Pirates Notebook: Capps making a run at roster spot

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- This time last year, Matt Capps to most Pirates fans was simply a name in the minor-league section of the team's media guide.

This year, with a week left before the season begins, it's not a reach to suggest that Matt Capps might be a name on the Pirates' opening-day roster.

"This kid has not been ruled out by any stretch of the imagination," manager Jim Tracy said yesterday before the Pirates lost to Toronto, 9-8. "People who are still in camp at this time obviously are here for a reason and also because they deserve to be here because of the performance we've seen dating back to [mid-February]."

Capps, 22, has pitched in six major-league spring training games this year. In 6 2/3 innings, he has allowed four hits and a run. Most significant, though, is that he hasn't walked anybody.

"He's a strike-throwing machine," Tracy said. "He commands the strike zone. His stuff and his ability to pitch ahead in the count more times than not are what helps make you successful. Matt Capps possesses those attributes. He's passed all those tests."

Capps, who could become a closer in the future, began last season with Class A Hickory, then jumped to Class AA Altoona Aug. 1. He made four appearances for the Pirates in September. In a total of 77 2/3 innings, including four with the Pirates, he walked only six batters.

Capps Saturday pitched three innings at the Pirates' minor-league complex. Terry Adams did the same yesterday.

That indicates those two are in the running for what could be two long-relief roles in the bullpen.

Camp roster trimmed

The Pirates yesterday sent five players to their minor-league camp, reducing the number of active players in camp to 35. That total does not include pitchers Kip Wells, Bryan Bullington and John Van Benschoten, who probably will be placed on the 60-day disabled list.

Pitchers Marty McLeary and Jorge Vazquez, catcher Paul Chiaffredo, infielder J.J. Furmaniak and outfielder Ray Sadler were trimmed.

Wilson not worried

Craig Wilson was not flustered about the most recent trade rumor that has him going to Atlanta in a deal for pitcher John Thomson.

"At this point, I'm really not going to worry about it," Wilson said. "The only thing I can do is go out and hit the ball and catch the ball and throw the ball. If something happens, it happens. I'll pack up and go. If not, I'll pack up my stuff and head north to Pittsburgh -- or actually Milwaukee."

Wilson said he believes there's a 100 percent chance he'll be with the Pirates opening day.

"Because, once again, everything that's written is a rumor until something actually happens. If you went by rumors, [Jason] Kendall would have gone to 16 different teams one spring. So until something actually happens, I'm here and I'm happy to be here."

Duke struggles

Wilson and Jason Bay twice hit back-to-back home runs yesterday. Chris Duffy and Ryan Doumit also hit home runs.

Zach Duke allowed 11 hits and eight runs (six earned) in four innings.

"Tough one," Duke said. "I was just battling myself all day. I'd start feeling good and then get out of rhythm.

"They hit some good pitches and there were some broken-bat hits, but they add up."

Jose Bautista, continuing to add to his impressive resume, played shortstop for the first time yesterday. He made a spectacular diving play in the hole in the seventh inning and threw out Bengie Molina.

"I wanted to see him at shortstop," Tracy said. "We'd been doing it during batting practice. This was the perfect time to do it in a game."

Marte returns

Left-hander Damaso Marte, who has had some soreness in his left shoulder since returning from the World Baseball Classic, pitched yesterday for the first time since returning. He pitched an inning in a game at the Pirates' minor-league complex. According to Tracy, there's no reason to think Marte won't be ready to pitch opening day if needed.

Bradley probably done

According to Sean Burnett, Bobby Bradley, the Pirates' top draft pick in 1999, signed recently with the Florida Marlins but left camp after one day. "I think he's probably done playing baseball," Burnett said.



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