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Pirates notebook: Agent Boras checks in with clients over lunch

| Thursday, May 29, 2014, 9:30 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez watches his two-run homer during the fourth inning against the Nationals Friday, May 23, 2014, at PNC Park.

LOS ANGELES — Agent Scott Boras kept a lunch date Thursday afternoon with two of his clients: Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole and third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

They talked about Alvarez's home runs and Cole's strikeouts. They might have discussed the gorgeous West Coast weather or what looked best on the dessert cart.

According to Boras, there was only one topic that was off limits.

“There was nothing about contracts,” Boras said. “We really don't talk about those things in-season. We want to focus on performance, so the conversation was about what they're doing on the field.”

Cole, 23, is still a few years away from worrying about the salary arbitration process. Alvarez, 27, has two years of arbitration eligibility left.

Alvarez, who's making $4.25 million, will be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. Will owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly have enough financial flexibility and negotiating savvy to sign Alvarez and/or Cole to long-term deals?

“I've talked to Frank and Bob,” Boras said. “They've told me they want to build something here.

“When you have core players, building means you're going to have to compete with the teams around you. We'll see.”

When the Pirates drafted Alvarez with the second overall pick in 2008, the signing process was bitter and went right down to — and maybe a tiny bit beyond — the wire. So, it was surprising to some when the two sides agreed to a contract last winter without having to go through an arbitration hearing.

“Everybody understands the process, particularly Frank and his staff. We do, too,” Boras said. “We've been doing it a long time together. We're able to corner those dynamics, analytics and value points, and I'm glad to see we can come to an agreement.”

Boras arrived at Dodger Stadium during batting practice Thursday and traded waves, handshakes and small talk with friends, players and coaches. He went to the game to watch Cole, whom he's known since Cole was 16 years old.

“He played on teams with my son and played against him in high school,” Boras said. “As talented and as hard-working as he is, I think he's got a great future ahead of him. He really has the pro body. He's built around durability and skill.

“He's been successful wherever he's been. Gerrit's learning about his style of pitching and about himself. I think he's going to be a top-flight guy.”

In the process, Cole will make himself — and Boras — a lot of money.

Grilli the closer again

Before Thursday's game, manager Clint Hurdle re-anointed Jason Grilli as the closer.

“I think he's ready to go again,” Hurdle said.

Grilli, 37, came off the disabled list May 23 after missing time with a strained left oblique. Last season, he sat out about six weeks because of a strained right flexor tendon.

“I think the biggest challenge for us moving forward is to make sure we help Jason with his health,” Hurdle said. “This is his second injury, so we've got to make sure we're always in communication and keep an eye on the pitches. We need to stay on top of it.”

To avoid burning out Grilli's arm, setup man Mark Melancon probably will get an occasional save opportunity.

Around the horn

Drew Butera caught Josh Beckett's no-hitter Sunday, the 11th no-no since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Butera also caught Francisco Liriano's no-hitter in May 2011. Butera is expected to be in the lineup Friday, when Liriano and Beckett will square off at Dodger Stadium. ... At Low-A West Virginia, catcher Reese McGuire extended his hitting streak to 18 games Thursday. It's the longest run by a Power player since Starling Marte hit in 22 straight games in 2009.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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