On the surface, Octavio Dotel would appear to be the most likely player the Pirates could trade before the July 31 deadline: Contenders always can use an established closer, he is having a terrific season, and there are two clear candidates in Pittsburgh to replace him.
Already, one report on AOL Fanhouse described the bullpen-depleted Florida Marlins as interested.
But will Dotel go?
And does he want to go?
To the first question, the Pirates are not known to be shopping any relievers, and they hold an eminently affordable $4.5 million club option on Dotel for 2011 that they have not ruled out exercising.
To the second, as to whether or not Dotel would welcome the Pirates keeping him not just this season but into the next ...
"Yes, no question about it. I like it here," Dotel said Saturday afternoon before immediately adding, "But I want to have more winning games. The past month, it wasn't that good for us."
The Pirates were 6-20 in June.
"I'll be honest with you: I don't want to be over here if we're going to play that way. Not just here. Anywhere. I don't want to be anywhere to play that kind of baseball. But if we're playing close games and fighting and trying hard like this week, yeah, of course, I want to be here. I love this town. I love this ballpark. It's good for me as a pitcher."
Dotel, 36, has rewarded general manager Neal Huntington's faith that he could close again after being in a setup role the previous 2 1/2 years: He has 18 saves in 21 opportunities, including three in a row leading into Saturday, as well as a 4.41 ERA, .227 opponents' batting average and 40 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.
"I just feel good that we're back to playing well as a team, and I'm glad that I'm doing my job," Dotel said. "That's the reason they brought me here, and the reason I came is to prove to myself that I can do this job. Neal and the Pirates believed in me, and I appreciate that."
As for trade talk: "I just don't want to hear any of it, how I'm going here or there. If the day comes, OK. But I don't want to be hearing about it."
First baseman Steve Pearce, currently with Class AAA Indianapolis, has patella tendinitis in his left knee and will be examined by Dr. Patrick DeMeo, the team physician, in Pittsburgh early next week.
An MRI performed Friday night in Indianapolis confirmed Pearce's injury.
"It's something he's battled off and on for a long time now," manager John Russell said. "This time, it's lingering a little longer."
Pearce's stint on the 15-day disabled list, for a sprained ankle, was ended.
• Second baseman Neil Walker returned after missing seven games to a concussion and immediately reclaimed the No. 2 spot in the lineup. That prompted Russell to push Pedro Alvarez back down, this time to No. 5. "I liked having Pedro at No. 2 for now. It was a really tough decision for me," Russell said. "But Neil's really set the tone for us up there."
• Starling Marte, the Pirates' top outfield prospect, went 2 for 4 for rookie-level Bradenton in beginning his rehabilitation assignment after hand surgery.
• The Pirates will face the following pitchers in Houston: Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler and ace Roy Oswalt.