Pirates Notebook: Duel in place for Mexican
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Today marks the opening of Major League Baseball's signing season for international 16-year-olds, but the Pirates' prized pursuit cannot be signed for another six weeks.
And it is no sure thing that they will be the ones signing him.
The Pirates and Toronto are the two primary teams after elite Mexican pitching prospect Luis Heredia, and the bidding could become highly competitive based on early indications: One international source outside the Pirates but intimately familiar with Latin American negotiations said Wednesday that the Pirates already have bid $2.5 million, the Blue Jays $2.8 million.
The Pirates do not comment on any ongoing negotiations.
For perspective, Miguel Sano, the elite Dominican shortstop the Pirates pursued last summer and the widely accepted top Latin American prospect, signed with the Minnesota Twins for $3.15 million.
The negotiation with Heredia will be different than Sano and most, as Heredia's rights already are owned by the Veracruz team in Mexico. Veracruz will keep three-quarters of whatever bonus Heredia receives, and Veracruz will have most of the say -- if not the final word -- in where he goes. No team is as close to the player as the Pirates, who have had scouts close to him and his family for nearly two years. But the Veracruz team, which recently went through a management change, would be more interested in the cash, the international source said.
The Blue Jays suddenly have become big spenders in Latin America. Many other teams have scouted Heredia, too, including the biggest spenders of all, the New York Yankees, and interest in Heredia could spread if teams do not get what they want on other international fronts.
Heredia, 15, is a 6-foot-4 right-hander with the potential, according to scouts, for four above-average major-league pitches. Unlike other players, he cannot be signed until turning 16 on Aug. 16.
As for players becoming eligible today, the only top prospect known to be on the Pirates' radar is Dominican third baseman Elvis Sanchez, who likely would cost less than $1 million. Other teams are interested, too, but none puts Sanchez in a category with the very best of what is universally considered a subpar international class.
Neil Walker, still out because of a concussion, could return to full duty Saturday, manager John Russell said. He took grounders at second base Thursday and is expected to take batting practice today.
"He's getting better," Russell said. "As long as he doesn't have more symptoms, he should be good to go."
"I really don't want to go on the DL," Walker said.
The other concussed second baseman, Bobby Crosby, returned to play shortstop, with Andy LaRoche staying at second.
After Evan Meek's two scoreless innings Thursday night, Russell openly pushed for his selection to the All-Star Game.
Asked if Meek should make it, Russell replied, "Absolutely. This guy has gotten accolades from around the league. The players know him, managers know him ... he's not fun to hit off. What he's done the first half of the year ... absolutely. I think he should be a shoo-in. What he's done to opposing teams, it's phenomenal."
Meek's 0.98 ERA is lowest in Major League Baseball, but most national observers see center fielder Andrew McCutchen as the Pirates' All-Star. And the likelihood of two selections from a last-place team is low.
• Pitcher Dana Eveland, designated for assignment last week, cleared outright waivers and was assigned to Class AAA Indianapolis.
• It is "doubtful" that Zach Duke will return to the Pirates' rotation until after the All-Star break, Russell said. He will have a side session today to test his strained elbow muscle. If that goes well, he will make the first of two rehabilitation starts Monday for Class AAA Indianapolis. The first will be limited to 65 pitches.
• Outfielder Ryan Church, slowed by a strained inner thigh, was available for full duty, meaning Walker was the only bench player who could not be used.
• Philadelphia was without manager Charlie Manuel, suspended one game for bumping umpire CB Bucknor during an argument Tuesday.
• Only standing-room tickets remain for the game Saturday, but plenty are available for tonight and Sunday.
First Published July 2, 2010 12:00 am