Pirates Notebook: Team says pitching prospects handled cautiously

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HOUSTON -- The Pirates have some of baseball's most rigid restrictions on their minor-league pitchers, director of player development Brian Graham said the day after Brad Lincoln became the latest in a long line of top prospects to have arm surgery.

"It's easy to point to the Pirates, but we place the health of the pitcher above everything and always have," Graham said yesterday. "We have a very conservative standard when compared to the rest of the industry."

Among those he outlined:

Any pitcher who tops 30 pitches in an inning must be pulled immediately.

Pitchers cannot exceed their previous pitch count by 10 for the first three games of a season.

Pitchers in Class A and lower never can top 100 pitches in a game. That number is 110 in Class AA, 120 in Class AAA.

Lincoln was the sixth of the past seven pitchers the Pirates drafted in the first round to have arm surgery. The others are Clint Johnston, Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington. The latter three were injured in the majors.

Lincoln made only six appearances in the Pirates' system after they drafted him in the first round last summer. His total inning count was 24 and, according to Graham, he never threw more than 50 pitches in any outing.

The larger issue where Lincoln is concerned might be the risk the Pirates took in drafting him after he logged 127 2/3 innings as a junior at the University of Houston, a total that one American League scout yesterday described as "unbelievably high." That is doubly true, the scout added, within the scope of Lincoln making 17 starts in a 50-game schedule for his team.

Payroll ranks 27th

A survey of Major League Baseball opening-day payrolls placed the Pirates at $38,537,833, ranking 27th and ahead of Washington ($37.3 million), Florida ($30.5 million) and Tampa Bay ($24.1 million).

Those figures, compiled by USA Today, reflect full-season salaries for the 25-man roster plus injured players -- Freddy Sanchez and John Grabow, in the Pirates' case -- as well as signing bonuses for this season and performance bonuses achieved last season.

The bonus categories raised the Pirates' payroll by $1.63 million over the projected figure reported in the Post-Gazette last week.

Also on the subject:

The Pirates, Nationals, Marlins and Devil Rays were the only teams below $52 million.

Two Central Division teams in markets similar to Pittsburgh have far bigger payrolls than the Pirates: Milwaukee is at $70.9 million, and Cincinnati at $68.9 million.

Counting buyouts and known deferred payments -- including $5.5 million to the Oakland Athletics as part of the Jason Kendall trade in 2004 -- the Pirates' payroll is $45,629,500, as per MLB's accounting standard. The team said last week it has roughly $4 million to spend under its self-imposed limit of $50 million and reiterated that yesterday.

Duke pushed back

Zach Duke will have his next start pushed back one day to Sunday in Cincinnati because of a cracked nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand. The trouble, which developed in the opener Monday, was irritating enough that Duke's bullpen session yesterday was canceled.

Tony Armas will move up one day and make his season debut Saturday.

That sets up the rotation for the first home series against the St. Louis Cardinals this way: Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm.

Buried treasure

The Pirates' top four affiliates -- Indianapolis, Altoona, Lynchburg and Hickory -- open their seasons today. Sanchez will begin his rehabilitation stint with Indianapolis at Victory Field against Columbus.

The Pirates are only the second team in the 132-year history of the majors to start a season with two road victories despite trailing heading into the eighth inning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 1994 Philadelphia Phillies did likewise in Denver.

Pirates salaries

The 2007 salaries for the current 25-man roster, plus injured players Freddy Sanchez and John Grabow. Figures include signing bonuses for this season and performance bonuses achieved last season:

1. Jack Wilson$5,400,0002.Shawn Chacon$3,825,0003.Jason Bay$3,500,0004.Adam LaRoche$3,200,0005.Tony Armas$3,000,0006.Freddy Sanchez$2,750,0007.Salomon Torres$2,733,3338.Damaso Marte$2,600,0009.Xavier Nady$2,150,00010.Jose Castillo$1,900,00011.John Grabow$832,50012. John Wasdin$600,00013. Humberto Cota$537,00014. Zach Duke$410,00015. Ian Snell$408,00016. Paul Maholm$403,00017.Matt Capps $401,000 Ronny Paulino$401,00019. Jose Bautista$397,50020. Chris Duffy $395,00021. Nate McLouth$392,00022. Ryan Doumit $390,00023. Tom Gorzelanny $386,00024. Jonah Bayliss$384,00025. Brad Eldred $382,00026. Don Kelly $380,000 Juan Perez $380,000 


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