PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have yet to formally name their new CEO, so they have not yet called the Brewers for permission to talk to scouting director Jack Zduriencik about their general manager vacancy. But they should, according to some of the young Brewers who were brought into the game by Milwaukee's highly-regarded scouting boss. "Obviously, we don't want him to go, but he would be a great GM," said second baseman Rickie Weeks, the second overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. "He knows the game and I think he would be a great guy to run a team."
"He's a great guy overall," added third baseman Ryan Braun, the fifth overall pick in 2005. "He's very positive, very optimistic, very professional. He's probably the most professional guy I have come across in my career." Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy announced in July he would step down at the end of the season, and last week the team relieved GM Dave Littlefield of his duties. Zduriencik -- pronounced zur-EN-sick -- has been mentioned in media reports as a potential GM candidate, though he is cautious about discussing his interest in the gig. "I have a job to do in Milwaukee," he said via telephone on Wednesday before the Brewers and Pirates finished a three-game series at PNC Park. "We're in the middle of a pennant race and my total focus is with the Brewers. "Do I have ambitions to be a GM? Yes. Absolutely." On paper, he certainly would fit in Pittsburgh. Zduriencik was born near Pittsburgh and still has family there, including a daughter, Kimberly, who is a nurse. He was the Pirates' scouting director from 1991-93, a stint bookended by tenures with the Mets as a scout and later as the Mets' farm director. He worked as a special assistant to the Dodgers GM before assuming his post with the Brewers in October 1999, and has orchestrated Milwaukee's last eight Drafts. Under his guidance, the Brewers have netted an impressive stable of talent, including Braun, a NL Rookie of the Year candidate, and first baseman Prince Fielder, an NL MVP hopeful and the seventh overall pick in 2002. Weeks, shortstop J.J. Hardy and starter Yovani Gallardo are among other high Draft picks in the Zduriencik era currently playing key roles with the NL Central-leading Brewers. According to numerous media reports, the Pirates were close to naming Frank Coonelly to the open CEO post, and Coonelly would have to contact Brewers GM Doug Melvin for permission to interview Zduriencik. Coonelly is currently Major League Baseball's chief labor counsel and represents the league in collective bargaining agreements. He coordinates other financial matters, including the "slot" money assigned to draft picks, and in that role has had contact with Zduriencik, who downplayed that relationship. "We all have had our dealings with Frank Coonelly," Zduriencik said. "I am no different than anyone else in baseball in that regard. We all know Frank." If Coonelly is indeed the pick, one Major League executive said the Pirates would be well-served to seek a talent evaluator for the GM job who has experience building through the Draft. Zduriencik is among the potential candidates who falls into that category. Parra throws: Rookie left-hander Manny Parra played catch on Wednesday despite a still-fractured left thumb. He still has hope of returning before the end of the season. "They said it's going to be close," Parra said of the team's trainers. Parra suffered a chip fracture on a bunt attempt at Wrigley Field on Aug. 30 and his thumb is still badly bruised. He has trouble "finishing" throws because of the pain. But he did take a small step forward this week, resuming competition in "Halo," a video game popular with some Brewers that has been played throughout the system for years. Brewers in adjoining hotel rooms hook their televisions together so more players can get in the game. "It's probably good rehab," Parra joked. "'Halo 3' is coming out in a couple weeks, so I have to be ready." No worries: Weeks is on an offensive tear, batting .318 with a .491 on-base percentage from Aug. 10 through Tuesday. But he appears to be in a bit of a defensive slump, evidenced again Tuesday when he nearly threw away an easy double-play relay. First baseban Prince Fielder came off the bag to take the throw and tagged out Ronny Paulino to escape a bases-loaded jam. Yost called Weeks' recent hiccups "just a little spell." Last call: With 154 strikeouts entering Wednesday, closer Francisco Cordero and setup man Derrick Turnbow had more strikeouts than any relief tandem in baseball. ... Braun set a new Brewers rookie record with his 82nd RBI, one better than the record 81 driven in by Fielder last season. Braun had already broken Fielder's rookie home run record. ... Reliever Scott Linebrink recorded one of his better Brewers performances on Tuesday night, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings on just 20 pitches. Linebrink typically does not pitch multiple innings. On deck: Ace righty Ben Sheets is scheduled to take the mound on Friday at 7:05 p.m. CT against right-hander Tom Shearn and the Reds. It's a brief three-game homestand, but a chance for the Brewers to rack up some wins. They are 45-26 at home this season.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.