Pirates Notebook: Team to approach Mientkiewicz, Michaels about staying

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SAN DIEGO -- The Pirates have yet to approach key bench players Doug Mientkiewicz or Jason Michaels, each of whom can become a free agent this offseason, but general manager Neal Huntington said yesterday they plan to do so.

"We obviously have to evaluate the entire roster, but yes, we'd love Doug and Jason, in particular, to come back," Huntington said at Petco Park before the game against the San Diego Padres. "It's going to come down to role, playing time and money. And we hope that when all's said and done, we have the right fit for those guys."

He mentioned two other bench players, as well.

"We're not closing the door on Chris Gomez or Luis Rivas. Doug and Jason are better fits for the club right now, but we're not ruling out anything. We know we had some experience to help our young players mature."

Gomez, Rivas and backup catcher Raul Chavez would welcome returns, but none of them has heard from management, either.

Mientkiewicz, 34, made $750,000 after making the roster out of spring training on a minor league contract. No such tryout will be likely next season after he proved his worth in a super-utility role for the first time in his career. He batted .276 and, maybe just as important in the eyes of some, was the Pirates' leader by word and deed.

Because of that, Mientkiewicz is likely to get more attention as a free agent than last year, so it might behoove the Pirates to act soon. Free agency can be declared 15 days after the end of the World Series.

Michaels, 32, has a $2.6 million option for 2009 -- no buyout necessary -- that the Pirates do not plan to exercise. But they are open to a contract for lesser money, and so is Michaels.

He batted .225 but had eight home runs, including some timely ones, and half came off the bench. On a team that will be seeking to add power this offseason, this facet could be important.

The Pirates are expected to seek at least one big bench bat in the offseason. And Luis Cruz is being considered for super-utility duty.

Morgan finished for season

Outfielder Nyjer Morgan was shut down by the mildly strained left hamstring that occurred on the first play Thursday in Milwaukee.

"It's not a big deal," Morgan said. "I've got five months to let it heal."

He might not play winter ball in Mexico as a result, but that has yet to be determined.

After being promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis Aug. 19, Morgan batted .347 -- 41 for 118 -- with 11 doubles and 20 runs. He reached base safely in 25 of 27 starts.

Because of that, he is being considered for starting duty next year.

"He did some really good things," manager John Russell said. "He was exciting. He really added a dimension to our offense. His missing three games is not going to affect our evaluation."

Buried treasure

• Chavez is 35, but he plans to put in a full catching workload in Venezuelan League this winter. "I have to stay sharp," he said. Rivas will join him.

• Minicamp in Bradenton, Fla., will be Jan. 14-17.

• The Pirates hired Lou DePaoli, formerly of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers and NBA's Atlanta Hawks, as their chief marketing officer.


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