Pirates Notebook: LaRoche negotiations hit a wall

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ATLANTA -- The Pirates and Adam LaRoche have reached an impasse in discussions aimed at a long-term contract, and it might be insurmountable.

Throughout the offseason, the team and its starting first baseman had been talking about an extension of three or four years, and that continued even after they avoided arbitration Jan. 14 by agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract.

But neither side sounds remotely satisfied with the other's most recent offer, and each has backed off in the past week. The team, one source said, might be backing off for good.

This offseason saw the Pirates engage four players in long-term contract talks, including completed deals with starter Ian Snell and second baseman Freddy Sanchez. It could still happen with closer Matt Capps, too, but there has been no recent movement there.

Flexible lineup

Manager John Russell made waves with his first lineup yesterday, particularly in using Ryan Doumit instead of Ronny Paulino against a left-handed starter in Atlanta's Tom Glavine.

Get used to it.

As Russell maintained all winter, his intent is not to be locked into any formula and not to worry about appearances.

"We're going to try all kinds of things, depending on situations," Russell said. "You want the lineup out there that's going to give you the best chance to win every night."

In the case of the catchers yesterday, the Pirates' brass studied video of their at-bats against Glavine -- Doumit was 1 for 6, Paulino 0 for 5 -- and determined that Doumit, who has shown better patience since the middle of last season, might fare better than Paulino, who has not handled Glavine's changeup and cutters well.

Among other possibilities: Jack Wilson, back at the No. 8 spot in which he did so well last season, could be up at No. 2 some days, Russell said. There could be days, too, when Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan are Nos. 1 and 2, if the Pirates face a team that struggles to contain the running game. That would drop Sanchez to No. 3.

"It will change," Russell said.

'Special day'

Russell was mostly business before his first game as a major-league manager, presiding over two pregame meetings, observing batting practice from behind the cage and patting a few backs.

But he did allow to some sentimentality, having aimed for this day since becoming a professional coach in 1994.

"It's obviously a special day," Russell said. "Being my first game, it's something I'll never forget. Been looking forward to it a long time."

Buried treasure

• The Pirates had been scheduled to have a noon workout today at Turner Field, but the long game last night prompted Russell to cancel it.

• The Braves remain interested in injured outfielder Chris Duffy, as they have been for more than a year. But nothing can happen on that front or any other related to Duffy until he is back in game action, perhaps later this month.

• Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said he has no imminent plan for the opening on the 40-man roster, calling it "there just for flexibility."

• There were 16 of the same players on this opening-day roster as 2007, which largely explains the roster's average age increasing from 27.1 to 27.9.

• Two prospects who spent last season with Class A Lynchburg, outfielder James Boone and second baseman Shelby Ford, will open with Class AA Altoona. Some in the Pirates' brass rate Boone among their most impressive performers this spring.


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