Pirates Notebook: Negotiations continue with unsigned high school players

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PHOENIX -- Let the draftee talks resume.

Late in the week, Pirates representatives notified a handful of their unsigned high school pitchers that Major League Baseball officials at long last approved a backlog of requests -- from them and other clubs -- for above-slot contracts. Now it's up to the sides to negotiate from there, although there's no guarantee it will be a quick process amid the Pirates' spread-the-wealth strategy for this draft.

While ESPN Insider reported Friday that the Pirates were close to an agreement with eighth-round selection Colton Cain, which was news to his family, Cain along with fellow Texas left-hander Zack Dodson (fourth round) and Louisiana right-hander Zack Von Rosenberg (sixth) remain in negotiations with the Pirates.

"We have given ourselves options," general manager Neal Huntington said in an email last night about remaing draft-class discussions, "so if a player's value does not align with our value, we can simply move to the next [option or options]."

Von Rosenberg, a two-time Mr. Louisiana in baseball and a 6-foot-5, 205-pound LSU signee from Zachary, La., received word from team officials about the MLB approval but not yet a specific offer.

The 6-2 Dodson, a Baylor signee from Medina Valley, Texas, continued to wait for definitive contract talk from the Pirates with whom he apparently wants to sign.

And Cain, a 6-3, 225-pound left-handed from Waxahachie with a scholarship in hand from Texas, was engaged in talks with the Pirates before his family took a brief hiatus for a trout-fishing vacation. Keith Cain, Colton's father, said they expected to reconvene negotiations Aug. 1.

The Pirates approached this year's draft with the intent of spending money across the board on a number of top-notch high school players, the better to buy out their scholarship offers -- as already happened with second-rounder Brooks Pounders, a 6-4 right-hander bound for USC. Instead of $6.3 million for a first-rounder such as Pedro Alvarez last year, they spent $2.5 million on Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez with the fourth overall pick and opted to spread millions on several draftees thereafter.

They have signed 17 draft picks thus far.

Garrett Jones watch list

The Pirates' surging slugger has scrawled his name in with some elite Pirates' company, with 10 homers in his first big league July with the club, let alone his first 19 games. The only other Pirates to hit 10 homers in a July were Donn Clendenon (1966) and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner (1950). The last Pirate to hit as many in any month was Jason Bay with 12 in May 2006.

Jones started last night with the major league lead for homers in the month. Should he finish that way, he would become the first Pirate to lead the majors in any month since the late Willie Stargell in April 1971 with 11.

"He's got to be looking at player of the month ... maybe player of the week, as well," Pirates manager John Russell said of a career minor leaguer hitting .500 with three homers in the week's previous five games before last night. "What he's done, you just don't do that."

A cautionary Pirates tale of yore: one Dino Restelli. As a rookie, he hit seven home runs in his first 11 big-league days in June 1949 -- including four off Hall of Famers Warren Spahn and Robin Roberts -- all at Forbes Field. The 24-year-old outfielder cooled from there, with just a half-dozen homers in his remaining 81 major league games that season and briefly in 1951.

Buried treasure

• Shortstop Jack Wilson returned to the starting lineup after missing four games with a balky left hamstring that was injured on a defensive gem Monday. Freddy Sanchez also was back after sitting out Friday after feeling a tweak in his left knee that morning. There have been no new talks between the Pirates and Wilson/Sanchez, nor have the players' sides and the club exchanged much in the way of meaningful contact.

• Eleven games and 13 plate appearances later, Jeff Salazar got his first Pirates hit and RBI Friday, drawing cheers from fans in an Arizona where he played 128 games the previous two seasons. "Yeah," he kidded, "I was saving it to rub in their faces."

Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com .


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