Pirates Notebook: No shift in free-agent stance


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HOUSTON -- More spending on free agents?

Frank Coonelly, the Pirates' president, told participants in his monthly online chat Wednesday that, among the team's plans to improve, "Following this season, we will also explore the major-league free-agent market."

Any sizable venture into the free-agent market would be significant for the Pirates, whose $36 million payroll is lowest in Major League Baseball, but Coonelly later clarified that he "did not mean to set off alarm bells" and that management's approach will not change.

"We will explore the free-agent market for opportunities to improve the club," Coonelly said afterward. "I did not intend to signal a fundamental shift in the manner in which we are building the club."

The Pirates' major-league free-agent signings this past winter, along with their 2010 salaries, were relievers Octavio Dotel ($3.25 million), Brendan Donnelly ($1.35 million) and Javier Lopez ($775,000); outfielder Ryan Church ($1.5 million) and shortstop Bobby Crosby ($1 million). All were to one-year contracts except Dotel, who has a 2011 club option worth $4.5 million.

Dotel not on block

In the chat, Coonelly also stated flatly that Dotel "is not on the trading block," but he did leave open the possibility that the Pirates could move one of their late-inning relievers.

"Having options in that area certainly puts us in a position to entertain offers if another club is willing to overpay for one of our players," Coonelly said.

Gallagher acquired

The Pirates took on another pitching project, acquiring reliever Sean Gallagher from San Diego for cash, and they will use him immediately in middle relief.

He is scheduled to fly from San Diego to Houston this morning and is expected to join the team for the afternoon game.

Gallagher, 24, had a 5.40 ERA in 15 relief appearances for the Padres before being designated for assignment July 1. In 23 1/3 innings, he struck out 21, walked 19, and opponents batted .276 with five home runs.

His career ERA over 60 appearances, including 23 starts, is 5.57, though he is not far removed from being a rising star in the Chicago Cubs' system, ranking as their No. 5 prospect in 2008 according to Baseball America.

Of his control problems, Gallagher said, "I think it's more about getting in the work and getting back to basics. I've been a little erratic this year, but I definitely think I can get that solved."

"If we are able to help him reach his potential, he could earn his way into the rotation or later in the game out of the pen," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We like the potential and felt the acquisition cost was reasonable."

Buried treasure

Bryan Morris, the Pirates' top pitching prospect, was added to the All-Star Futures Game roster as an injury replacement. Morris is 7-3 with a 2.24 ERA in 17 starts split between Class A Bradenton and Class AA Altoona in bouncing back from a poor 2009. "It's a huge honor, and I'm very grateful to be part of it," Morris said. "Maybe it is a sign of me changing some stuff and working hard."

• The demotion of Daniel McCutchen after the game Wednesday night left a hole in the rotation, but the Pirates have enough to get through the All-Star break, after which Zach Duke is expected to return.

Ronny Cedeno started at shortstop for the second time in the past six games. Manager John Russell and hitting coach Don Long have worked with trying to restore Cedeno's more aggressive swings, seen in April but replaced since by simple pokes to right. "We need Ronny going after it," Russell said. Cedeno went 1 for 4, with a double off the fence in left and a hard lineout to deep right-center.

• The 40-man roster is full again. Although infielder Aki Iwamura was optioned, he remains on the 40-man. Kevin Hart and Donnie Veal, pitchers who had recent surgeries, are on minor-league disabled lists but not on the 60-day. Either could be moved if space were needed.


Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more online at PBC Blog.


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