Lefty Javier Lopez signs 1-year deal


The Pirates on Friday signed left-hander Javier Lopez to a one-year contract.

Lopez, 32, spent the past four seasons with the Boston Red Sox organization. In that span, he pitched in 172 games for the Red Sox with a 3.30 ERA. He spent most of this past season at Triple-A Pawtucket and also played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

“Javier has proven to be a capable major league reliever who has the abiltiy to attack both left- and right-handed hitters,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He will provide a solid relief option for manager John Russell in 2010.”


Minor league coaches hired


The Pirates on Friday filled three coaching vacancies in their minor league system. Pitching coach Dean Treanor was moved up to Triple-A Indianapolis. He replaces Ray Searge, who has joined the major league staff. Tom Filer was hired as pitching coach at Double-A Altoona. Mike Lum will join the staff as a coach at low-A Bradenton.


It’s the Bradenton Marauders


The new Class A franchise in Bradenton, Fla., will be named the Marauders.  The team will begin play April 8, 2010, at McKechnie Field. Pirates president Frank Coonelly announced the team name this afternoon at a luncheon in Bradenton.

Dan Wolfert was named the Marauders’ general manager. Wolfert, 31, spent the past five years as GM of the Class A Sarasota Reds.


3 scouts hired, 2 reassigned


The Pirates today hired three scouts and reassigned two others.

Rolando Pino was hired as area supervisor for south/central Florida and Puerto Rico. Larry Broadway was hired as area supervisor for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Las Vegas. Anthony Wycklendt was hired as area supervisor for Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

Hal Morris, who was an area supervisor for Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota in 2009, is now the area supervisor in northern California and Nevada. Matt Wondolowski, who was a area supervisor for Florida in 2009, is now the area supervisor in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.


Capps reacts: “It’s a weird feeling”


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.”


Capps a free agent


The Pirates on Saturday did not tender a contract offer to closer Matt Capps, allowing him to become a free agent. Left-hander Phil Dumatrait also was not tendered by the midnight deadline.

“We attempted to reach agreement with both Matt and Phil prior to the deadline,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Each player preferred to explore free agency. We have not closed any doors but will begin immediately to explore other opportunities to improve our bullpen.”

The Pirates did tender an offer to lefty Zach Duke, who is eligible for arbitration. They also signed shortstop Ronny Cedeno to a one-year, $1.125 contract, avoiding arbitration.

Capps made $2.425 million this past season. He set a career-high with 27 saves in 32 chances, but also had a career-worst 5.80 ERA. In 54 1/3 innings, Capps allowed 10 home runs and 17 walks.

The Pirates mulled trade offers involving Capps this offseason and also over the past few days tried to work out a contract with his agent. Both of those routes yielded minimal progress.

Capps, 26, was the Pirates’ seventh-round draft pick in 2002. After flopping at a starter in the minors, he was converted to a reliever. He became the team’s full-time closer midway through the 2007 season. In five years with the Pirates, Capps is 19-19 with 67 saves and a 3.61 ERA.

Duke made $2.2 million this year, in which he earned his first All-Star bid. Arbitration hearings will be held Feb. 1-21 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Dumatrait, 28, pitched just 13 innings in the majors last season, as he tried to bounce back from shoulder surgery. He’s been used as a starter and long reliever, and at one point was the only lefty in the Pirates’ bullpen.

Cedeno made $822,500 last season. This is his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. The Pirates locked up Cedeno for just a bit more than free-agent Bobby Crosby, who will get $1 million in base salary. Cedeno and Crosby will battle for the starting job during spring training.

Cedeno arrived at the end of July from Seattle as part of the Jack Wilson trade. He batted .258 in 46 games with the Pirates and sometimes, according to manager John Russell, allowed poor at-bats to affect him on the field.

“He makes great plays and he can drive a ball,” Russell said. “Then sometimes you’ll watch him and go, ‘What was that?’ He falls into some mental lapses on the field. We need to get him more focused.”


OF Raynor is Bucs’ Rule 5 pickup


INDIANAPOLIS — The Pirates today selected outfielder John Raynor off the Florida Marlins’ Triple-A roster in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft.

This past season, Raynor hit .257 with 24 doubles, two triples, six homers and 36 RBI. He also stole 19 bases. It was his first year at Triple-A.

“He brings an interesting tools package,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He can run, he can play defense, he can throw. His (Class) A and Double-A seasons show there is some bat potential. He struggled a little this year, but he could (be) a major league fourth outfielder right now. We like the bat upside enough that we think there’s everyday potential here.”


Russell talks rotation, lineup


INDIANAPOLIS — Some highlights from manager John Russell’s confab with the media a short while ago:

· Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf are locks for the starting rotation. It would require some sort of near-catastrophic event for Charlie Morton to be out of the No. 4 spot. That leaves Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen — and possibly Brad Lincoln — to battle for the final job during spring training. “I think it’s going to solidify itself pretty quickly,” Russell said. “Saying that, I don’t know if someone will put a stranglehold on it all year. They’ve got to pitch and maintain, because now we have options.”

· For those of you puzzling over the lineup, Andrew McCutchen will stay at leadoff, even with Akinori Iwamura around. “I know Aki’s got speed and (good) on-base percentage,” Russell said. “McCutchen’s got some power traits that make him a little more attractive, maybe, moving him down. But he did a pretty good job in the leadoff spot. I’m not ruling out that he could hit third at some point, but this kid’s only spent three months in the big leagues. We’ll let him get his feet wet for a little bit longer before we start making some bold moves.”

· Garrett Jones might bat third. “What hurt him was when (cleanup hitter Ryan) Doumit was struggling, he didn’t really have anybody hitting behind him so he got pitched around a lot. That affected him a little bit,” Russell said. “This year, we have a little more luxury with our lineup. Garrett has the ability to hit third. In an ideal world, I think he’d be pretty good in the five or six hole, but that’s yet to be seen. Pedro (Alvarez) gets here at some point, (Jose) Tabata gets here at some point … we’ve got (Jeff) Clement, Jones in the lineup, McCutchen, Aki … it’s starting to look pretty potent.”

· What are Russell’s expectations, as far as wins and losses? He didn’t toss out any specific predictions. “We’re not satisfied with last year. We need to win more games. The mass exodus is over; we’ve not going to move a lot of people. We have the group of guys we’re going to move forward with, and we expect these guys to win more games.”

· Jeff Clement won’t be handed the first base starting job in spring training, but … “We’d like for him to come in and put a stranglehold on that position or at least be in a very strong platoon role (with Jones). I think he’s got a great chance to make that happen.”


Shortstop options


INDIANAPOLIS — As they hunt for better options at shortstop, the Pirates are making a push during the winter meetings for free agent Bobby Crosby.

The Pirates are among at least a half-dozen teams to check about Crosby, the 2004 American League Rookie of the Year. Their interest apparently intensified within the past 24 hours, after Adam Everett re-signed with Detroit.

Crosby, 29, played in just 97 games last season due to injuries. Over seven seasons, he has a .238 batting average, .305 on-base percentage and a .973 fielding percentage at short .

Crosby made $5.25 million this past season, but likely could be had for less than that with a one-year contract for 2010.

General manager Neal Huntington wants competition under incumbent Ronny Cedeno.

Last offseason, Cedeno, 26, avoided arbitration by signing a $822,000 contract with Seattle. He is arbitration-eligible again this year.

Cedeno batted just .167 with five homers and 17 RBI in 59 games with the Mariners. After being traded to the Pirates, he hit .258 with five homers and 21 RBI in 46 games.

— If you have a question for Huntington, send it to me via e-mail. I’ll choose a couple each day and pose them to the GM during his afternoon confab with the media, then post the answers later in the day on this blog.