Walker, Cedeno Gold Glove finalists

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Are the Pirates about to let a Gold Glove winner walk out the door? Possibly. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno is among three finalists for a NL Glove Glove Award, which will be awarded Tuesday night. This morning, the Pirates opted not to pick up Cedeno’s $3 million contract option for 2012, making him a free agent. Cedeno ranked fourth in the NL with a career-best .978 fielding percentage. He strung together 45 mistake-free games (44 at shortstop, one at second) from April 16 through June 9. Neil Walker also is a finalist for a Gold Glove. Walker this season led NL second basemen with a .992 fielding percentage and ended the season with a 56-game errorless streak.

Here are the finalists, according to an ESPN release:

AL pitcher: Mark Buehrle, White Sox; Dan Haren, Angels; Fausto Carmona, Indians. NL pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers; Kyle Lohse, Cardinals.

AL catcher: Matt Wieters, Orioles; A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox; Alex Avila, Tigers. NL catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals; Brian McCann, Braves; Carlos Ruiz, Phillies.

AL first baseman: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox; Casey Kotchman, Rays; Mark Teixeira, Yankees. NL first baseman: Joey Votto, Reds; Gaby Sanchez, Marlins; James Loney, Dodgers.

AL second baseman: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox; Robinson Cano, Yankees; Ian Kinsler, Rangers. NL second baseman: Brandon Phillips, Reds; Walker; Omar Infante, Marlins

AL shortstop: Erick Aybar, Angels; J.J. Hardy, Orioles; Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians. NL shortstop: Cedeno; Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies; Alex Gonzalez, Braves.

AL third baseman: Adrian Beltre, Rangers; Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox; Evan Longoria, Rays. NL third baseman: Placido Polanco, Phillies; Daniel Descalso, Cardinals; Pablo Sandoval, Giants.

AL left fielder: Alex Gordon, Royals: Brett Gardner, Yankees; Sam Fuld, Rays. NL left fielder: Gerardo Parra, D’backs; Ryan Braun, Brewers; Matt Holliday, Cardinals.

AL center fielder: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox; Austin Jackson, Tigers; Peter Bourjos, Angels. NL center fielder: Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Shane Victorino, Phillies; Chris Young, D’backs.

AL right fielder: Nick Markakis, Orioles; Torii Hunter, Angels; Jeff Francoeur, Royals. NL right fielder: Andre Ethier, Dodgers; Carlos Beltran, Mets/Giants; Jay Bruce, Reds.

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d’Arnaud injures hand in DWL game

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Infielder Chase d’Arnaud got good news from Pirates doctors after he injured his right hand recently during a game in the Domincan Winter League. “No break, no major damage,” GM Neal Huntington said.

The injury happened when a fielder stepped on d’Arnaud’s hand as he was sliding into a base. D’Arnaud was examined by doctors in Pittsburgh, and will be shut down for a week or so. He is not expected to rejoin his DWL team, Toros del Este, which is managed by Pirates minor league manager Dean Treanor.

D’Arnad might have a chance to be the Pirates’ everyday shortstop next season. Today, the team declined its $3 million contract option on veteran Ronny Cedeno. This past season, d’Araud hit .217 and made nine errors in 48 games with the Pirates.

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Decision day

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There are four Pirates among the 30 players whose contract options for 2012 have yet to be decided. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. tonight. Ryan Doumit has two club options — one worth $7.25 million for 2012 and another worth $8.25 million for 2013 — but they trigger simultaneously. His buyout is $500,000. Chris Snyder has a $6.75 million club option for 2012 or $750,000 buyout. Paul Maholm has a $9.75 million club option for 2012 or a $750,000 buyout. Ronny Cedeno has a $3 million club option for 2012 or a $200,000 buyout.

There already have been indications from multiple sources that the Pirates will not pick up the options for Maholm, Doumit and Snyder. I expect the team will exercise Cedeno’s option. The Pirates is OK with talking with Snyder and Doumit about a new contract, but under no circumstances is the team willing to bring back both catchers.

Keep an eye on whether the Rays pick up catcher Kelly Shoppach’s $3.2 million option. He’s 31 years old, and hit just .176 with a .607 OPS in 87 games this year. If he hits the free-agent market, perhaps the Pirates would eye him at a bargain price.

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Pearce, Jones get Super Two

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Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com has reported that Pirates first basemen Garrett Jones and Steve Pearce are among 19 players who qualify for Super Two status, which means they will get a fourth year of arbitration eligibility despite having less than three years of total service time. We’d already established that center fielder Andrew McCutchen will not be a Super Two, so he’ll have three years of arby and can be a free agent after the 2015 season.

Steve Pearce
Steve Pearce

Due to the extra arby year, Super Two players tend to get higher salaries. For Jones and Pearce, this could signal the end of their careers with the Pirates — both could be non-tendered in December and become free agents. Injuries and missed opportunities have hindered Pearce throughout his time in the majors. Jones will turn 31 next season and his career splits against lefty pitching (.199 BA, .601 OPS) are not good.

Finding a first baseman might be at the top of GM Neal Huntington’s offseason to-do list, ahead of landing a veteran catcher and another starting pitcher. This should make things much more interesting in spring training for Matt Hague. And, it also could rekindle thoughts among some in management of eventually moving Pedro Alvarez across the diamond.

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TV ratings up; McKechnie makeover

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The Pirates ranked ninth among MLB teams this season in local television ratings. According to Nielson Media Research, 4.8 percent of all TVs in the Pittsburgh market tuned into Pirates games this past summer. The Phillies were first with a 9.7 household rating, followed by the Cardinals (8.9), Brewers (7.9) and Red Sox (7.9). The Pirates finished just ahead of the Yankees, who had a 4.3 household rating.

Root Sports Pittsburgh saw its ratings for Pirates games jump by 49 percent over last year — the third-largest increase in MLB. The Pirates also appeared in national broadcasts on Fox and ESPN.

»»» As a I reported a few days ago in the Trib, the Pirates will play two exhibition games on April 2 and 3 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. It’s the third straight year the Pirates have closed out spring training in Philly. The Pirates and Phillies will open the regular season on April 5 at PNC Park.

The Pirates have not yet released their full spring training schedule. A few other teams have put out their schedules, though. Here’s a partial list of games involving the Pirates:

March 8: @ Phillies (Clearwater); March 12: vs. Phillies (Bradenton); March 16: vs. Phillies (Bradenton); March 24: vs. Astros (Bradenton); March 25: split squad @ Astros (Kissimmee); March 27: @ Phillies (Clearwater). The Pirates will not play the Atlanta Braves this spring.

»»» The Pirates are lobbying government officials in Manatee County and Bradenton, Fla. to approve a proposed $9 million renovation of McKechnie Field. The stadium is the Pirates’ spring training home and also hosts games for its High-A affiliate. Plans call for the addition of about 3,000 seats, which would boost capacity to 9,500. There would be an enclosed grandstand, a “walk of fame” and expanded seating, including a Pirates Cove and tiki bar, in the outfield.

McKechnie Field opened in 1923, when it was used by the St. Louis Cardinals. After the Pirates took over in 1969, the field was updated in 1993 and 2007.

»»» GM Neal Huntington admitted it’s a longshot that the team will exercise Paul Maholm’s $9.75 million contract option for 2012, but said the decision to let Maholm become a free agent is not yet final. That’s true; the deadline is five days after the end of the World Series. Huntington said the Pirates could pick up the option in order to trade Maholm. That’s also true — but the chances of that happening would be close to nil. The Pirates shopped Maholm this summer and found no takers. So it would be unexpected, to say the least, if Huntington suddenly found a trade partner for a pitcher with an inflated price tag and who ended last season on the 60-day disabled list.

»»» Don Long, who was the Pirates’ hitting coach under ex-manager John Russell, was hired as the Atlanta Braves’ minor league hitting coordinator.

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