BRADENTON, Fla. - Jim Negrych explained the situation in a calm, yet clearly frustrated voice.
One of the few things Negrych does as well as hit is answer questions openly and honestly - even about difficult subjects - and that's just what he did Monday afternoon when asked where he will be playing ball this season.
He drew a line in the sand and revealed that he has told the Pirates he either makes the Triple-A team or he wants to be released to find another job.
Mirror file photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Jim Negrych does not want to return to Class AA Altoona this season.
"Obviously I feel like I've done enough in Double-A," said Negrych, who has played parts of the past three seasons with the Curve.
Minor leaguers seldom find themselves in position to make demands of an organization. They are told where to go, when to be there and to basically accept it.
Negrych, a 26-year-old Pitt product with a .301 career batting average, isn't willing to accept going back to Double-A.
"No, not anymore," he said. "Maybe with another organization, but not with this organization. I've been there, I've done that. I've been past Double-A and was very successful, so for me to go back to Double-A in this organization would just be delaying the inevitable."
Negrych has been in Triple-A camp this spring but found himself playing second base for the Double-A squad in an exhibition game against the Triple-A club Monday at Pirate City.
"Negrych is competing for a Triple-A spot," Bucs farm director Kyle Stark said.
Other infielders are competing for jobs in Indianapolis, too, including 2010 Curve players Chase d'Arnaud, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer. The logjam of infielders also includes shortstop Pedro Ciriaco and former Curve player Brian Friday, who's expected to be Indy's starting second baseman.
There may not be room for Negrych, who also can play the outfield but doesn't excel anywhere defensively. While he's been around the minors long enough to understand many decisions come down to a numbers game, he feels the offensive numbers he's put up warrant a Triple-A job.
By going back to Double-A, it would be a clear indication the Pirates view Negrych as merely an organizational player rather than a legitimate major league prospect.
"You don't want to be an organizational player," Negrych said. "If you are, you are. It's not the worst thing. You can hang around and make a good living doing that.
"But that's not the way I am, it's not the way I've ever been, it's not the way I was brought up. It's just not me. I'm not the guy that's ready to take a backseat and just watch everybody."
Especially, he added, when he already has performed just as well or better than many of the players he keeps seeing pass him by.
"I know I can play at the next level, and I know I can play at the highest level," Negrych said. "Whether or not the Pirates see that is a whole other question for other people.
"But I've been there, I've played with everybody on our big league team, I've outperformed most of them at some point in my career. And it's just a matter of being in a spot where I can get a fair opportunity to compete."
Negrych noted that Stark "has always been really honest with me" about his standing in the organization. He expects a final decision from Stark today or tomorrow, after the Pirates make decisions on a number of other minor league roster spots.
"He's told me straight up, 'this is what we're thinking,'" Negrych said, "and I'm under the impression right now that if I'm not going to Indianapolis then I'll have an opportunity to go someplace else."
Negrych caught everyone's attention when he hit .370 with a .448 on-base percentage and .956 OPS at high-A Lynchburg in 2008. He got his first taste of Double-A late that season and hit .310 in 25 games for the Curve.
He returned to Altoona the following year and hit .272 in 93 games before suffering a bizarre season-ending intestinal injury when he and Friday collided going after a groundball.
Negrych came back to Altoona last year and was hitting .267 in early June when he received his first call-up to Triple-A. He played in 48 games for Indianapolis and hit better than .300 for nearly his entire stint, until going 0-for-3 on Aug. 6 to drop down to .295.
That's also the day Negrych was demoted back to Double-A, which did not sit well with him. But he bided his time, didn't complain and helped the Curve win the Eastern League championship.
"Not many guys hit .300 in Triple-A and go backwards," Negrych said. "That's usually not the way it goes.
"I really don't know what their plans are for me. It's just a matter for me of finding out truly what's gonna happen. I just need some closure. And whether it's here or whether they give me my release and I go home and there are no jobs, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. But hopefully there is."
It may not come to that if the Pirates can find a roster spot for Negrych in Triple-A. But if they can't ...
"If all they've got for me is Altoona, then it's time for me to go someplace else," he said.