Pirates Notebook: Starter, power bat eyed in free agency
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SAN DIEGO -- The Pirates do not plan to be big players in free agency, but they do plan to participate, general manager Neal Huntington said.
The offseason targets, in likeliest order of priority, will be a power bat, a starting pitcher good enough to be a no-doubt member of the rotation and a setup reliever who probably will be right-handed.
Huntington did not hesitate when asked which topped his list.
"I think it's the bat," he said. "If we could add a bat, that would help a lot. Right now, we don't know where our power is going to come from."
As for the starter, he said, "We'd like to try to add a veteran pitcher at the right cost to help these other guys mature. We understand that there are all different kinds of ways to give instruction, but sometimes the player-on-player way is best."
It would appear the Pirates already have a pitcher in that mold in Paul Maholm, who has taken leadership of the staff on and off the field.
It is unclear for the moment how much money Huntington will have available. Team president Frank Coonelly disclosed two weeks ago that the budget for major league payroll will go up from the current $54 million, but he stressed that does not mean the number will be filled "just to be filled." That makes the most likely free-agent targets those in the middle or lower price ranges.
It would appear that keeping the current group together will cost just less than $40 million, but a trade of shortstop Jack Wilson, who is due to make $7.25 million next year, would lower that.
The Pirates are known to be keeping Ronny Paulino as part of their future plans, most immediately to have him battle for backup catching duty next spring.
Paulino sounds as if he would welcome any chance anywhere.
"I know I can play at this level," he said. "I know what I can do."
The Pirates apparently felt that way, too, entering the season by describing Ryan Doumit and Paulino as a "tandem." But the tandem quickly became Doumit and, on June 7, in a jarring move, Paulino was demoted to Class AAA Indianapolis with instructions to work harder.
What was his mindset at the time?
"I was just preparing myself to show the other teams that I can play," Paulino said. "If there was a question about me, I knew this was my chance to show I'm a good player, that I don't belong in Triple-A."
He went 5 for 5 with two home runs in his first game, but a sprained ligament in the upper part of his right ankle 12 days later would cost him six weeks.
• Manager John Russell explained that the team has not moved Luis Cruz around the field, as originally planned, because of the injury to shortstop Jack Wilson. Brian Bixler also is available but has struggled immensely.
• On the subject of struggling immensely, Russell said third baseman Andy LaRoche has been given an intensive offseason workout regimen that includes two visits to Seattle to work with hitting coach Don Long, who lives just outside that city.
• Ross Ohlendorf, the starter in the finale today, took a photograph with San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Young and center fielder Will Venable, all graduates of Princeton University.
First Published September 28, 2008 12:02 am