Pirates Notebook: Alvarez talks stay behind closed doors

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The Pirates continue to negotiate with first-round draft pick Pedro Alvarez, and Alvarez is known to be keeping himself in prime playing shape in New York just in case he were to sign soon.

Beyond that, little is certain.

Minor-league report
Sunday's games

INDIANAPOLIS (40-44) lost at Columbus, 6-5. LHP Corey Hamman (0-0, 4.50) allowed three runs and 10 hits in six innings. RHP Jesse Chavez (3.72) pitched one scoreless inning of relief. 3B Neil Walker (.232) hit his 13th home run, a three-run shot, and went 1 for 4. CF Andrew McCutchen (.281) and RF Steve Pearce (.268) each went 1 for 3 with a walk.

ALTOONA (34-45) won at Bowie, 6-5, in 10 innings. LHP Kyle Bloom (0-4, 5.33) allowed two runs and two hits in 4 2/3 innings. 2B Shelby Ford (.319) hit his second home run to break a 5-5 tie in the 10th and went 1 for 4 with a steal. CF Chris Duffy (.275) went 0 for 5.

LYNCHBURG (33-47) lost at Wilmington, 3-2. LHP Tony Watson (5-8, 3.95) allowed two runs, one earned, and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. 2B Jim Negrych (.359) went 1 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs.

HICKORY (34-46) beat Augusta, 6-4. RHP Brad Clapp (1-6, 3.81) pitched two scoreless innings and allowed one hit before a rain delay forced him out. DH Matt Hague (.333) hit his second home.

STATE COLLEGE (2-9) lost to Williamsport, 13-3. RHP Rudy Owens (0-3, 9.00) allowed six runs and seven hits in three innings.

BRADENTON (5-4) beat the Twins, 2-1. RHP Gabriel Alvarado (0-0, 0.00) allowed one unearned run and one hit in three innings.

General manager Neal Huntington again declined comment on Alvarez yesterday, and that tight-lipped policy is holding firm throughout the front office. The same has been true of Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, as the parties apparently have agreed not to discuss the matter publicly.

The signing deadline is Aug. 15, so plenty of time remains. The Pirates had expressed hope of signing Alvarez quickly after drafting him June 5 to accelerate his ascent to Pittsburgh. In doing so, they cited examples of exceptional players who signed within the first few days of being drafted and appeared in the majors as soon as the following year.

It is not clear how or if Alvarez taking this long to sign will impact his ability to play in Pittsburgh in 2009.

The Pirates also are in talks with pitchers Tanner Scheppers and Justin Wilson of NCAA champion Fresno State University, their second- and fifth-round picks.

Scheppers is recovering from slight damage to the labrum in his shoulder and is expected to begin an independent throwing program early next month. Once the Pirates are convinced he is healthy -- and they are optimistic -- talks could gain steam. Before he was shelved in May, he had been a consensus first-round choice.

Wilson, 8-5 with a 4.34 ERA, became Fresno State's ace after Scheppers was out and was the winning pitcher Wednesday -- eight innings, one run -- in the 6-1 victory against Georgia that clinched the College World Series.

"We don't want to get too high or low based on one performance," Huntington said. "But, as you're evaluating amateur players, you're looking at situations, at their character. To see a young player perform on the highest stage of college baseball, yeah, it does give you a positive feeling."

Wilson threw 124 innings as a junior, so the Pirates would allow him to pitch "just a few innings" this summer, Huntington said.

Wilson sparkles

Shortstop Jack Wilson, 2 for 4 out of the leadoff spot in the 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay yesterday, again shined on all fronts: He doubled and singled in his final two at-bats, scoring the Pirates' final two runs. He made a sensational diving stop on a Jonny Gomes grounder in the sixth. And, above all, he put on a baserunning clinic.

After his double opened the sixth, he was bunted to third. When Nate McLouth hit a ball barely to the edge of the grass, Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine hurried to retrieve it and, without looking at Wilson, fired to first. Wilson, reading Sonnanstine's body language and noticing that catcher Shawn Riggans abandoned his position, sprinted home.

In the eighth, Wilson deftly put down a bunt single, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Ryan Doumit's two-out liner to center for a 2-2 tie.

Since returning from the disabled list May 27, Wilson is batting .336 with five doubles and eight runs. His overall average is .311.

Taubenheim returned

Ty Taubenheim, whose quality start spurred the 13-inning victory Saturday, was optioned back to Class AAA Indianapolis, and reliever Romulo Sanchez was recalled.

The Pirates continue to list their Wednesday starter in Cincinnati as tentative. John Van Benschoten is the top choice, Huntington said. But, if his right shoulder flares up in the interim, it will be Yoslan Herrera or Bryan Bullington.

Outside options appear unlikely. Huntington acknowledged having spoken with free agent Brett Tomko before he signed with the San Diego Padres last week, as well as an unnamed Class AAA pitcher who chose a Japanese team.

Unlucky 13

In all, Huntington made 13 roster moves since Wednesday, beginning with the Denny Bautista trade, to keep fresh arms available.

"This is not something we want to do ever again," he said with a laugh.

Bautista on mend

Bautista, struck on the right forearm by a line drive Friday, has no visible swelling and could pitch tonight or tomorrow, though the Pirates might prefer to give him another day or two.

The ball struck Bautista no more than an inch from the ulna bone.

"I got really lucky," he said.

Buried treasure

• The Pirates pushed back Phil Dumatrait's target for a return by two days, to July 7, as a precaution. Dumatrait had a third consecutive day of tossing yesterday and will need two full side sessions before any kind of pitching.

Ian Snell's target remains July 8, his first day off the disabled list.

• Center fielder Chris Duffy, rehabilitating with Class AA Altoona, must come off the disabled list Friday. He can remain in the minors, but the Pirates must clear space on a full 40-man roster.


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