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Nutting gains higher profile as Pirates chase bigger goals

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BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) As the Pittsburgh Pirates regain their relevance in baseball, team chairman Bob Nutting's stature in the industry also is on the rise.

In January, commissioner Rob Manfred placed Nutting on MLB's eight-man executive council. Members serve four-year terms and advise the commissioner on all major policy matters.

Nutting also was part of the committee that chose Manfred to replace Bud Selig, who retired on Jan. 25.

''I think it shows the increasing respect for the (Pirates) organization,'' Nutting said Wednesday during a visit to his club's spring training camp. ''To help steer this next chapter of the game is extremely exciting. I love the game, I love the opportunity.''

After failing to post a winning record for two decades, the Pirates are coming off playoff appearances in back-to-back seasons.

''We had great years in 2013 and `14, but the expectations for `15 are higher,'' Nutting said. ''Every day, we expect continuous improvement. We plan to win the division and then see how far we can go to win a championship for Pittsburgh.''

Nutting's input on the executive committee will be important if the league lobbies for an international draft during negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current CBA expires Dec. 1, 2016.

''One of the most important things for the Pirates will always be access to talent - whether that's the amateur draft or an international draft, which I think would be very good for the Pirates,'' Nutting said. ''The international component will continue to be a huge part of that because there is so much talent spread out in Central America, the Caribbean, the Dominican, Korea and Japan. And certainly Cuba is going to be a game-changer.''

Rule changes relating to game pace that were revealed last week is just one way MLB hopes to make the game more appealing to fans, especially television viewers.

''We want to ensure the game stays engaging, fun and relevant for everyone watching,'' Nutting said. ''Look at what the NFL has done, simple things like putting a first-down line on the field. That didn't exist 20 years ago. Our broadcasts still look much the same as they did 15 years ago. I think we have an opportunity to push forward.''

Manfred has said MLB might eventually use a bidding process to select host sites for the All-Star Game. Nutting indicated that would not deter Pittsburgh, which last hosted the game in 2006, from trying to land a game.

''I'd love to see it come back (to Pittsburgh),'' Nutting said. ''That (bidding) process is still undefined. When we understand it, we will participate as aggressively as possible.''