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Pirates hire ex-Indians assistant GM Huntington

PITTSBURGH -- Separated by only a two-hour turnpike drive,
the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates have been worlds apart
in talent and success since the mid-1990s.

Neal Huntington, the new Pirates general manager, wants to
bridge that gap quickly.

A former Indians assistant general manager who was moved into a
mostly scouting role two years ago, Huntington was hired Tuesday as
the 12th general manager in the Pirates' history and their sixth
since they last won the World Series in 1979.

The 37-year-old Huntington replaces Dave Littlefield, who was
fired this month after failing to produce a winning season since he
was hired in July 2001. The Pirates are finishing up a 15th
consecutive losing season, one short of the major league record,
and their fifth with 90 or more losses since 2000.

Frank Coonelly, the equally new Pirates president, wants
Huntington to replicate in Pittsburgh what regularly takes place in
Cleveland: fielding a team that wins by constantly replenishing
itself with young talent.

"He's passionate about baseball, and winning," Coonelly said.
"Neal comes from an extraordinarily successful organization where
they not only develop players but fine executives, many of whom are
now general managers."

Huntington formerly was the assistant general manager to the
Indians' Mark Shapiro, but dropped behind vice president of
baseball operations Chris Antonetti and assistant general manager
John Mirabelli on the front office depth chart two years ago.

Huntington accepted a different role in 2005, Shapiro said,
because Antonetti's skills were in the management and
administrative side, while Huntington's were in evaluation and
scouting.

"My skill set and passion were more that of an evaluator, but
they never technically took me out of the front office,"
Huntington said. "I was exposed to some incredible things --
rebuilding an organization and being involved in every decision,
every tough decision, that was made."

Huntington met the players at mid-afternoon, and shortstop Jack
Wilson said he believes the new GM will be available and
approachable -- a change, Wilson said, from the past.

"I'm very encouraged by what he had to say. He said he was here
to bring a championship to Pittsburgh and he was very energetic
about it," Wilson said. "What highlighted it for me is he's very
eager to have communication with the players. He seems like a guy
who's going to be around the clubhouse a lot."

Huntington, an Amherst graduate with a master's degree in sports
management from Massachusetts, broke into baseball in 1992 with
Montreal. He joined the Indians in 1998 as assistant director of
minor league operations and became player development director the
next season. He was later promoted to assistant general manager,
but his most recent title was special assistant to the general
manager. He also worked extensively on the club's new spring
training complex in Arizona.

"For us to be successful in Pittsburgh, it must be similar to
the way it was in Cleveland," Huntington said. "There needs to be
a continual infusion of talent. How do we get that talent? We sign
it, we develop it and we bring it through the model here in
Pittsburgh."

The Pirates have had one of the majors' bottom five payrolls for
years, but Huntington said, "I wouldn't have taken the job if I
knew there would be a hindrance of resources."

The Pirates are expected to immediately expand their scouting
staff, not only in the United States but also in Latin America,
Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

Huntington's first major job is expected to be finding a
successor to manager Jim Tracy, who is wrapping up a third
consecutive 90-loss season in the majors. A new GM usually wants to
hire his own manager.

"Right now, I'm trying to get my arms around [the job] and get
over my initial excitement of taking this opportunity," Huntington
said. "The [managerial] evaluation process is going to be fair,
the evaluation process is going to be thorough. We won't rush the
decision."