Minicamp: Pirates moving toward three relievers
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' contract with free-agent outfielder Ryan Church -- one year, $1.5 million -- is expected to be completed this morning after a successful physical yesterday, but that should represent just the beginning of a busy few days.
Try three more relievers.
Management has moved deeper into already productive talks with two free-agent right-handers, Octavio Dotel and D.J. Carrasco, the latter aimed at a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, and multiple sources said yesterday those could result in agreements soon.
Management is in equally deep talks with another free-agent right-hander, one of those sources said, but they would divulge only that the type of contract being discussed is major league. Possibilities include Jamey Wright, Kiko Calero, Brendan Donnelly, Seth McClung, Russ Springer and Chan Ho Park. The Pirates are known to have expressed interest in Wright.
One reliever to rule out: Kevin Gregg.
What might be delaying a conclusion with all three relievers is that the Pirates, with the addition of Church, have a full 40-man roster and will need to clear spots for the two relievers with major league contracts. That could mean the release of a bubble player or two, such as infielders Steve Pearce and Brian Bixler, or the trade of Delwyn Young, who might be out of the picture at any position.
Ramon Vazquez and Bobby Crosby will be the backup infielders, while Church and one of Brandon Moss or Rule 5 pick John Raynor appear likely to stick in the outfield, according to indications from management. That would leave no room on the bench for Young.
Church's agreement calls for a guaranteed salary of $1.5 million, plus as much as $1.32 million in performance bonuses: $75,000 each for 350, 375 and 400 plate appearances; $125,000 each for 425, 450 and 475 plate appearances; and $180,000 each for 500, 550, 575 and 600 plate appearances.
The maximum $2.82 million -- highly unlikely to be paid, given that the Pirates are casting Church in a reserve role -- would be slightly more than the $2.8 million he made with the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves last season.
Church's physical, performed in Pittsburgh yesterday, cleared him not only of the back trouble that bothered him last summer but also of concerns about his concussion history.
24 taking mounds
Minicamp begins this morning with a 9:15 meeting, a stretch at 10, and the first set of a dozen pitchers throwing off the mound.
Taking the mounds Wednesday and Friday: Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, Kevin Hart, Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, Donnie Veal, Brad Lincoln, Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan and Brian Burres.
And the other dozen, taking the mounds Thursday and Saturday: Vinnie Chulk, Chris Jakubauskas, Javier Lopez, Steven Jackson, Anthony Claggett, Jack Taschner, Virgil Vasquez, Ramon Aguero, Bryan Morris, Jeremy Powell, Ronald Uviedo and Justin Thomas.
All will be working in sessions of 35-40 pitches, mostly fastballs.
On the mend
The four pitchers who will not participate while recovering from injury: Craig Hansen, Tyler Yates, Neal Cotts and Jose Ascanio. None is expected to be ready to open the season.
Hansen, unable to pitch since April because a nerve in his upper back lost the ability to send signals to the trapezius muscle, had a 45-foot tossing session Monday, which, as he acknowledged, "was kind of like walking over to the guy and handing him the ball." Still, it represented a significant step in his recovery.
There remains no timetable for returning to a mound, but Hansen said doctors have noticed good nerve regeneration and are guardedly optimistic.
Cotts, a left-handed reliever who made the Chicago Cubs' bullpen last spring but was lost to Tommy John surgery in June, said he is expected to resume throwing in three weeks.
Bass, two others added
The Pirates signed three more players -- right-handed reliever Brian Bass, catcher Luke Carlin and outfielder Brian Myrow -- to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.
Carlin, 29, and Myrow, 33, are aimed at the Class AAA Indianapolis roster -- Myrow batted .330 for the Indians early last season -- but Bass, who turned 28 last week, will get a look for a long role in the major league bullpen: He made 48 appearances last season for Baltimore, posting a 4.90 ERA and finishing second among American League relievers with 86 1/3 innings.
The Pirates' total of non-roster invitees is at 19.
Better than a rock
Ohlendorf, one of several to show up early on minicamp reporting day yesterday, was getting asked quite a bit about his winter internship at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, of which he said, "It was a great experience. I learned so much." Part of his experience was meeting First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as assisting Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Morton, standing nearby, chimed in: "I got a dog."
First Published January 13, 2010 12:00 am