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Pirates outfielder Gerut guarantees he'll be back this season

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It's been 18 months and counting since outfielder Jody Gerut last played in a game.

Gerut's recovery from the second surgery on his right knee in a two-year span is slow but steady. Although he does not want to measure his progress with target dates, Gerut on Friday was willing to issue one date-stamped guarantee.

"I will be in the majors this year," he said.

Gerut, 29, said he hopes his return will come while he's wearing a Pirates uniform. Yet, he realizes Nate McLouth, non-roster invitee Luis Matos and prospect Andrew McCutchen could be moving up in the pecking order.

"The evolution of things doesn't wait around for injuries," Gerut said. "I understand that."

Gerut said he does not expect his skills to be any less than what they were before he was hurt. As a rookie in 2003, Gerut batted .279 with 22 home runs and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting.

Gerut had reconstructive knee surgery in September 2004, when he was with Cleveland. Less than eight months later, he was back in the Indians' lineup.

However, Gerut could not match his spectacular rookie year form and he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He barely had time to enjoy Wrigley Field before being dealt to the Pirates.

Gerut played four games for the Pirates, then went back on the disabled list with a sore knee. When he was still aching after eight months of rehab, Gerut had more surgery in May 2006.

Yesterday, Gerut played some long-toss catch at Pirate City. He is jogging but still has not begun full-speed sprints or more demanding workouts.

"The thing I don't have down yet is, sometimes you have to take your foot off the accelerator," Gerut said. "I came back too early (from two surgeries on his left knee) in 2001. I came back too early again the next time. I should not have played in 2005.

"We're going as fast as we can now without putting me in danger."

General manager Dave Littlefield knows it's a matter of time before Gerut is able to get back in action. But Littlefield declined to speculate on when that might happen.

"We have expectations he will play, based on the doctors' reports," Littlefield said. "I know he's very motivated to come back and, according to the reports, we feel we'll have a healthy player out there at some point."

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