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Pearce gets fourth option

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MLB granted first baseman Steve Pearce a fourth minor league option, which means he will go into the 2011 season with one remaining.

This year, ankle and knee injuries limited Pearce to just 52 games — 35 with Triple-A Indianapolis, 15 with the Pirates and two in a rehab stint with Class A Bradenton. He had season-ending surgery in August and last week was activated from the 60-day disabled list.

Pearce should be ready to go for the start of spring training, when he will battle for at least a backup/utility role. His chances of making the club would improve if either Delwyn Young is non-tendered or Garrett Jones is traded.

»»» GM Neal Huntington tells me that pitcher Kevin Hart (shoulder) and first baseman Jeff Clement (knee) “are on schedule” with their recoveries. Both should return to action sometime early on in spring training.

»»» Outfielder John Bowker, who was hampered by knee pain toward the end of the season, did not need surgery. Bowker’s knee improved with rest and rehab, and he’ll be ready for spring training.

»»» A few days ago, I errantly reported here that pitcher Sean Gallagher could become a minor league free agent this winter. In fact, Gallagher is still under the Pirates’ control, is on Indy’s roster, and will be a bullpen option in 2011.

»»» There’s been some buzz lately about the Pirates making a run at free agent Adrian Beltre. He would be a good fit in their infield and provide some sorely needed thump in the lineup. But remember that Beltre turned down a $10 million option to become a free agent, so his agent, Scott Boras, is eyeing a much bigger payday. Even if the Pirates expand their payroll into the $50 million range, would they commit 20 percent of it to one player?

I’m sure the Pirates have done their due diligence and given Boras a ring about Beltre, as they’ve already done (and will continue to do) for several other players. But it might be a stretch to expect them to become serious players when the bidding gets hot and heavy in another few weeks.

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