Pirates Notebook: Team's leadership, personality could change soon

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In the next day and a half, it is likely -- if not certain -- that the Pirates will ship out several veterans.

Such an exodus could leave a roster as young as any in Major League Baseball, which can raise two questions:

1. Who will lead?

2. Is so much youth good?

On the first count, perhaps the best candidate to fill a singular leader-type role for the Pirates, according to an informal survey of the clubhouse, is left fielder Jason Bay.

And there is cause for that: He never is timid about speaking his mind, exhibits an impeccable work ethic and, perhaps most important, has much invested in the team's future because of the contract that keeps him in the fold until 2009.

"Jason has the tools and the mind-set to be a good leader," reliever Salomon Torres said. "And if we have a lot of players get moved between now and Monday, I think you're going to see him realize that."

Sounds like he already does, actually.

"I can see myself taking on that kind of role," Bay said. "I think I already have, to some extent."

That extent, he adds, is likely to grow if the Pirates clear out veterans.

Which comes back to the second question: Bay and others predict that much about the team's personality will change if management commits to an all-young group in the manner the Florida Marlins did entering this season. Every player, the thinking goes, would commit to long-term success and take long-term responsibility.

"If you're on a one-year contract, whether you want to or not, you don't all of a sudden come in and become an instant leader," Bay said. "If you look at it, the guys who maybe are going to be left after the deadline are the ones here for the long term. Those are the guys -- myself included -- who are already doing some of the leading. And it might just get magnified."

"You look at the Marlins, and they know they're going to be together a long time," said shortstop Jack Wilson, another player signed to 2009. "They know each other, know each other's styles, and they're going to be very successful, I think. They have talent, too, but they're together. They're not going to rent players. They're going to play young guys and let them carry the team."

Trade winds blowing

With the non-waiver trading deadline -- 4 p.m. tomorrow -- fast approaching:

The Pirates player being eyed by Colorado as a return for first baseman Ryan Shealy is thought to be reliever John Grabow, who has been dominant of late. The Rockies, who have been seeking a left-hander, also are in talks with the Kansas City Royals about Jeremy Affeldt.

The two New York teams could be at the forefront of those interested in starter Kip Wells. A deal with the Yankees seems more likely, given that team's additional interest in outfielder Craig Wilson and reliever Roberto Hernandez.

The Yankees were one of roughly a dozen teams with scouts in attendance last night.

Casey injured again

Sean Casey sat out last night because of a strained muscle in the right rib cage, the result of a swing in his second at-bat Friday. He is likely to sit out again today and take advantage of the off day tomorrow before returning.

In an unusual move, manager Jim Tracy tabbed third baseman Joe Randa to take Casey's place at first, marking his first action across the diamond since Aug. 21, 2004. Tracy's stated reasoning: Randa was 9 for 24 with three home runs in his career against San Francisco starter Jamey Wright.

Buried treasure

Grabow's surge can be attributed to the return of his changeup, his out pitch against right-handed hitters. The pitch all but abandoned him for the first two months, he said, because of a scrape on his thumb that carried from spring training into the season: "It's such a feel pitch."

The sellout crowd of 38,373 last night was the Pirates' second in a row, fourth of the season. With another big crowd expected today, the three-game series should top 100,000.

Of the 56 players named to Baseball America's midseason minor-league all-stars for the top four classifications, the lone Pirates were Tom Gorzelanny -- now in the majors -- and shortstop Brent Lillibridge, who was promoted a month ago from low Class A Hickory to high Class A Lynchburg. Lillibridge, 22, is batting .295 with 12 home runs.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
Saturday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (58-47) lost to Columbus, 10-6. LHP Oliver Perez (1-3, 5.63) allowed eight runs and five hits in one-third of an inning. He walked three, threw 16 of 36 pitches for strikes and had a wild pitch. RHP Josh Sharpless (2.45) allowed two runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief. 3B Yurendell DeCaster (.273) and LF Rajai Davis (.288) each went 3 for 5. DeCaster hit his 10th home run, a three-run shot. CF Chris Duffy (.340) went 1 for 4 with a walk and committed his second error.

ALTOONA (61-43) won at Connecticut, 6-1. RHP Wardell Starling (3-2, 3.02) allowed one run in six innings. LF Nyjer Morgan (.310) went 3 for 5 with two runs and a steal.

LYNCHBURG (44-59) lost at Myrtle Beach, 8-6. RHP Derek Hankins (3-9, 4.56) allowed six runs in five innings. 1B Steve Pearce (.251) went 3 for 4 with his eighth home run and a walk. C Neil Walker (.271) went 2 for 5 with an RBI.

HICKORY (52-53) won at Rome, 8-5. RHP Joe Bauserman (6-8, 4.01) allowed two runs in six innings. 3B Shelby Ford (.287) went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI. CF Andrew McCutchen (.279) went 0 for 4 with a walk.

WILLIAMSPORT (12-23) lost to Jamestown, 5-3. RHP Patrick Bresnehan (0-5, 4.09) allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings. 2B Jim Negrych (.237) went 2 for 4 with an RBI.

 


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