That’s heady stuff for an organization — and a fan base — that has suffered through 20 consecutive losing seasons, a record for any North American major professional sports league.
“We’re over it. We don’t want to hear any more of that,” veteran starting pitcher A.J. Burnett said. “I understand the frustration outside the locker room but we don’t even think about that. We think about the present and how good of a ballclub we are.”
Whether or not the Pirates’ pace of winning is sustainable through the end of the season is more in question in the context of collapses the past two years. It appeared the run of losing seasons could end in 2011 when the Pirates were 53-47 after 100 games — until they sputtered to a 19-43 finish to end with 90 losses, that is.
That late flop pales in comparison, however, to last season, when Pittsburgh topped out at 16 games over .500 as late as 110 games in — only to limp through a 16-36 stretch to end the campaign.
“But now you’ve just got everybody buying in,” Burnett said. “You’ve got some new pieces to the puzzle that were added in the spring, and once everybody got settled in and everybody realized that the guys we got are 100 percent ‘in’ like everybody else, it seems to be we’re all clicking on the same cylinders.”
The 2010 Pirates — like so many before them within the franchise — were a young team lacking significant experience. That’s changed upon the addition of players such as pitchers Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and Mark Melancon and catcher Russell Martin.
“The confidence comes from getting prepared out there, getting ready to go,” said Martin, who left the New York Yankees to sign a two-year, $17 million contract this past winter. “It’s like you’re studying for a test and you’re not worried about the test, you studied for it. That’s the feeling I think we have.”