OK, the Bucs aren't exactly wheelin' and dealin' yet, but there are some moves afoot to report on before the hot stove league fires up:
-- Carlos Garcia, 42, took Perry Hill's spot as infield/first base coach; guess he didn't waste his time in the dugout when he joined the September call-ups in Pittsburgh.
Actually, Garcia is considered an up-and-comer in the infield coaching fraternity. He's been the Buc's minor-league infield coordinator the past two years after some prior major-league work.
He served as the hitting and infield coach for the Indians' at AAA Buffalo in 2003-04, then crossed the coast to work the next three seasons as Seattle's third base coach and infield guru for Mike Hargrove. In 2005, the Mariners led the AL in fielding during his first season, and finished as top-five glovemen the other two years.
Before that, Garcia played primarily shortstop and second base from 1990-96 with the Pirates, then Toronto in 1997, and Anaheim in 1998 before ending his MLB days with San Diego in 1999, finishing with a career .266 average and an All-Star appearance during his ten-year stint in the show.
So the Pirates continue to get younger, and no doubt save a couple of bucks. The front office stuck to the program, even for coaches. But we think the beat should go on with Garcia, although the presentation will be different.
-- The Pirates claimed southpaw reliever Justin Thomas, 25, from Seattle. He was 2-4 with a 4.48 ERA and six saves in AAA Tacoma, walking 40 and striking out 53 in 60-1/3 innings pitched. He was the Mariners’ #23 rated prospect coming into the season according to Baseball America, but didn't live up to the hype.
But the Pirates do need lefties, and Neal Huntington said that "we feel he could be an interesting option for our bullpen." Faint praise, hey? He becomes the 41st member of the forty-man roster, counting DL'ed guys Evan Meek and Jose Ascanio, so a flurry of leaves will be falling from that tree shortly.
Thomas, a fourth-round pick in the 2005 draft, has four innings of work in the bigs from 2008. The 6-3, 215 pounder was born in Toledo, Ohio, attended Youngstown State University and helped the Penguins capture a Horizon League Title in 2004, pitching the team into the finals and making its first ever appearance in the College World Series.
-- The much discussed Jeff Clement was in Bradenton for the Pirates' instructional league, but didn't take part in any on-field drills. He is said to be completely healed of his oblique strain, though. We're not sure how to take that, unless the Pirates were just laying a little TLC on him, but it does seem to make him a long-shot to break camp with the team in March.
-- The G-Men reupped Freddy Sanchez today, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The contract is worth $6M a year, $12M total. So he is taking a $2.1M pay cut for 2010 in return for $6M guaranteed in 2011.
-- The Pirates and Reds will swap high Class A teams, with Pittsburgh buying Cincy's Florida State League team in Sarasota, Florida, and moving it to nearby Bradenton, where it would play at McKechnie Field.
The Reds, meanwhile, will take over the Lynchburg Hillcats, which has been a Pirate affiliate since 1995 and won three titles during that span. They were on thin ice as a Pirate club ever since Bradenton ponied up for lights at McKechnie in 2008.
A no brainer here, with the Bucs getting better weather early in the year and instant access to the coaches and facilities at Pirate City.
Approval is expected at the November 12th FSL meeting.