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Bucs conduct informal workouts

Manager Jim Tracy didn't see the need for a structured minicamp this offseason, so the Pirates yesterday began holding informal workouts at PNC Park.

"You've got to give (the players) some rope," Tracy said Monday. "I want them to be very, very fresh on Feb. 16."

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 15. For the past six seasons, the Pirates held their minicamp in Bradenton, Fla. Housing at the team's training site wasn't available this year because of renovations.

• In addition to Cuban defector Yoslan Herrera, six players -- Jesse Chavez, Rajai Davis, Tom Gorzelanny, Ronny Paulino, Brian Rogers and Shane Youman -- are in Pittsburgh to work out this week. Paul Maholm will arrive Wednesday. Zach Duke, Josh Sharpless and Salomon Torres, who all live in the area, also are participating.

• The Pirates yesterday officially signed four players to minor-league deals: catcher Einar Diaz, right-hander Kevin Gryboski, and utilitymen Jose Hernandez and Mike Edwards. Hernandez, whose versatility and clubhouse leadership has made him a favorite of Tracy's, is a good bet to stick as the 25th man on the roster.

• General manager Dave Littlefield said he is "confident" the Pirates will break camp with 12 pitchers this season.

• Despite the inflated prices for a mediocre crop of free agents this offseason, Littlefield did not rule out the Pirates signing someone before spring training. "There will be good values. There is every year," Littlefield said.

• The Pirates are among the two or three teams that have offered a two-year deal to free-agent pitcher Tomo Ohka. However, Ohka's agent is holding out for a three-year deal.

• Trade talks with Atlanta for slugger Adam LaRoche have grown cold. Still, the Braves might be thinking ahead to a possible post-LaRoche future. Last week, Braves.com reported team officials are considering switching prized prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia from catcher to first base.

• By working with Altoona pitching coach Ray Searage in the Arizona Fall League, Chavez and Rogers fine-tuned their arsenals with positive results. Rogers rediscovered his split-finger fastball, which he hadn't used since high school. Chavez dropped his curveball and relied on the fastball, curve and slider.

"Ray Searage kind of opened my eyes that, being a reliever, I don't need four pitches," Chavez said.

• The workouts at PNC Park are a good way for Chavez, who arrived from Texas in the deal for Kip Wells, to get comfortable with his new team.

"I'm still sitting around, trying to watch how guys go about their business, compared to where I was at," he said.


Digits

4 - Saves, in 12 appearances, by right-hander Jesse Chavez in the Arizona Fall League. He went 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA for the Grand Canyon Rafters.

0.00 - Brian Rogers' ERA in six games in the Arizona Fall League.

- Rob Biertempfel

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