One down …


LAS VEGAS — Odds and ends, as the first day of the Winter Meetings draws to an agonizingly slow close …

· GM Neal Huntington said outfielder Brandon Moss (knee) recently had a check-up in Pittsburgh and the doctors liked what they saw. Moss should be ready for the start of spring training, although he will be “protected” (as Huntington put it) for the early part of camp.

Huntington said former first-rounder Andrew McCutchen is “likely” to be on the big-league team sometime next season. My best guess, right now: McCutchen will open the season on the Pirates’ roster.

· Lefty Phil Dumatrait (shoulder) is “a little bit behind” in his post-surgery rehab, Huntington said, but is expected to be ready to compete for a rotation spot during spring training. However, Huntington added that if Dumatrait has “another two- or three-week setback,” Dumatrait will either go to the bullpen or open the season on the DL.

· If free agent Mark Loretta winds up taking Arizona’s contract offer, the Pirates could turn their attention to infielder Craig Counsell.

· The high-powered front office types here are shacked up in roomy suites on the uppermost floors of the Bellagio. The doorways are wider. The accommodations are more plush. And the hallways are longer.

Huntington’s room is all … the … way … at … the … end of the 34th floor, the last suite on the left. “Did you enjoy the hike?” Huntington joked, as a group of reporters was ushered in for his first nightly recap of the team’s (in)activity at the meetings.

· Manager John Russell, an avid Oklahoma fan, was quick to needle reporter and Mizzou grad Jenifer Langosh about the outcome of last Saturday’s Big 12 championship game. Russell has tickets to the BCS Championship and hopes to make the trip to Miami for the Sooners’ clash against Florida.

· When you hear the Pirates are mulling an offer to Derrick Turnbow, here’s something to think about: In 18 innings last season in Triple-A, Turnbow allowed 17 hits, 21 runs, hit one batter and issued 41 walks.

Forty-one walks. Eighteen innings.


· When MLB Network launches Jan. 1, 2009, its lineup of reporters and analysts will include Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter, Matt Vasgersian and Trennie Kusnierek. From 2003-07, Kusnierek was a reporter/anchor for Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh.

“We were all on the train back to Manhattan last week and one of our producers said, ‘I feel like I’m part of an all-star team of television talent,’ ” Kusnierek said. “That’s the way I feel. Everybody is the best, everyone is excited and hard-working.”

The network’s two studios were named in honor of Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. Studio 3 (Ruth’s uniform number) will be the venue for MLB Tonight, a nightly, 8-hour show of highlights and analysis. Studio 42 (Robinson’s number) is a mini replica field, which will be used as a demonstration center for the on-air analysts.


Deal close on Tawainese pitcher


Contrary to some reports that a deal is done, the Pirates have not yet signed minor-league free agent Chi-Hung Cheng. However, a Pirates official confirmed that negotiations are under way with the left-hander. It shouldn’t take long to wrap up the details.

Cheng, 22, spent the past five seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays’ system. He went 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 25 games (14 starts) last season for Class A Lansing.


Tigers get a shortstop


LAS VEGAS — According to, the Detroit Tigers have signed free agent shortstop Adam Everett. That’s no surprise, as earlier today they’d stopped talking trade with the Pirates about Jack Wilson

Wilson said it would have been nice to play for manager Jim Leyland, whose staff includes several former Pirates coaches. “He’s a Hall of Fame manager, for sure,” Wilson said. “That whole staff knows me. That would have many the transition a lot easier.”


New suitor for Wilson


LAS VEGAS — The Detroit Tigers are more likely to sign free agent Adam Everett instead of trading for Jack Wilson. That seems to have made Everett’s former employer, the Minnesota Twins, the frontrunner for Wilson.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have not upped their offer for Wilson, while the Tigers’ interest has turned frigid. With the market for shortstops drying up, the Twins do not want to be caught, um, short.

Unless they make a move, the Twins probably would make utilityman Brendan Harris (.265, seven homers in 2008) its Opening Day shortstop. Their only other internal options would be prospects Trevor Ploffe and Steve Tolleson.

In mid-June, the Pirates play an interleague series against the Twins in Minnesota.


Bucs pass on Clement


Scratch free-agent Matt Clement off the list.

Clement’s agent, Barry Axelrod, told me he has not spoken with the Pirates “in a long time” and has moved on to other suitors. “We’ve made significant progress with other clubs,” Axelrod said.

The Pirates sniffed around Clement last year, too, but were unwilling to offer a major league contract. The right-hander wound up signing with St. Louis, but was neither healthy nor effective enough to pitch in the majors. He had shoulder surgery in 2006.


Jack Wilson in the house


LAS VEGAS — I just ran into Jack Wilson and Salomon Torres in the Bellagio lobby. Usually, players stay away from the Winter Meetings, but the lure of Las Vegas has brought several — big-money free agents and lesser-known guys — to this gathering.

Wilson is in town with two buddies, one of them his personal trainer, and plans to stick around until tomorrow night. “We planned this months ago,” Wilson said. “All this trade stuff has nothing to do with it. It’s Vegas!”

Oh, yeah, the trade stuff.

The Pirates are shopping Wilson, but talks with the two main bidders for the shortstop — the Dodgers and Tigers — seem to be losing steam. Someone in the Detroit organization last night indicated Wilson might be more of a Plan B than anything at this point. Of course, things have a funny way of changing in an instant when it comes to trade talks.

Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez have been a solid double-play combination for years in Pittsburgh. Wilson said it would be odd playing alongside a different guy. “It would be a hit to me,” Wilson said.

Wilson paused and laughed. “Hey, send us somewhere together,” he said. “I’m not opposed to a package deal.”

Actually, the Pirates are shopping Sanchez as well. However, the odds of a two-fer deal are zilch.


Oliver snubbed by HOF voters


LAS VEGAS — The results of the Veterans Committee ballot were just announced, and none of the 10 post-1942 candidates were elected to the Hall of Fame.

Former Pirates outfielder Al Oliver received nine votes (14.1 percent). The top vote-getter was Ron Santo (39 votes, 60.9 percent). A candidate needed support from 75 percent of the electorate to gain entry.

This is the fourth ballot by the Veterans Committee, which has never elected anyone. It’s been suggested that, with the Veterans Committee turning down the same candidates every time, it’s time to discontinue the process.

“I feel there are some guys out there who belong in the Hall of Fame,” Veterans Committee voter Joe Morgan said. “All the guys feel that way. The problem is, we can’t find 75 percent who feel one (particular) guy belongs in the Hall of Fame.”


Clement a possibility, Igawa is not


LAS VEGAS — The last time I was here was in November 1994 to cover the Michael Moorer-George Foreman heavyweight title fight. It’s a much different town than it was then — the Bellagio, which is hosting MLB’s Winter Meetings today through Thursday, didn’t even exist the night grandpa George KO’ed Moorer.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington came here with a modest agenda: listen to trade offers (specifically, for Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Ronny Paulino and John Grabow) and cast about for a veteran starting pitcher and righty bat. If they do make a trade, the return almost assuredly would be prospects, so the best way to get that pitcher will be via free agency.

Lefty Kei Igawa will be available in the Rule 5 draft (which will be held Thursday morning), but the Pirates have no interest. Igawa, 28, has been a bust with the Yankees and is owed $12 million over the next three years. The Yankees tried to trade Igawa before dropping him from their 40-man roster, but found no takers.

Another option might be free agent Matt Clement, who has let the Pirates know he’s available.

Clement, 33, a Butler native, has not pitched in the majors since 2006. He sat out the 2007 season while recovering from shoulder surgery. The right-hander signed with St. Louis last year, but was never fully healthy.


Five minor league free agents signed


The Pirates today signed left-hander Daniel Haigwood to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Haigwood went 2-3 with one save and a 3.36 ERA in 38 games (three starts) last season for Portland, the Boston Red Sox’s Double-A affiliate.

Haigwood is the fifth minor league free agent the Pirates have signed in the past three weeks. Shortstops Ashley Ponce and Jorge Bishop and lefty Julio Denis were signed as non-drafted free agents to the Venezuelan Summer League Pirates.

Outfielder Maiko Loyola was signed Nov. 21 and assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Loyola originally was signed by the Pirates in 2002 as an undrafted free agent. He was claimed by Tampa Bay in the 2005 Rule 5 draft.