Pirates Notebook: Mariners, Twins in Sanchez mix

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PHILADELPHIA -- There were scant signs of activity on the trade front regarding Freddy Sanchez, with sources last night reiterating that nothing was imminent but that talks between the Pirates and several teams were ongoing.

Seattle yesterday traded shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to the Kansas City Royals for prospects, leaving the Mariners with a need at that position and second base. Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik, a New Castle native intimately familiar with the Pirates, had inquired about shortstop Jack Wilson in the spring. The Mariners also are known to have interest in Sanchez.

Marc DelPiano, one of Pirates general manager Neal Huntington's special assistants, is in Seattle scouting the Mariners.

The Minnesota Twins are interested in Sanchez, too, as a source affirmed last night.

Potential trades were very much part of the pregame chatter yesterday in the Pirates' clubhouse, as manager John Russell seemed plenty aware.

"You can't worry about the trade deadline," Russell said. "We just need to worry about the game that we're playing that night."

Coonelly rejects report

Frank Coonelly, the Pirates' president, yesterday rejected a report by ESPN's Peter Gammons that his team has "essentially completed a deal" with fourth-round pick Zackry Dodson, except that Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has "refused to sign off" because the bonus is too high above the recommended slot.

When Coonelly worked for Selig before taking his current job, one of his tasks was to advise teams on draft bonuses.

"The commissioner does not have authority to reject any agreement with a drafted player on the basis that the bonus is over slot," Coonelly said. "We understand what Dodson views as his value, but we have reached no agreement with him, tentative or otherwise."

First six Latins signed

The Pirates signed their first six Latin American players of the international signing period for 16-year-olds that began July 2: outfielder Pedro Lara, third baseman Roberson Valdez and second baseman Alen Hanson of the Dominican Republic; left-handed pitcher Orlando Castro of Honduras; shortstop Carlos Esqueda of Mexico; and right-handed pitcher Richard Montilla of Panama.

Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo always is loath to rate one player above another, but his sentiment about Lara was unmistakable.

"Pedro has a medium frame with an athletic build, similar to a young Moises Alou," Gayo said. "He is aggressive and competitive on the field and profiles to be an above-average hitter with power potential. He has speed on the bases and exhibits the instincts, athleticism and arm to be a special player in the outfield."

Diaz moving around

Robinzon Diaz, who batted .295 in 31 games before being optioned back to Class AAA Indianapolis yesterday, will play several positions there -- including third base, second and first -- in an attempt to get him back to Pittsburgh. He has played sparsely in the infield over his minor league career.

"We like his bat, so we'll use him a lot of ways," Russell said.

Buried treasure

• Luis Cruz, the utilityman recalled yesterday, already comes with that versatility, having played every position on the diamond except catcher. Cruz said he has lost eight pounds during the season -- highly unusual for a baseball player -- to get quicker, as well as lightening the load on a nagging left knee. "Any place the team needs me, I'll be there," Cruz said.

• Ryan Doumit, on how Jason Jaramillo and Diaz fared behind the plate in his absence: "They did an outstanding job. It would have been really easy for them to come up here and be overwhelmed, two rookie guys and a semi-veteran pitching staff. That didn't happen. They played like eight-year veterans. I tip my hat to those guys."

• Ian Snell made his third start for Indianapolis last night in Toledo, Ohio, allowing two runs, one earned, and seven hits in six innings. He struck out four, walked one. "They were really aggressive on the first pitch," Snell said. "I had to mix my stuff instead of just throwing fastballs."

• Left fielder Lastings Milledge made his Indianapolis debut in that game and went 0 for 4.


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