Neither the Pirates nor anyone is going to sign elite Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano until next week, at the earliest, but the team did make some moves on the opening day of the international signing period.
Just not in Latin America.
The Pirates signed three teenage prospects from Taiwan -- center fielder Ping-Hung Chi, right-handed pitcher Sheng-Chin Hung and first baseman Chih-Wei Hsu -- in by far their biggest splash to date in that nation.
Rene Gayo, the Pirates' Latin American scouting director, made a special trip to Taiwan in January to see Chi, and team's new scout in the region, Fu-Chun Chang, signed the rest. All three signed for bonuses in the range of $50,000, and all will be assigned to Major League Baseball's new general academy in Australia.
Chi, 18, is the standout, despite his 5-foot-7 stature, because of exceptional speed -- 3.9 seconds from home to first -- that has some convinced he could blossom into an everyday center fielder. He also is sound enough at the plate to be considered for leadoff duty.
Hung, 18, can throw 91 mph. And Hsu, 17, is a converted pitcher with some pop to the bat.
The Pirates should have Latin American signings to announce soon, but their clear focus is on Sano, the talented shortstop who projects to move to the outfield. They made their first formal offer Wednesday, as was confirmed yesterday by two sources, as well as a follow-up visit to the Sano home.
But the general process appears to be on hold until MLB completes its investigation of Sano's age. That could take several more days. The Pirates completed their own investigation last month, which backed Sano's claim that he is 16, but other teams want more proof.
In the interim, the Baltimore Orioles, one of a handful of other suitors, have ramped up the intensity to get Sano and have emerged -- for now -- as the front-runner. The Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers are pursuing, as well.
Pirates right fielder Delwyn Young was ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild in the seventh inning yesterday for disputing a called third strike.
Without saying a word.
Replays backed Young's contention that he never spoke after being rung up, but a motion he made with the bat apparently ticked off Fairchild, and the ejection was immediate. Fairchild's charge, Young said, was that Young used his bat to draw a line in the dirt showing where he thought the ball crossed, inside the plate.
"I didn't do that," Young said. "I got thrown out for walking out of the box, I guess."
• Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, fully healthy, was held out of the starting lineup for the seventh time in the Pirates' 79 games. He has made 329 plate appearances, more than half the 635 he needs to trigger an $8.5 million vesting option for 2010. His plate appearances are second-most among the National League's second basemen.
• Catcher Robinzon Diaz shook off his .189 June and went 3 for 4 with two RBIs. "I feel much better," he said. "I had some good swings."
• The past five games for Bradenton, the Pirates' rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate, have been rained out in stormy Florida, limiting the team to simulated games -- indoors in batting cages, just hitting and pitching -- the past two days.
• Because of the rain, it is not clear when Indian pitchers Rinku Dinesh and Singh Patel will make their professional debuts with Bradenton, director of player development Kyle Start said. Each will come out of the bullpen.