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Capps reacts: “It’s a weird feeling”

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Matt Capps said he went to sleep late last night and expected to wake up to find that he’d gotten a contract offer from the Pirates. It did not work out that way.

General manager Neal Huntington took it right up to the midnight deadline, then opted to non-tender Capps, the Pirates’ closer the past two-plus seasons. That makes the 26-year-old right-hander a free agent.

“I’m surprised,” Capps said this morning from his offseason home in Florida. “It’s a weird feeling. I’ve played my whole career with the Pirates and I appreciate the opportunities they’ve given me. But I guess it’s time to move on.”

Capps made $2.425 million this past season, when he racked up 27 saves in 32 chances but also had a ghastly 5.80 ERA. The Pirates did not want to offer him more than $2.5 million (along with some pie-in-the-sky incentives) for 2010 and, wary that he could be awarded upwards of $4 million in arbitration, opted instead to cut him loose.

As things stand this morning — lefty Phil Dumatrait also was non-tendered, creating two empty spots on the 40-man roster — Joel Hanrahan is the frontrunner to be the Pirates’ closer this summer. Evan Meek is being groomed to eventually take over the role.

The warning signs of Capps’ dismissal first appeared in late June, when the Pirates acquired Hanrahan via a trade.

“I didn’t think about it a whole lot (last season),” Capps said. “You can see what they’re trying to do. They’re building the bullpen and they don’t necessarily need me.”

Capps likely will draw plenty of interest on the free-agent market. J.J. Putz, who was ineffective last season before having elbow surgery, last week accepted a $3 million contract from the White Sox.

If he signs as a closer, Capps almost certainly will make more than what the Pirates were willing to offer.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of interest in me there is out there and what other teams think of me,” Capps said. “But I really enjoyed Pittsburgh and I have a lot of friends there. That part of (free agency) is not exciting, but it’s part of the game. I’m finding that out now.”

Capps would be open to re-signing with the Pirates, but …

“No door is ever closed,” Capps said. “If they want me — and want to do something that is fair and right — I’ll be there.”

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