Pirates Notebook: GM in search of left-handed power bat

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ATLANTA -- The Pirates plan to search for a left-handed power bat to play first base or right field in 2007, preferably someone young enough that they can control his rights for several seasons.

That might come from within, general manager Dave Littlefield said yesterday, or it might take a trade. Free agency is an option, too, but not preferred because youth is scarce in that market.

"We'll look at what we have internally as far as possibilities," he said. "If that doesn't work out, then we'll look at other ways."

The aim is to fill one of those two positions, then have Xavier Nady -- who has shown he can play either -- take the other.

Littlefield identified the internal candidates for first base as right-handed hitter Brad Eldred and switch-hitter Ryan Doumit. For right field, he pointed to Nady, right-handed Jose Bautista and left-handed Nate McLouth and Jody Gerut.

Should Littlefield go to the outside, the type of player he covets will not come cheaply in a trade, which is why he is not ruling out free agency.

"You have to weigh the cost involved, whether that's a player or money that you're giving up," he said.

In a general sense, Littlefield spoke of a wish to see more of a left-handed presence in the lineup. All of the current regulars are right-handed except center fielder Chris Duffy, whose status for 2007 is far from cemented.

"We're intrigued by Duffy, McLouth and Doumit and what they might bring us from the left side at the major-league level. But we haven't seen it yet," Littlefield said. "They're talented, and you usually see players continue to improve, but some guys don't."

The Pirates' view of the starting eight for next season -- for the time being, anyway -- seems to go this way:

Ronny Paulino will catch.

Nady will play first base or right field.

Freddy Sanchez will play every day at second or third base. The other spot will go to Jose Castillo or Bautista.

Jack Wilson and Jason Bay will remain fixtures at shortstop and left field, respectively.

Center field is unknown.

Gorzelanny throws today

Tom Gorzelanny, skipping a turn in the rotation because of elbow stiffness, will throw a side session today that will determine whether he makes his next scheduled start Thursday.

Manager Jim Tracy reiterated that there is no pain in Gorzelanny's elbow and described it as "a little better," but he also stressed that the Pirates will be cautious in their evaluation.

"If we have to step back, we will," Tracy said.

Clemens pitching Friday

Roger Clemens will pitch for the second time in Pittsburgh Friday in the second game of the four-game series with Houston, the Astros announced yesterday.

Fewer than 2,000 tickets remain.

In Clemens' only previous visit, the Pirates beat Houston, 7-0, Sept. 19, 2005, and chased him after 5 2/3 innings with six runs and 11 hits.

Buried treasure

Class AAA Indianapolis reliever Mike Johnston, a member of the Pirates' 40-man roster, is done for the season because of shoulder irritation. He will rehabilitate in Pittsburgh, where his wife is expecting the couple's first child. Johnston, 27, finished with a 5.74 ERA in 28 appearances.

Seven players in the Pirates' system have been assigned to the Grand Canyon team in the Arizona Fall League: Eldred, catcher Neil Walker, second baseman Craig Stansberry, starters John Van Benschoten and Josh Shortslef and recently acquired relievers Brian Rogers and Jesse Chavez. Play begins Oct. 10. Also, Class AA Altoona pitching coach Ray Searage will work with that team.

The Pirates kept reliever John Grabow out of a third consecutive game because of a strained hip flexor. Grabow described himself as "feeling better," and he could return in this series.

Catcher J.R. House, once the Pirates' most heralded prospect, will get to play in Pittsburgh again. Houston promoted him yesterday from Class AAA Round Rock, where he batted .439 in 22 games. House, 26, was released by the Pirates in March 2005 after multiple major injuries.

Monday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (71-59) beat Durham, 6-3. LHP Shane Youman (3-0, 5.28) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings. RHP Jonah Bayliss (1.74) pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save. 2B Craig Stansberry (.233) went 2 for 3 with two walks and two RBIs.

ALTOONA (70-55) lost to Bowie, 13-9. RHP Nerio Rodriguez (0-1, 8.64) allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings. 1B Ryan Doumit (.286) broke an 0-for-17 start to his rehabilitation stint with a two-run double in the first inning and finished 3 for 5, including another double and three runs. LF Andrew McCutchen (.360) went 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs. DH Neil Walker (.231) went 1 for 3.

LYNCHBURG (54-71) was off.

HICKORY (62-64) lost to Greensboro, 10-5. RHP Jared Hughes (3-3, 6.34) allowed seven runs, five earned, in 3 1/3 innings. LF Jason Delaney (.306) went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and an RBI.

WILLIAMSPORT (22-35) beat Jamestown, 3-2, in 10 innings on an RBI double by 1B Kent Sakomoto (.242), who went 1 for 5. LHP Charles Benoit (1-1, 3.52) allowed two runs in four innings. RHP Nicolas Suero (3.19) pitched five perfect innings of relief.



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