Thomas returns, Moss likely gone


The Pirates re-signed lefty Justin Thomas to a minor league contract for 2011. This past season, Thomas went 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in 12 relief outings.

Last week, Thomas was among five players outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis. First baseman Jeff Clement did not have enough service time to refuse the assignment, so he went to Indy. Outfielder Brandon Moss and pitchers Steven Jackson and Sean Gallagher are able to become free agents.

It’s unlikely Moss, who was one of the key pieces in the Jason Bay trade in 2008, will return to the Pirates. He lost the right field job in spring training this year and spent most of the season at Indy. Gallagher, who’s playing winter ball in Venezuela, wants to be a starter and will go elsewhere if the Pirates offer only a bullpen role.

»»» Clint Hurdle, one of two finalists for the Pirates’ manager job, will interview Tuesday with the Mets. Hurdle managed five seasons in the Mets’ farm system before jumping to the Rockies organization in 1994.

»»» Former Pirates outfielder Al Oliver and former GM Ted Simmons are among 12 candidates on the ballot for the Hall of Fame expansion era committee.

In order to be inducted into the Hall, Oliver will need support from at least 12 of the 16 voters. Voting will be conducted during MLB’s annual Winter Meetings on Dec. 6-9 in Orlando, Fla.

Oliver had a .303 batting average, 2,743 hits and 1,326 RBI in 18 seasons with the Pirates and six other major league clubs.

Simmons was hired as GM in 1992. He resigned after having a heart attack in June 1993. Saturday, he was hired as a senior advisor to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

Also on the ballot are former players Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John and Rusty Staub; former manager Billy Martin; and executives Pat Gillick, Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner.

Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith are among the 16 voters on the committee.