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Tomko a possibility

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NASHVILLE — The Pirates are interested in free-agent pitcher Brett Tomko, but have not yet engaged in formal talks with his agent.

Tomko, a right-hander, went a combined 4-12 with a 5.55 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

The Padres reportedly have offered Tomko a one-year, $1.5 million contract for 2008. Tomko, 34, likely will wait until the first wave of free-agent pitchers have found destinations, then haggle with teams still seeking a back-of-the-rotation starter.

With 11 years of experience in the majors and the ability to start, spot start and relieve, Tomko would seem to be a good fit for the Pirates.

The Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Florida Marlins and Texas Rangers also may be interested in Tomko.

— THE BUS STOPS HERE: Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis caused a stir at the Gaylord Opryland this afternoon by making an appearance.

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