Ledezma will vie for bullpen job

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The Pirates today signed left-handed pitcher Wilfredo Ledezma as a minor league free agent. He will receive an invitation to spring training.

Ledezma, 28, made five relief appearances last season for the Washington Nationals. After being sent down to Triple-A Syracuse, Ledezma worked in 18 games before being released. He signed with Toronto, and appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen for Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire.

Ledezma has a career record of 15-22 with a 5.17 ERA in 160 major league games. He’s also played for Detroit, Atlanta, San Diego and Arizona.

The Pirates also signed eight non-drafted free agents: shortstops Maximo Rivera and Ramses Pena; outfielder Luis Urena; righties Arquimedes Lorenzo, Cristopher DeLeon, Darlin Aneudy and Luis Alfonzo Valdez; and lefty Darlin Alduey. All were assigned to the Dominican Summer League.

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40-man roster completed

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Brad Lincoln had reconstructive elbow surgery less than a year after the Pirates made him the fourth overall pick of the 2006 draft. Fully recovered, the right-hander has won 13 games over the past two seasons in the minors.

Friday, Lincoln took another step up the ladder toward the majors when the Pirates placed him on their 40-man roster.

Outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, righties Bryan Morris and Ramon Aguero also were placed on the 40-man roster. The move protects them from being selected in the Rule 5 draft, which will be held Dec. 10 at the winter meetings in Indianapolis.

To clear space, catcher Robinzon Diaz and pitcher Justin Thomas were designated for assignment.

The Pirates claimed right-hander Chris Jakubauskas off waivers from Seattle and DFA’ed righty Jeff Karstens. Last season, Jakubauskas went 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA in 35 games (eight starts) for the Mariners.

Jakubauskas played four seasons in the Independent Leagues before signing with Seattle in June 2007.

Over three years, Lincoln, 24, is 14-19 with a 4.70 ERA. He split last season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.

Hernandez, 22, was traded from Atlanta last summer in a deal for Nate McLouth. Last season, he hit .282 with 50 RBI and 19 stolen bases.

Last season, Morris, 22, went 4-9 with a 5.57 ERA in 15 starts for Class A Lynchburg. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent him to Pittsburgh two years ago as part of the Jason Bay trade.

Also, pitchers Jose Ascanio and Evan Meek were activated off the 60-day disabled list. There are 20 pitchers, two catchers, 12 infielders and six outfielders on the 40-man roster.

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Tabata tears up AFL

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Thursday, the Arizona Fall League wrapped up its regular season. Four Pirates prospects performed well:

… Outfielder Jose Tabata batted .429 over his final 10 games to finish with a .392 average, third-best in the AFL. He was the leader in hits (47), at-bats (120), was third in total bases (62) and fourth in runs scored (21).

… Infielder Chase d’Arnaud led the AFL with 13 stolen bases. Over the final 10 games, he hit .372, scored 10 runs and swiped 10 bases. He played second base in the AFL, as Pirates management mulls moving him from short to second full-time in 2010.

… Lefty Donnie Veal, who was used as a starter, notched three wins. He ranked 10th in the AFL with a 2.14 ERA, was sixth in strikeouts (22) and eighth in innings pitched (21.0).

… Righty Tony Watson was ninth in the league with a 2.13 ERA.

– In the Dominican Winter League, outfielder Starling Marte is batting .333 in nine games for Aguilas. Right-hander Ramon Aguero has amassed 11 strikeouts in nine innings of relief.

– In the Mexican Pacific League, infielder Brian Bixler is hitting .300 with five homers and 12 RBI in 35 games. Outfielder Rogelio Norris is batting .366 with three doubles, a homer and two RBI in 16 games.

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McCutchen finishes fourth in Rookie of the Year voting

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Center fielder Andrew McCutchen finished fourth in voting for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. McCutchen gathered 25 points, including two first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Florida Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan was the winner with 105 points, including 17 of a possible 32 first-place votes.

Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones finished in seventh place with two points. It’s the fifth time since voting began in 1949 that the Pirates had two players among the top 10.

McCutchen, 23, batted .286 with 26 doubles, nine triples, 12 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 54 RBI. He played in 108 games after being called up from the minors on June 4.

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LaRoche reassures Alvarez

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It won’t be long before Pedro Alvarez takes over at third base, which will force Andy LaRoche to either find a new position — second base remains very much a possibility, even with Akinori Iwamura on the roster — or accept a greatly reduced role.

Last month, while they both were at Instructional League in Bradenton, Fla., LaRoche pulled Alvarez aside for a private chat.

“I (told him), ‘don’t feel uncomfortable around me. If you’re ready, we need you in the lineup. I’ll go play another position,’ ” LaRoche said. “I don’t want him to think I have any animosity toward him.”

LaRoche got only a brief look at Alvarez at third base, but said the former first-round pick appears trim and athletic enough to handle the position.

“He looks smooth over there,” LaRoche said. “He’s got a good, accurate arm. And, obviously, he rakes. Even if he’s not a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman, his offense more than makes up for it. I’m sure, as a worst-case scenario, he’ll be (like) Ryan Braun at third base. If he puts up numbers like Ryan Braun did, that’s great.”

· LaRoche and a few other players are in town this week for routine physical exams and light workouts at PNC Park.

· LaRoche looked grim when he was asked about the departure of former infield instructor Perry Hill.

“No comment on that,” LaRoche said. LaRoche added he would like to work out this winter with Hill, if the Pirates will permit it.

· According to the Palm Beach Post, the Florida Marlins wanted to re-hire Hill, but the Pirates would not give permission for Hill to interview for the job. The Pirates exercised Hill’s contract option for 2010, which means they can block him from working for another major-league team next year.

· After he was traded to the Pirates, Jeff Clement played only first base for the first time in his career.

“I’m not sure what the plan is, going into next spring,” Clement said. “But I’m hoping I still have a chance to catch. That’s where I’d like to be the most.”

That could be an option if Ryan Doumit is traded, but it also would depend on Clement’s knees. Clement has had two minor surgeries to repair the meniscus.

“If my knee can hold up, I’d love to catch, whether it’s as the everyday catcher or the backup,” Clement said.

· Wednesday, the Pirates will release their 2010 spring training schedule. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 18.

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Bucs to play 2 spring games in Philly

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Next year, the Pirates will wrap up their spring training schedule with two games in Philadelphia.

The Pirates will play the Phillies April 1 in Clearwater, Fla., then fly to eastern Pennsylvania for two games against two-time defending NL champs on April 2-3 at Citizens Bank Park.

The April 2 game will begin at 7:05 p.m. The game on Easter will begin at 1:05 p.m.

The Pirates will begin the regular season April 4 against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park.

The Pirates have not yet released their 2010 spring training schedule. But according to the Phillies official Web site, the two teams will meet six times in March and April, including games in Bradenton, Fla., on March 6 and March 15.

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Pirates acquire Iwamura

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Seeking to fill a hole in their infield, the Pirates traded reliever Jesse Chavez to the Tampa Bay Rays for second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

“He is a good athlete with above-average speed and is a tough out with a solid career on-base percentage,” GM Neal Huntington said. “Additionally, he played Gold Glove caliber third base for years in Japan and has made a smooth transition to second base. We are very pleased to add a player of his caliber to our lineup and to our organization.”

Iwamura, 30, played nine seasons in the Japanese Central League before signing with the Rays in November 2006. He batted .281 over three seasons with Tampa Bay.

The Pirates hope that, for one season at least, Iwamura will shore up a weak spot in their infield. Delwyn Young became the full-time second baseman after Freddy Sanchez was traded in July, but Young struggled defensively. Chase d’Arnaud likely is the Pirates’ best prospect at second, but he is still two or three years away from reaching the majors.

Iwamura could become a free agent after the 2010 season unless the Pirates sign him to an extension.

A six-time Golden Glove winner in Japan, Iwamura has a .987 fielding percentage in 220 games at second base for the Rays.

The Pirates exercised Iwamura’s $4.85 million option for 2010. He will be the team’s highest-paid player next season.

The Rays had until the day after the World Series to either pick up Iwamura’s option — which they did not want to do, as they are going with younger players at second next season — or pay him a $550,000 buyout and let him walk as a free agent.

Iwamura was a third baseman in Japan and played that position in 2007 with the Rays. In 2008, after third baseman Evan Longoria was called up, Iwamura moved to second base.

Last May, he injured his ACL while trying to turn a double play and had arthroscopic surgery. He made a quick recovery and was back in the lineup by the end of August.

Chavez, 26, was the final player added to the Pirates’ roster last season at the end of spring training. He pitched in 73 games and went 1-4 with a 4.01 ERA.

“I’m really surprised (by the trade), especially considering I’ve barely made a dent in the big leagues,” Chavez said. “It’s going to be different, but I think it will be fun.”

Chavez made $401,500 this year. The Rays will have him under contract control through the 2014 season.

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