BRADENTON, Fla. - Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting looked over the $10 million renovation of McKechnie Field - the team's spring training home - and took a moment to marvel at how far the franchise has come since he took over five years ago.
"Our progress in Bradenton really reflects where we're at as an organization," Nutting said during a sneak preview of the facility's facelift, which will officially be unveiled in an intrasquad game on Friday.
Though the owner stressed he's focused on the club's long-term development, he acknowledged it's time for the long-floundering Pirates to end 20 years of losing in 2013.
"We're in a position now we've got to make a run, we've got to push the chips in early in the season," Nutting said.
The goal is to be in a good spot at the trading deadline - as Pittsburgh was a year ago - and learn from last summer's mistakes, when the acquisitions of Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider failed to provide a spark and the Pirates slipped from 16 games over .500 to a 79-83 finish.
"I think we learned a lot of lessons last year," Nutting said. "One of them was: What is the impact in terms of the clubhouse? Where are we making too much change? Where are we not making enough impact?"
The Pirates addressed their catching depth by signing All-Star Russell Martin. They brought in starting rotation depth by signing lefthander Francisco Liriano and bringing back veteran righthander Jeff Karstens. Throw in All-Star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, improving third baseman Pedro Alvarez and highly touted outfielder Starling Marte and Nutting believes the pieces are in place for the Pirates to compete for a championship.
The Pirates invested heavily in the draft under the previous collective bargaining agreement, and it could soon pay off. Pitcher Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick two years ago, could be up in the majors by midseason and manager Clint Hurdle considers the righthander a "front of the rotation" impact player.
Even if Cole stays put in Triple-A, however, Nutting thinks the Pirates have enough talent to contend for the National League Central Division title and even the World Series.
He's not kidding. Nutting will speak to the team on Thursday morning and his message to the players will be not to sell themselves short.
"The level of expectation has been and needs to be that we're going to win a championship," he said. "We're going to be playing exciting games throughout the summer as we did last year. We're going to play meaningful games in September. We're going to compete for a championship and put ourselves in position for a sixth World Series in Pittsburgh."