Pirates Notebook: Agent says Pirates privy to Duffy's situation

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PHOENIX -- Mike Nicotera, agent for estranged center fielder Chris Duffy, said yesterday that the Pirates have been informed as to the precise reasons Duffy has walked away from the game, although Nicotera continued to decline to divulge what those are.

"It's a situation that we're all working to resolve, and we all have a full understanding of it," Nicotera said. "This I want to make clear: The Pirates know exactly what is going on. And we certainly appreciate their respect for Chris' privacy through this process."

The Pirates have made no comment on Duffy's possible reasons, other than to defer to Duffy as general manager Dave Littlefield has done repeatedly by saying, "You'd have to ask Chris." Duffy is not accepting phone calls from the media.

"We've been in contact with the agent and with Chris, and we're encouraging him to return," Littlefield said last night. "That's where it stands."

Nicotera declined to address a report in the Post-Gazette yesterday in which two sources close to Duffy attributed his absence to a general fatigue with baseball. But Nicotera did say the matter is solvable and that, once it is over, an explanation will be offered.

There is no meeting planned between Duffy and the team.

Wells throws to hitters

Starter Kip Wells, recovering from a March vein transplant, worked against live hitters for the first time since last season yesterday afternoon. From behind an L-shaped screen, he threw 30 pitches to Sean Casey and Mike Edwards, using all of his repertoire.

"It's another step, having the hitters in there and trying to perform," Wells said. "It's kind of an adrenaline situation that you weren't used to having in the past six months."

"He looked good out there," manager Jim Tracy said, smiling.

Wells is scheduled to leave the team today and return to Bradenton, Fla., where he will pitch a simulated game Sunday, then a real game next week in extended spring training. He remains on pace to return by mid-June.

Casey leaving, too

Casey, still pain-free in his recovery from a fractured back, is expected to begin a minor-league rehabilitation stint tomorrow, though it had not been determined where or for how long.

It is possible he will play for Class AA Altoona because the Curve are spending the weekend in Erie, which is thought to have a better field than Syracuse, where Class AAA Indianapolis is headed.

Casey was put through a rigorous workout yesterday that included two batting practices, running the bases and taking grounders.

"If I can handle that, I'm ready to go," he said.

Buried treasure

Third baseman Joe Randa still is troubled by his fractured right foot to the extent that he has pain walking. He is not expected to resume baseball-type exercises until next week.

Jose Castillo's bump of his average from .218 to .297 in a 12-game span prompted Tracy to bump him up to seventh in the order, where he likely will stay for a while. "He's deserved it," Tracy said.



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