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Church deal done; more to come?

BRADENTON, Fla. — Minutes ago, the Pirates officially announced the signing of outfielder Ryan Church to a one-year contract.

“Ryan Church is an established, well-rounded major league player who brings an experienced left-handed bat and quality outfield defense to the organization,” GM Huntington said in a statement. “He has the skills and tools to be a valuable player off the bench and could play regularly if the situation so dictates.”

— Don’t be surprised if the Pirates swing some minor deals — a trade, a free-agent signing or two — in the next few days.

Huntington was here for the start of minicamp at Pirate City, but today is flying to Paradise Valley, Ariz., to attend a two-day owners’ meeting.

It’s the first time all 30 GMs were asked to be at the owners’ confab, and there’s always some wheeling and dealing when so many front-office folks gather. Among the items on the docket are commissioner Bud Selig’s newly formed panel to address on-field issues and the ongoing franchise sale talks between Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

Huntington is eyeing more candidates, such as veteran lefty Jamey Wright, for what is turning out to be a major rebuilding project in the bullpen.

— The Altoona Curve renamed its annual hot stove event the Spring Festival. Doug Drabek, Chase d’Arnaud, Rudy Owens and Josh Bonifay will appear as part of the event at 1 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Logan Valley Mall.

— A poem sent to me via e-mail from reader Lewis Falton (with apologies to Emma Lazarus):

“Keep prime free agents, your superstars,” cries she/With silent lips, “Give me your sore-armed, your balky backed/Your has-beens yearning for one more (league-minimum) salary/The never-weres whom cannot hit the curveball/Send these, the waived and designated for assignment to me/I leave a light on by the locker room door.”

— The Pirates never signed Tanner Scheppers, their second-round draft pick in 2008, due to concerns about his shoulder and what they considered his unrealistic contract demands. David Lauria of Baseball Prospectus asked Scheppers what he learned from his brief experience with the Pirates. Scheppers’ response was succinct: “What I learned from that experience is that this is a business and that’s how it should be treated.”

Scheppers pitched for the independent St. Paul Saints, then went back into the 2009 draft. He eventually signed with Texas, which took him as a supplemental first-round pick.

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