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Pirates Pirates Notebook: Reliever Herges accepts 1-year deal

Saturday, January 18, 2003

By Robert Dvorchak, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Reliever Matt Herges and the Pirates avoided arbitration yesterday by agreeing to an $825,000, one-year contract.

The Pirates also submitted a proposal to first baseman Randall Simon and hope to reach a deal with him before his arbitration hearing. Simon has asked for $1.85 million in arbitration and the Pirates have offered $1.3 million.

"I know it's a trying time with negotiations," General Manager Dave Littlefield said. "We're glad we were able to get it done. Matt's happy about the deal. We're happy to have him as a Pirate."

Herges was acquired from the Expos for two minor-leaguers. While he did not work out as a closer for the Expos, the Pirates plan to use him as a setup man to ease the pressure on Brian Boehringer and Scott Sauerbeck.

"I don't care what inning it is. I just want to pitch," Herges said. "I am thrilled to death to be here. I love this team. It's a great organization with a great tradition. It's nice to be wanted."

Pirates sign D'Amico

The Pirates have signed pitcher Jeff D'Amico and infielder Jose Fernandez to minor-league contracts. D'Amico, who was 6-10 with a 4.94 ERA with the New York Mets last year, will be given the opportunity to compete for the fourth or fifth spot in the starting rotation.

Littlefield, however, said he is continuing his talks with other clubs and free agents to acquire another starter before spring training begins.

D'Amico, 27, is a right-hander who broke in with the Milwaukee Brewers and was a 12-game winner in 2000. He was hampered by arm problems in 1999 and 2001. Last season, he logged 145 innings, making 22 starts and seven relief appearances.

Fernandez, 28, is an intriguing prospect as a backup infielder and as a hitter off the bench. He played briefly with the Montreal Expos and Anaheim Angels, mostly at third base. In 2001, he hit .338 with 30 home runs and 114 RBIs while playing for the Angels' Class AAA affiliate in Salt Lake City. And last year, he hit .281 with 45 home runs and 107 RBIs while playing for the SK Wyverns in Korea.

"I've been following this guy for quite a while," Littlefield said. "He had a couple of good years but couldn't quite break through in the major leagues. He's an intriguing guy because he can swing the bat."

The signings put the number of non-roster players at 20 going into spring training. The Pirates are hoping to create more competition for jobs and are seeking to upgrade their talent pool in the event of injury.

"Insurance is part of it," Littlefield said. "There are some people who can help us, either by pushing the guys were have or taking advantage of the opportunity to win a job."

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