Members of the Altoona Curve, the Pirates' Class AA affiliate, celebrate their Eastern League title Saturday night in Trenton, N.J.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pirates expect to have nine players eligible for salary arbitration this winter -- starters Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens; relievers Joel Hanrahan and Wil Ledezma; infielders Ronny Cedeno and Andy LaRoche; and outfielders Lastings Milledge and Delwyn Young -- and general manager Neal Huntington is taking his standard stance when asked if the team will tender offers.
If there is no tender, the players can become free agents.
"If you ask me about arbitration, I'm going to say that our intention right now is to tender all of them," Huntington said.
But he also acknowledged the team will examine all nine cases.
"As we put together the puzzle of the 2011 club, we'll have to see how each player fits," Huntington said. "We're fortunate that most of the guys are first-time eligible, and most of the guys aren't in a position where they're due to get a significant amount of money just because they've had a lot of at-bats or a lot of innings and make it financially inefficient for us."
Maintaining another standard stance, Huntington declined to discuss specific players.
"We'll face a lot of challenges in putting together the 2011 club, in general, based on what we want opening day as well as continuing to get better for the long term."
The six players eligible for the first time are Ohlendorf ($439,000 salary this year), Karstens ($410,000), Hanrahan ($453,000), LaRoche ($451,000), Milledge ($452,000) and Young ($444,500). The others are Duke ($4.3 million), Cedeno ($1.125 million) and Ledezma ($500,000).
The locks to be tendered are Ohlendorf, Hanrahan and Cedeno, the latter having cemented his status with management over the past two months. Karstens is in the next tier, someone Huntington describes as "having shown to us his value" as a starter and reliever this year.
Indications remain powerful from the front office that Duke, the potentially most expensive of the group, will not be tendered after a disappointing season. His salary could increase into the $6 million range, and the Pirates apparently would prefer to use such money toward other pitching.
The possibility of tendering LaRoche, Milledge and Young, all clearly phased out of the team this summer, has diminished. Ledezma has not performed as hoped, either.
Milledge, Jones hurt
Milledge and first baseman Garrett Jones have minor injuries, manager John Russell said Saturday.
Milledge has a strained muscle in the side of his rib cage, the result of a batting-practice swing Tuesday in New York, and is not participating in any baseball-type activity. He could return before season's end, Russell said, although he added that is not certain.
Jones' right shoulder is sore after a diving defensive attempt Thursday in New York, then another Friday that aggravated it. He is not expected to miss much time.
Curve takes title
The Altoona Curve, the Pirates' Class AA affiliate that management loaded up with several of the system's top starting-pitching prospects, won the Eastern League championship with a 5-2 victory Saturday night in Trenton, N.J., to take the series, 3-1.
Left-hander Tony Watson struck out 10 while allowing two runs in six innings, and designated hitter Jim Negrych, a Pitt graduate, had three RBIs.
Another left-hander, Justin Wilson, was named playoff MVP after 13 scoreless innings over two starts.
It was the second consecutive season one of the Pirates' affiliates, after high Class A Lynchburg took the Carolina League in 2009, and several of the same players were on this Altoona roster over the summer.
• Team president Frank Coonelly declined comment on the state of the Pirates or the futures of Huntington and Russell, saying he addressed those topics in an Aug. 20 interview with the Post-Gazette and had no wish to distract from the rest of the season. In that interview, he called the season "an embarrassment" and said that, in general, "nobody's job is absolutely safe."
• Russell, on the importance of Duke's start today after he nearly was removed from the rotation: "I just think it's important for Zach, for his peace of mind."
• The starting rotation will remain unchanged through next week, Russell said.