No MLB decision yet on Sano

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Contrary to a report by Sports Illustrated, Major League Baseball has not yet ruled on its investigation into the age of Dominican prospect Miguel Sano.

The Pirates and other teams were informed Friday by MLB that the query will not be completed until at least the middle of next week. The Pirates are the only club known to have made a contract offer to Sano, who some scouts consider to be the top propect in Latin America.

Players must be at least 16 years old to ink contracts with MLB teams during the international signing period.

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d’Arnaud d’amaged

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Class A Lynchburg shortstop Chase d’Arnaud will have his hand in a cast for four weeks and miss the rest of the season due to sprained left thumb ligaments. He was injured Wednesday while trying to make a diving stop.

A fourth-round pick in 2008, d’Arnaud hit .279 with two homers and 15 RBI in 19 games for Lynchburg. He began the year at low-A West Virginia and batted .291 with three homers and 31 RBI.

• In 2006, when Freddy Sanchez was battling for the NL batting title, PNC Park reverberated with chants of, “Go, Freddy! Go!” If you listen closely, you might be able to hear it again, only this time it seems to be coming from the front office, not the stands.

The Pirates’ initial offer in their contract extension talks with Sanchez was low — so low that there is no chance the second baseman will accept. Maybe it was just an icebreaker, a figure tossed out there just to get talks rolling. But that’s not likely, as management wants the negotiations wrapped up in a hurry so it can get back to mulling trade offers. That means, unless something changes dramatically in the next day or so, you can figure Sanchez is out the door.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

GIANTS — 1. Randy Winn cf, 2. John Bowker lf, 3. Pablo Sandoval 3b, 4. Nate Schierholtz rf, 5. Travis Ishikawa 1b, 6. Juan Uribe 2b, 7. Edgar Renteria ss, 8. Eli Whiteside c, 9. Barry Zito (5-9, 5.01) lhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Garrett Jones lf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Adam LaRoche 1b, 6. Delwyn Young rf, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.29) rhp

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Bucs

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The Pirates will talk with Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson about possible contract extensions — but not for long. “This is something that needs to be resolved quickly, one way or the other,” general manager Neal Huntington said this afternoon. “If there isn’t common ground, I think we’ll know pretty quickly. We can’t let it linger and inhibit the trade process.”

Huntington said the front office decided to begin talks — four months after Wilson offered to renegotiate his deal at a lower rate — to “make an effort” toward keeping either or both players. “If we do trade one or both, we want to make sure there wasn’t, ‘We never gave it an effort,’ ” Huntington said. “We wanted to give it a shot, we wanted to see if there’s common ground.”

And what about folks who may say this is just a public relations move to placate the fans and that the team isn’t serious about re-signing Sanchez and/or Wilson?

“You can be skeptical about everything in this world,” Huntington said. “The reality is, we’ve made an effort to try to keep both and we’ll have to see how it plays out.”

— Lineups for tonight’s game:

GIANTS — 1. Aaron Rowand cf, 2. Randy Winn rf, 3. Pablo Sandoval 3b, 4. Bengie Molina c, 5. Edgar Renteria ss, 6. Juan Uribe 2b, 7. Rich Aurilia 1b, 8. Andres Torres lf, 9. Tim Lincecum (10-2, 2.33) rhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Adam LaRoche 1b, 6. Brandon Moss lf, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Paul Maholm (6-4, 4.60) lhp

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Input from out-of-towners

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A lot of the e-mail I received regarding my story from the other day about the Pirates’ attendance this season came from people living out of state. Not sure what to make of that.

By the way, Lou DePaoli, the Pirates’ marketing guru, said attendance from outside Allegheny County was solid this season, and perhaps even a smidge better than last year. Lower gas prices might have something to do with that. In a way, the bad economy could help the Pirates pull in out-of-towners, as folks are more apt to do “driving vacations” to low-budget, family-friendly destinations.

As we were chatting, Lou pulled up a listing of places were people had bought Pirates tickets — a couple in South Dakota, a half-dozen in Virgina and one from someone in Ireland. One? That’s a long way to travel for one person to see a game.

Anyway, here are a few of the responses I got to my story — there’s a lot of anger out there, folks:

• As a transplanted ‘Burgher, I still love my Pirates. My last memory of the Pirates was sitting in the left field bleachers at Forbes Field, the last game of the 1960 World Series! You can tell Mr. DePaoli that if he had a winning team this year, he wouldn’t have his attendance problems, no matter what the economy was doing! Pirates fans are hungry for a winning team. Has Pirates management ever made a (first-half) season deal which brought them an actual top-notch player in return? To me, it’s dumping payroll to keep their profit and not trying to win! The Pirates need new ownership committed to wining, not talk! Thanks for letting me vent. — Ed Frederick, Wapiti, Wyoming

• You totally missed the mark on this one. (The Pirates) are currently 28th out of 30 teams in attendance. They will likely drop to 30th by season’s end, as they continue to sell off players. They never draw well in September, as football season begins. The article also states that fans are buying the lower-priced tickets (instead of) the more expensive ones. This indicates that the Pirates ticket sales generate the least revenue out of the 30 teams. The only reason the Pirates are so profitable is because of the Yankees’ luxury tax paid annually to the Pirates, combined with their low payroll. A more appropriate headline for your (story) is, “Pirates ticket sales among worst despite lowest prices” or “Low ticket prices fail to woo Pirates fans.” — John Consiglio, Forest Hills

• The people going to these games are not baseball fans! The Pirates don’t even market to baseball fans. What’s their slogan, “Come hungry?” PNC has become another amusement park — fireworks, bobbleheads, food bargains are why people go. As long as that continues, ownership will never feel the pressure to spend money and put a winner on the field. It is a shame. They could have what the Steelers and Pens have, but ownership is in this purely for the money and won’t even discuss selling. Why would they? — David Foster, South Hills

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Justice served: Duke an All-Star

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PHILADELPHIA — Justice was served for Zach Duke, who this morning was named to the NL squad to the All-Star Game.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who will skipper the NL team, chose Duke to replace Giants pitcher Matt Cain, who last night was struck near his right elbow by a line drive.

Duke is the first Pirates starter to be an All-Star since Denny Neagle in 1995.

“When I got the ballpark this morning, JR (manager John Russell) called me into his office,” Duke said. “I was thinking, ‘What did I do to get into trouble already?’ This is definitely a very welcome surprise.”

Duke is 8-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 18 starts. He’s thrown three complete games, but two of them have been losses. “If we’d scored a few more runs for him, he would’ve been a shoo-in (as an All-Star),” Russell said. “Things have a way of working out.”

Duke already has matched his win total from the past two seasons combined. He’s on track for his best season since his stellar rookie year, when the left-hander went 8-2 with a 1.18 ERA.

“Knowing all the work I’ve put into it, to have something like this to kind of verify the work is great,” Duke said.

The Phillies, who have five players on the roster along with Manuel, have offered Duke a seat on their plane to St. Louis for the All-Star Game.

• Lost amid the rubble of the ninth-inning collapse last night was a fantastic defensive play by shortstop Jack Wilson in the seventh inning. With speedy Jimmy Rollins on first base, Shane Victorino hit a blooper into the no-man’s land in shallow left field. Wilson made an over-the-shoulder catch while sliding on his knees, then fired to first base to double off Rollins. “When I threw it, I thought the ball was going to hit (Rollins) and I was like, ‘Aw, crap,’ ” Wilson said. “But it bounced right over his shoulder and worked out.”

As Wilson was running full speed into left, he kept one eye on the ball and another on hard-charging left fielder Garrett Jones (6-feet-4, 245 pounds). “Not crashing into Jones was a priority,” Wilson said.

And if Wilson had collided with Jones? “We wouldn’t be talking right now,” Wilson said with a laugh. “I’d be in a hospital bed.”

• But, Wilson also had something to regret — fouling out with one out and a runner on third base in the eighth. Wilson’s foul pop came after he failed to get down a suicide squeeze bunt on a pitch that came up toward his head.

“I didn’t come through and that ended up being a huge run,” Wilson said. “Bad at-bat, all the way around. No matter what the score is, you’ve got to capitalize on your opportunities.”

• Even though closer Matt Capps clearly was struggling — he gave up five runs in one-third of an inning and took the loss — no one else warmed up in the bullpen during the ninth inning.

• In the first inning last night, Garrett Jones launched a homer 393 feet to right field. The ball landed in the lower deck, but beyond the last row of seats.

Jones has homered in back-to-back games, and has hit safely in seven games in a row. Seven of his 12 hits since being called up from Triple-A have gone for extra bases.

After Ryan Doumit doubled, Delwyn Young yanked a fastball over the left field wall. It was the first time the Pirates had hit a pair of first-inning homers since Sept. 17, 2005, when Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez went deep against Cincinnati.

• Doumit’s double was his first hit since April 18, before he went on the disabled list with a fractured scaphoid bone in his wrist.

• There was a bomb scare last night at Citizens Bank Park when an unattended package was found near the left field gate. The ballpark was not evacuated and the item was not dangerous. Vice president Joe Biden attended last night’s game.

• Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Garrett Jones lf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Delwyn Young rf, 6. Adam LaRoche 1b, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Virgil Vasquez (1-2, 4.50) rhp

PHILLIES — 1. Jimmy Rollins ss, 2. Shane Victorino cf, 3. Chase Utley 2b, 4. Ryan Howard 1b, 5. Raul Ibanez lf, 6. Jayson Werth rf, 6. Pedro Feliz 3b, 8. Carlos Ruiz c, 9. J.A. Happ (5-0, 3.04) lhp

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Two more international signings

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PHILADELPHIA — The Pirates continue to rack up international signings. Today, they came to terms with Australian catcher Dylan Child and Lithuanian right-hander Dovydas Neverauskus.

Child, 18, recently was converted from shortstop to catcher. He will train at the MLB academy in Australia. Neverauskus, 16, who agreed to a 2010 contract, will begin playing this fall in the Florida Instructional League and will attend minor-league spring training next year.

• The starting rotation will not change after the All-Star break: left-hander Paul Maholm, right-hander Charlie Morton, lefty Zach Duke, righties Ross Ohlendorf and Virgil Vasquez will fill it out.

Lineups for tonigh’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Garrett Jones lf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Delwyn Young rf, 6. Adam LaRoche 1b, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (7-7, 4.63) rhp

PHILLIES — 1. Jimmy Rollins ss, 2. Shane Victorino cf, 3. Chase Utley 2b, 4. Ryan Howard 1b, 5. Raul Ibanez lf, 6. Jayson Werth rf, 6. Greg Dobbs 3b, 8. Paul Bako c, 9. Cole Hamels (5-5, 4.70) lhp

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Sanchez back in the lineup

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PHILADELPHIA — After a six-game absence due to a sore lower back, second baseman Freddy Sanchez tonight is back in the lineup. “It’s gonna take a little bit to get my legs back underneath me,” Sanchez said. “But, overall, I feel good and I’m anxious to get back out there.”

• Outfielder Lastings Milledge (broken finger) was activated off the minor league disabled list and sent to Triple-A Indianapolis. Milledge was acquired from Washington in the Nyjer Morgan trade.

• Philly outfielder Jason Werth was named to the NL All-Star squad in place of injured Carlos Beltran. The decision was made by NL (and Phillies) manager Charlie Manuel.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Garrett Jones lf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, .5 Adam LaRoche 1b, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Brandon Moss rf, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Zach Duke (8-7, 3.28) lhp

PHILLIES — 1. Jimmy Rollins ss, 2. Shane Victorino cf, 3. Chase Utley 2b, 4. Ryan Howard 1b, 5. Jason Werth rf, 6. Pedro Feliz 3b, 7. John Mayberry Jr. lf, 8. Paul Bako c, 9. Joe Blanton (5-4, 4.69) rhp

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Doumit activated off DL

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PHILADELPHIA — Catcher Ryan Doumit has completed a faster-than-expected recovery from a broken scaphoid bone in his right wrist and today was activated off the disabled list.

Doumit will be in uniform tonight. Lineups for the game against the Phillies have not yet been posted.

Doumit was injured April 19 in a game against the Atlanta Braves. He missed 73 games — but originally was not expected to rejoin the team until after the All-Star break.

Catcher Robinzon Diaz was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Also, as expected, infielder Luis Cruiz was called up from Indy as insurance against second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s balky lower back.

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Another step toward Hanson’s dream

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PHILADELPHIA — On a hot, rainy afternoon in late April, I tagged along with Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo to a tryout in the Dominican Republic.

Although more than four dozen hopefuls came to the field, Gayo focused on only a handful of prospects. Of those, only one — a 16-year-old infielder named Alen Hanson of La Romana, D.R. — really caught his eye.

At the end of the tryout, Gayo arranged a handshake deal with Hanson’s buscon (sort of a trainer/agent) for $80,000. Since MLB’s international signing period did not begin until July 2 and no formal deal was in place with Hanson and the Pirates, Gayo asked that Hanson’s name not be used in my story.

Today, the Pirates made the deal official, signing Hanson and five other Latin American players: outfielder Pedro Lara, 16, and third baseman Roberson Valdez, 16, of the Dominican; left-hander Orlando Castro, 17, of Honduras; shortstop Carlos Esqueda, 17, of Mexico; and righty Richard Montilla, 17, of Panama. That brings the Pirates’ total to nine international amateur free agents signed this month.

Before he signed, Hanson was housed and trained at the Pirates’ new Dominican baseball academy in El Toro, D.R. Under MLB rules, he was allowed to spend one month at the academy, then 15 days back home, then another month at the academy.

“I’ve been playing baseball since I was 7, because I always loved it,” Hanson told me the day of his tryout. “My dream is to play baseball (in America).”

Gayo said he expects Hanson to develop “a number of above-average major league tools.” Hanson is a switch-hitter who sprays the ball to all fields and has exceptional speed — his time in the 60-yard dash improved the second time he ran it at the tryout.

“He’s a graceful runner,” Gayo said. “This is one of the few times I’ve seen guys get faster. I’ve seen it happen with Willy Tavares (of the Reds) and a few other guys I’ve signed. He’s a switch hitter. He’s got rhythm, he’s got balance, he’s got body control. He uses his hands well from both sides of the plate. That’s pretty good.”

According to Gayo, Lara’s athletic build is “similar to a young Moises Alou.” Lara is an above-average hitter with power potential. Gayo also gushed about Esqueda: “He is quick, smooth and has good instincts on the field. He is aggressive on the basepaths and with physical maturity, should develop above-average speed.”

• According to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times, Marc DelPiano, a special assistant to general manager Neal Huntington, scouted Thursday’s Rangers-Mariners game. Baker speculated DelPiano is evaluating the Mariners’ relievers with an eye toward a trade.

Earlier this season, Baker reported the Pirates were mulling a deal which would’ve sent shortstop Jack Wilson to the Mariners in exchange for Yuniesky Betancourt.

The M’s likely are still interested in Wilson, but also would covet second baseman Freddy Sanchez.

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Pearce, Jackson sent to Triple-A

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HOUSTON – Following their 5-0 loss to the Astros on Wednesday afternoon, the Pirates optioned first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce and right-handed reliever Steven Jackson to Triple-A Indianapolis.

They recalled left-handed reliever Donnie Veal, who had spent the past month in Indy on a rehab assignment. Another move — most likely an infielder — will be made Friday to fill out the 25-man roster when the Pirates travel to Philadelphia to begin their final series before the All-Star break.

Pearce was hitting .083 in 12 at-bats and will return to the minors to get more consistent at-bats. Jackson was 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA and pitched two scoreless innings this afternoon.

“I want to be here,” Jackson said. “But if I’m the odd-man out, that’s baseball. All I can do is keep pitching and let them make the decisions. I have no control over that. If it was me, I would probably still be here. But they make the decisions.”

— by John Grupp

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