Pirates make pitch to reliever Kolb

Free agent was All-Star closer for Brewers in 2004

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The Pirates, seeking insurance for their late-inning relief, have made a contract offer to free-agent right-hander Dan Kolb.

The team and Kolb's agent, Damon Lapa, have been negotiating since midweek.

"Dan wants to re-establish himself as a setup man or closer, and he feels there is an opportunity in Pittsburgh to show what he can do," Lapa said yesterday. "He's been durable throughout his career, and he's coming off a good second half last season. What he's looking for now is an opportunity."

Kolb, who will turn 32 next month, had two fine seasons as the Milwaukee Brewers' closer in 2003-04, recording 60 saves in 67 chances with a 2.55 ERA. In the second of those seasons, he pitched in the All-Star Game.

But Kolb's fortunes flipped in 2005 with the Atlanta Braves. He lost the closer's job, blew seven saves in 18 chances and posted a 5.93 ERA.

Back in Milwaukee last season, he pitched mostly out of a setup role and had a 4.84 ERA in 53 appearances. And, as Lapa indicated, he fared much better after the All-Star break. Beforehand, he had a 6.28 ERA despite opening the season with eight scoreless appearances. Afterward, it was 2.75, including 14 consecutive scoreless appearances in July and August.

Specifics of the Pirates' offer were not known, but Kolb, who made $2 million last season, is believed to be seeking a one-year, major-league contract that would guarantee him a spot on a 40-man roster. At least two other teams are known to be interested.

The Pirates will open the coming season with Salomon Torres as closer after trading Mike Gonzalez last month, but they have made known their desire to add stability to the bullpen, largely because of the enormous challenge of making up for Torres' workload as a setup man. He made 94 appearances last season, most in Major League Baseball.

Right-hander Matt Capps and left-handers John Grabow and Damaso Marte are the only other experienced relievers. That leaves three openings heading into spring training, possibly two if the team opts to use the loser of the four-man battle for fifth starter in a long-relief role. The rest of the relief candidates -- Josh Sharpless, Jonah Bayliss, Brian Rogers, Jesse Chavez and Juan Perez -- have not pitched a full season in the majors.

Kolb missed two short spells to injury last season when struck by line drives in the calf and thigh, but he has not been on a major-league disabled list since 2002, when he had a torn rotator cuff.

NOTES -- The Pirates avoided salary arbitration with two more players, agreeing to one-year contracts with first baseman Adam LaRoche and Grabow. LaRoche will make $3.2 million, plus as much as $125,000 in bonuses based on plate appearances. Grabow will make $832,500, plus as much as $115,000 in bonuses based on appearances and games finished. Each case represents a compromise. LaRoche had filed for $3.7 million, and Atlanta -- his previous employer -- filed $2.8 million. Grabow had filed for $925,000, the Pirates $765,000. ... The Pirates' only unsigned arbitration-eligible players are infielders Freddy Sanchez and Jose Castillo. Management does not expect to go to hearings with either. ... The Pirates' payroll, with 12 players signed, is $29.4 million.

Dan Kolb: Had 60 combined saves for Brewers in 2003-04 seasons.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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