Pirates cut Gerut, will try Eldred in outfield

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BRADENTON, Fla. - The Pirates released injured outfielder Jody Gerut today and will owe him one-sixth of his $850,000 salary for the coming season.

Also, general manager Dave Littlefield said first baseman Brad Eldred -- who has four home runs in his first five games this spring -- will see some action in the outfield this spring. That will give the team a chance to see if he might fit with the 25-man roster.

Gerut, 29, made only 18 at-bats with the Pirates since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs July 31, 2005, for outfielder Matt Lawton and cash. His right knee troubled him from the outset, and he had reconstructive surgery last May.

The rehabilitation, Gerut said today, reached "a plateau."

"This was always a possibility," Gerut said. "And it makes a lot of sense if they weren't confident that I'd be able to play at the beginning of the season. So, it's not a huge surprise."

Gerut had not participated in any team drills this spring and still was not running.

He hit 22 home runs as a rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 2002 and expressed optimism he will return to Major League Baseball this season.

"I have a pretty clear plan, and I have a strong feeling it's going to happen that way."

The Pirates had until mid-March to cut Gerut while owing one-sixth of his salary. That would be roughly $141,670.

"We just made the decision that he wasn't going to be part of that 25-man roster," Littlefield said.

Eldred, 26, is batting .462 through his five games -- 6 for 13 -- with two walks and four strikeouts.

Littlefield said Eldred will see some outfield duty, perhaps in non-Grapefruit League games or drills at Pirate City, for management to see how he fares. Eldred played outfield for about half his career at Florida International University, but he has been limited almost exclusively to first base professionally.

The Pirates have Adam LaRoche for first base, and they would prefer not to have a bench player limited to that one position.

"He's off to a good start," Littlefield said of Eldred. "It is early in the spring and, as we've seen, competition can vary drastically. But it's obviously a good sign that he's showing us he's swinging the bat well. We'll just keep our eyes open."

Of how Eldred, a big man at 6 feet 5, 275 pounds, might handle the outfield, Littlefield added: "He's going to have to show us that. In general, you don't see too many people his size playing the outfield. But we'll see how it goes. You'd rather leave it up to the player to show you what they can or can't do."

Littlefield said Eldred shagged some fly balls in camp last spring.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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