Ex-manager could be right for Pirates

NL notebook

Baseball Week

September 11, 2005

It has been nearly a decade since a hands-on owner and a veteran manager parted ways, resulting in chronic losing for a once-proud franchise.

This story, though, has nothing to do with Davey Johnson and Peter Angelos.

And this one could feature a reunion between the manager and owner.

On Tuesday, the day the Pittsburgh Pirates fired Lloyd McClendon, St. Louis Cardinals scout Jim Leyland was met at PNC Park by reporters wanting to know if he'd like to again lead the Bucs.

"No comment," Leyland said, partially in respect to current interim manager Pete Mackanin.

Yet it is no secret that Leyland, 60, wants to manage again. He was a finalist for the Philadelphia Phillies' job that eventually went to Charlie Manuel.

"It would have to be the right situation," said Leyland, who last managed in 1999 with the Colorado Rockies.

It's hard to imagine a much better fit for Leyland than the place where he spent 11 seasons as manager. In 1996, with the Pirates starting a youth movement in owner Kevin McClatchy's first year, Leyland asked out of his contract and signed with the Florida Marlins, whom he led to the 1997 World Series title.

McClatchy, who prefers an experienced manager, said the decision ultimately belongs to general manager Dave Littlefield.

"I'm fine with what happened, and that was a long time ago," McClatchy said. "Whoever Dave picks, we want someone who gives us the best chance to win."

Mackanin, 54, is a possibility. He was the bench coach for McClendon, who went 336-446 in nearly five seasons leading the Pirates.

Other names being mentioned include Art Howe and Ken Macha, whose contract with the Oakland Athletics expires this year. Another intriguing name is Jay Bell, the former Pirates star who is now Bob Melvin's bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Rough timing

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris is picking a bad time to struggle. The pending free agent has 14 wins and a 3.97 ERA, but he hasn't pitched well since July. He is 3-5 with a 5.86 ERA in his past nine starts.

He pitched poorly last postseason (14 runs in 21 1/3 innings) and if he wants to help the Cardinals win the World Series while padding his upcoming payday he needs to prove he can succeed late in the season.

"It's a crucial time for me to pick it up," Morris said. " ... This is the time to sharpen everything."

Bad deal

The New York Mets' trade for pitcher Victor Zambrano in July 2004 looked bad then. It looks simply awful now. Zambrano didn't help the Mets make the playoffs last season. And during this month's wild-card chase, Zambrano has been sent to the bullpen after posting a 7-11 record and a 4.17 ERA in 25 starts.

Quick hits

Despite chronic hamstring pain, Arizona's Troy Glaus does not plan on sitting once the Diamondbacks are officially eliminated from the NL West race. ... Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman had three hits Thursday to push his average above .200 for the first time since June.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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