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Here we come a-Carroll-ing?

NASHVILLE — GM Neal Huntington has said he’s generally happy with the Pirates’ core of players heading into 2008. One area he wants to upgrade as soon as possible, though, is the bench.

Hmmm …

One one point last season, the Pirates had one of the ‘ most productive benches in the majors — a group that included Josh Phelps, Matt Kata and Cesar Izturis. Phelps had a power bat. Kata could play just about anywhere and was a decent gap hitter. Izturis was versatile with above average defensive skills.

All three players were banished by the Pirates’ new front office team. Izzy signed with St. Louis for less than $3 million. Phelps and Kata are still free agents, and figure to latch on with someone before spring training starts.

Jose Castillo was on the Pirates’ bench last year, although he never did much (and never really was given much of a chance by ex-manager Jim Tracy). Castillo will get $2 million-plus through arbitration in 2008, and is a good bet to be traded.

If the Pirates seek to add a utility infielder via a trade, one possibility may be Jamey Carroll, whom Colorado has put on the block. Last season, he batted .225 with 22 RBI in 108 games (227 at-bats). Carroll can play second base, third, shortstop, right field and center.

Carroll was Montreal’s 14th-round draft pick in 1996 and played for the Expos/Nationals from 2002-05. Huntington was Montreal’s assistant director of player development in 1996 and ’97.

Colorado is searching for a lefty reliever and would need a setup guy if Brian Fuentes is dealt. In the past, the Rockies have sniffed around Pirates relievers Damaso Marte and Salomon Torres.

The Pirates might be willing to move one of their relievers for Carroll and a prospect — if the Rockies are willing to eat some of Carroll’s salary. Carroll will make $2.3 million this summer and has a $150,000 buyout for 2009.

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