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Pirates Notebook: Rainout will adjust pitching assignments

Monday, March 24, 2003

By Robert Dvorchak, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates had beaten the raindrops this spring until yesterday. With pools of water dappling the outfield, the Pirates' game against the Toronto Blue Jays was rained out yesterday.

Kip Wells will throw in a simulated game today. (Gene J. Puskar, Associated Press)

While it caused some minor shuffling to make sure the pitchers get their innings, the rainout was not a major disruption.

Kip Wells, who was supposed to start the game against the Blue Jays, will throw today at Pirate City in a simulated game. Relievers Brian Boehringer, Joe Beimel and Mike Williams will join him there. Josh Fogg will start the Pirates' spring training game today against the Blue Jays and those competing for bullpen spots will follow.

But with a week until opening day in Cincinnati, Manager Lloyd McClendon is pleased with where his team is physically and how the intensity has increased.

"I'm very pleased," McClendon said. "Without a doubt, it's been our most productive camp. It shouldn't be a surprise. We have veteran players in camp. They know what to do and how to do it. I like veteran players. I don't apologize for that."

Working on a deal

The Pirates are closed to making a deal with a Japanese team involving Jose Fernandez, who was invited to camp as a nonroster infielder after playing in Korea last year. If he is signed, the Pirates would get cash in return for his release.

"He's not going to make our 25-man roster," said General Manager Dave Littlefield, who had a lengthy conversation with Fernandez outside the clubhouse Saturday. "As happens this time of year, there's a great deal of interest from Japanese teams who are scouting players. One of the teams has some interest in Fernandez. We're talking to them very seriously. In the next couple days, we'll know what direction it takes."

Fernandez, a third baseman, has a .222 batting average with two home runs and three RBIs this spring.

Among the backup infielders still in camp is Mike Gulan, who homered for the third time this spring in Saturday. Gulan, hitting .355 with nine RBIs, has worked hard to make the roster, even though he most likely will be sent to Class AAA Nashville.

"I like him. That's why he still here," McClendon said. "He turned that fastball around [Saturday]. In a hurry. It was a line drive about 410 [feet]."

Mahomes impresses

As a nonroster invitee, Pat Mahomes hasn't received a lot of attention in camp, but he has made a case for a bullpen spot with a 1.17 ERA in five appearances. Mahomes, who pitched for the Cubs last year, also has major-league experience. In a little more than six seasons, he is 42-38 with a 5.49 ERA, including a National League mark of 14-4 with a 4.59 ERA.

"He's done everything right," McClendon said. "He's right there in the thick of things. He's thrown strikes. Shown a lot of poise. He's certainly in the mix. I wouldn't count him out."

10 to go

The Pirates have 10 roster moves to make in the next seven days. Of the 35 players still in camp, there are 17 pitchers, two catchers, nine infielders and seven outfielders.

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