Claggett, Jackson outrighted

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Anthony Claggett and Steven Jackson today cleared waivers and were sent outright to Triple-A Indianapolis. The pitchers will be among 22 non-roster invitees in spring training. Claggett and Jackson had been designated for assignment recently to clear spots on the 40-man roster.

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Another Miracle in the making

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Pirates Charities will help build the first Miracle Field in the Wheeling, W.Va., area. The formal announcement will come Wednesday morning, during the Pirates Caravan’s stop in Wheeling. The field will enable children with special needs to play baseball in a league-based environment.

In 2008, Pirates Charities donated $200,000 toward construction of a Miracle Field in Cranberry Township. The field hosted its first games last May.

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Selig’s ‘silly’ statement on steroids

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I spent a lot of time this week talking to people in and around the industry about steroids, which for a baseball beat writer is never a pleasant topic. I was curious about the notion of attaching an “asterisk” or some sort of disclaimer to the statistics of admitted/proven PED users.

Commissioner Bud Selig declined a request to chat on the record about it, but the message I got from other folks in the know is that MLB has no plans to use asterisks. Basically, it seems the higher-ups want the entire steroids issue to simply go away.

After Mark McGwire’s recent televised confession of PED use, Selig issued a statement which in part read: “The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst todays players has greatly subsided and is virtually non-existent as our testing results have shown. The so-called ‘steroid era’ … is clearly a thing of the past.”

Oh, really?

Former commissioner Fay Vincent laughed out loud when I mentioned Selig’s comment. Vincent termed it “a rather silly announcement that makes no sense.”

Vincent was Selig’s immediate predecessor. Vincent got the job in 1989, after Bart Giamatti’s sudden death, and resigned in 1992 after a no-confidence vote by the owners. A year before he stepped down, Vincent placed steroids on MLB’s list of banned substances — but, not realizing at the time how big a problem PEDs had become, he did not press for a drug-testing program.

Baseball’s current testing setup is a step forward, but Vincent does not believe it will end the scourge of steroids.

“I have a cynical view of human nature,” Vincent said. “I think there will be continued cheating in all sports. I don’t think we are going to stop the chemists from coming up with things to give to players. Young people are going to be tempted by all the money and take these drugs and the problem goes on.”

For more on Vincent’s opinion about steroids and the asterisk — including his thoughts on whether Barry Bonds used PEDs — check out Sunday’s Trib.

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Dotel signed, Claggett DFA’ed

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The Pirates today signed free agent Octavio Dotel to a one-year contract with a club option for 2011. Financial terms were not immediately available.

To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, right-hander Anthony Claggett was designated for assignment.

Dotel, 36, will fill the closer vacancy and anchor a bullpen which is being rebuilt almost entirely through trades and free-agent signings.

In 11 seasons, Dotel has 83 saves and a 3.73 ERA. The right-hander has a career 2.71 strikeout/walk ratio.

However, he has not been a full-time closer since 2007, when he got 11 saves in 24 early season outings for the Kansas City Royals. His best year was 2004, when Dotel amassed a total of 36 saves for the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s.

Other righties in the bullpen mix are Joel Hanrahan (acquired last year in the Nyjer Morgan trade), Evan Meek (a Rule 5 pickup) and Brandan Donnelly (a free agent signee). Javier Lopez (free agent) will be the top lefty in the ‘pen.

Although Dotel was rated a Type A free agent, the White Sox will not receive a compensatory draft pick because they declined to offer him arbitration.

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Pirates tickets on sale Jan. 30

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Single-game tickets for the 2010 season will go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 30 at PNC Park and at PirateFest, online and by phone (877-893-2827). Full- and partial-season ticket plans already are on sale. PirateFest will run from Jan. 29-31 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

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The process behind latest DFA move

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Late last night, while much of the news cycle was devoted to Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s stunning victory in Massachusetts, the Pirates slipped a roster move into my e-mail bucket. Reliever Steven Jackson was designated for assignment and outfielder Ryan Church — who had agreed to a one-year contract last week — officially was added to the 40-man roster.

The Pirates still could work out a trade involving Jackson, perhaps even a 2-for-1 swap involving, say, newly acquired outfielder Brendan Jones. It’s also possible the Pirates will lose Jackson on waivers.

GM Neal Huntington hoped to put together some sort of trade yesterday to clear roster space. He’ll need an opening if the deal with free agent Octavio Dotel comes to fruition.

This morning, Huntington sent an e-mail which explained management’s thought process on the Jackson move. It’s useful insight into other decisions made by the front office.

“As we worked through our roster move options with the 29 other clubs, some clubs expressed interest in other players but they did not have enough interest that we were able to work out a small trade,” Huntington wrote.

Last season, Jackson pitched in 40 games and put up a respectable 3.14 ERA and 1.395 WHIP. Yet, Huntington cautioned against getting too excited about Jackson’s stats.

“Reliever ERA is one of the worst ways to evaluate a relief pitcher,” Huntington wrote. “As we evaluate the big picture, there are numbers behind the numbers that indicate it is very unlikely he will post a similar ERA in 2010. As we compare his probable role and stuff package to others in the organization, we feel we have depth to overcome his loss if that is indeed the case.”

If there are no takers for Jackson, he will be outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis and go to spring training as a non-roster invitee. Jackson has two minor league options remaining.

“As an organization, we value a player that has a chance to be a starting pitcher or an everyday position player over a middle reliever,” Huntington wrote. “We work to remain consistent in our approach and evaluations and not let performance spikes (positive or negative) overly influence our decision making process.”

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Bye-bye Bixler, hello Donnelly

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The Pirates today traded Brian Bixler to Cleveland, which cleared a 40-man roster spot for free-agent reliever Brendan Donnelly.

Bixler was swapped for minor league infielder Jesus Brito, 22, who played in Class A last season. Brito hit a combined .353 with 19 doubles, 10 triples and 43 RBI in 60 games in rookie ball and Single-A Mahoning Valley.

Donnelly, 38, inked a one-year contract. Terms were not immediately available.

Last season, Donnelly went 3-0 with two saves and a 1.78 ERA in 30 outings for the Florida Marlins. Over eight years in the majors, the right-hander is 29-9 with a 3.02 ERA.

“Donnelly is a veteran set-up type reliever who brings experience, toughness and determination to our bullpen,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement.

Donnelly had reconstructive elbow surgery in 2007. He’s also played for the Angels, Red Sox and Indians.

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Charges against Yates dropped

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Charges of family abuse and property against Pirates relief pitcher Tyler Yates in Hawaii have been dropped.

Yates, 32, was charged Dec. 30 after intervening in a dispute between his parents at his offseason home in Hawaii. He was released on $1,050 bail.

Four days later, Yates officially re-signed with the Pirates. The right-hander, who is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, received a minor league contract and an invitation to spring training.

Early this morning, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review contacted general manager Neal Huntington about Yates’ status. Tonight, the Pirates admitted they knew about the situation before Yates agreed to his contract.

“We were made aware of the incident and were assured by Tyler that the charges were not justified,” the team said in an e-mail statement. “As anticipated, all charges against Tyler have since been dropped. Tyler’s wife Liezel and daughter Kamryn were no way involved in this matter.

“The manner in which our players represent the Pirates organization on and off the field is something that we take very seriously. We are completely satisfied with Tyler in this matter and respect his family’s privacy. Now that the matter is resolved, (neither) the club nor Tyler will have (any) further comment.”

Yates did not attend minicamp last week in Bradenton, Fla. He is expected to arrive in time for the Feb. 18 start of spring training, but will not be healthy enough to pitch until later this summer.

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Church deal done; more to come?

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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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3 more minor league deals

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Sitting at the gate at Greater Pit, waiting for my flight to Florida to do a quick check on minicamp, when I saw the Pirates have signed three more players — right-hander Brian Bass, catcher Luke Carlin and outfielder Brian Myrow — to minor-league contracts. That gives the team 19 non-roster invitees to spring training.

Bass spent last summer with the Orioles, going 5-3 with a 4.90 ERA in 48 relief outings. He was second among AL relievers in innings pitched.

Carlin split last season between Triple-A Reno and Arizona and also played for Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  He’s played in 46 games in the majors for the Diamondbacks and Padres.

Myrow hit a combined .307 with 15 homers and 59 RBI in 110 games for Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Indianapolis. He’s played in the majors for the Dodgers and Padres.

Tomorrow, I’ll have an update from sunny (??) Bradenton, possibly including official news on the signing of free-agent outfielder Ryan Church.

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