The Pirates will not rule out buying out the contract of starter Matt Morris or any other player if circumstances warrant, team president Frank Coonelly said yesterday, but he added that this is not the current focus.
A release would force the team to swallow Morris' $10,037,283 salary, as well as the $1 million buyout of his 2009 option, all of it guaranteed.
ALTOONA (9-9) beat Akron, 7-1. RHP Jimmy Barthmaier (2-0, 5.40) allowed one run and two hits in six innings. LHP Dave Davidson (3.75) pitched two scoreless innings of relief. CF James Boone (.339) went 2 for 4. 1B Jason Delaney (.350) went 2 for 2 with a walk and three RBIs.
LYNCHBURG (7-11) lost at Myrtle Beach, 5-1. RHP Mike Crotta (2-2, 4.64) allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings. C Steve Lerud (.237) went 2 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI.
HICKORY (9-10) was off.
"As an organization, we can never rule out releasing a player who cannot help the team win, even if such a release would be expensive," Coonelly said. "Our objective is to win as many games as possible and we need to have the players on the roster who will put us in the best position to win."
Of Morris specifically, Coonelly added: "He is not pitching up to his standards or our expectations, but he is still working very hard with Jeff Andrews to regain his effectiveness. We are working equally hard to make him an effective member of our staff and have not given up on him."
Manager John Russell expressed optimism that Morris will find his way.
"He's a very proud guy. This is crushing him. It hurts him," Russell said. "This is a class act, and he's going to do whatever it takes to get back to pitching the way he wants. ... I would be very surprised if he didn't figure it out. I really would."
Russell said Morris' lack of velocity is seen as less of a culprit than "a glitch in his mechanics or release point" that the team is working to address.
"Once he gets that figured out, he'll be fine."
Third baseman Jose Bautista, owner of a .182 average and five errors, was benched a second consecutive game, this time for Doug Mientkiewicz.
Russell did not indicate when that benching might end.
Bautista was one of three players on the field early in the afternoon getting extra defensive work, along with shortstop Brian Bixler and catcher Ryan Doumit. But he reiterated afterward that he feels his issue is offense rather than the glove, and he sounded confident he can regain peak form once back in the lineup.
"I feel like I was starting to get back there," he said of hitting safely in each of his past three starts, including two doubles.
The Pirates are attributing his hitting woes to swinging too often for the fences, but Bautista called it a simple matter of just missing the pitches.
"I'm right there," he said.
• Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez, on Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino: "Babe Paulino. The Babe. We call him the Babe. Babe Ruth. He killed us. I bet the Babe is hitting .970 against us." Actually, Paulino has a .270 lifetime average against the Marlins but is 3 for 9 against them this year.
• It could help the Pirates tonight that their opponent, the St. Louis Cardinals, used six relievers yesterday in their 9-8, 12-inning loss at Milwaukee.
• The Pirates promoted reliever Adam Simon, owner of a 3.18 ERA in four appearances for low Class A Hickory, to high Class A Lynchburg.