked with Red Sox
assistant GM Jed Hoyer, Mets vice president of player development
Tony Bernazard, Blue Jays player personnel director Tony LaCava and
Brewers special assistant to the general manager Jack Zduriencik.

A team official said Sunday night that no news conference would
be held Monday, a day off for the team. The Pirates return home
Tuesday to finish the season with series against NL West leader
Arizona and St. Louis.