Pirates president Coonelly optimistic about 2012

WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer Published:

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly believes his club can take another step toward contending this season, and not just because the rest of the NL Central appears to have taken a step back.

While the top teams in the division underwent major overhauls on the field and in the front office during the offseason -- or both -- the Pirates were relatively quiet during the winter. The team added veteran infielder Clint Barmes, pitcher Erik Bedard, catcher Rod Barajas and outfielder Nate McLouth in free agency and traded for third baseman Casey McGehee before making inroads on a possible trade for New York Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett this week.

Coonelly thinks the veterans will fill in the edges around the core of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez and will help Pittsburgh make a run at ending a run of 19 straight losing seasons.