Hurdle talks Pirates' offseason on Hot Stove

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Time has been ticking away for months, but the ticking is getting louder and louder for the Pirates and A.J. Burnett as the offseason lingers.

The club has been respectful of the veteran pitcher's pending decision to retire or not, but now that the Winter Meetings have arrived, they also have been working on a separate track to seek out a starter in case he does hang up his jersey after 14 years.

General manager Neal Huntington said Tuesday the situation hasn't changed much from the day before for the Bucs, in that they're still in contact with Burnett and they're still on the lookout elsewhere, in case.

"If we get to the point where it may now block us from doing something we want to do or to make a decision, there may become a decision point," Huntington said. "But as of now it hasn't blocked us or stopped us from doing anything we wanted to do.

"How much longer does that go on? That is a great question, one that I really don't have an answer to. The market will dictate that."

Then again, Burnett's camp might dictate that. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Burnett's agent was headed to Orlando on Tuesday afternoon, although there was no knowledge of a meeting or a signing in the offing.

Burnett, who will turn 37 in January, said after the Pirates' National League Division Series loss to the Cardinals that he wanted to think about whether he wanted to retire or return to the Pirates. The right-hander went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in the last two full seasons with Pittsburgh.

"We continue to work through the process, and again are working to be respectful of what a huge decision this is for him," Huntington said.

Prospect Polanco likely to begin '14 in Minors

Polanco discusses honor of playing in Futures Game

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While the Pirates are now headed toward filling right field internally, general manager Neal Huntington indicated it's likely top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco will not be in that role come Opening Day.

"We're real excited about Gregory," Huntington said. "We see him in our outfield for a long time to come. We just don't know that it's going to be April 1."

Huntington said he was pleased with the success Polanco had at three Minor League levels last year, and he said the 22-year-old is playing all three outfield positions in winter ball. Assuming he starts the season at Triple-A, he figures to see time at all three, but will primarily play right.

Jose Tabata, Travis Snider, Andrew Lambo (also working toward being prepared to play some first base) and newly acquired Jaff Decker are likely in the mix for right field heading into the season.

Determined not to make a call on a prized prospect based on Spring Training results, Huntington said Polanco is close, but not quite there -- at least to start the season.

"He showed some very positive signs when he moved to Double-A last year -- as many walks as strikeouts, drove the ball -- but also showed some signs that he has some work to do," Huntington said.

Club 'comfortable' with Mercer as starting shortstop

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said the team is "comfortable" going into 2014 with Jordy Mercer as the primary shortstop, although he remains on the lookout for some backup help there.

"We'd like to supplement him, complement him as best we can," he said.

Short hops

• Several teams have inquired about hard-throwing lefty reliever Justin Wilson and the Pirates have been willing to listen, according to Fox Sports.

• Clint Hurdle, the 2013 National League Manager of the Year, will have his interview session with the media gathered at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday afternoon.

• The Pirates announced Tuesday that new 13-game ticket plans are on sale for 2014. There are Saturday, Sunday and weekday plans, which the club says will allow fans the opportunity to purchase tickets for the most in-demand contests.