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Pirates plan to talk to Rangers' batting coach Clint Hurdle

| Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

The Texas Rangers have given hitting coach Clint Hurdle permission to interview for the Pirates' vacant managerial job.

The Pirates had to wait until after the World Series to schedule an interview with Hurdle. The team also was interested in San Francisco Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, but he is not likely to be interviewed.

The Pirates already have spoken with seven candidates, but only three — Jeff Banister, Carlos Tosca and Bo Porter — have not yet been ruled out. Porter remains in the mix, even though he was hired Tuesday as the Washington Nationals' third base coach.

General manager Neal Huntington has not conducted an interview since Tosca stopped by PNC Park on Oct. 14.

"Our process continues," Huntington said. "I don't have a feel for the timing (of a final decision). We're looking for the right person at the right time."

Hurdle, 53, went 534-625 over seven years as the Colorado Rockies' manager. He guided the Rockies to the World Series in 2007, when they were swept by the Boston Red Sox.

Duke in limbo

When the free-agent market opens, the Pirates will put most of their energies toward signing at least one or two starting pitchers. Yet, in a few weeks, they could cut loose left-hander Zach Duke, who has started 159 games over the past six seasons.

If Duke, who is entering his third year of arbitration eligibility, is not tendered a contract by the Dec. 2 deadline, he will become a free agent.

"This is a possible crossroads of my career," Duke said. "In my meetings with Neal (Huntington), he didn't really say either way. All I know is, I'll be ready to go, whatever the situation is."

Duke, 27, went 8-15 with a career-worst 5.72 ERA last season. He made $4.3 million and could expect his salary to rise toward $6 million next year if he goes to arbitration.

The Pirates might opt to allocate that kind of cash on someone they regard as more of sure thing — Duke has reached double-digits wins just twice in his career.

Eight other Pirates players — Ronny Cedeno, Wil Ledezma, Ross Ohlendorf, Joel Hanrahan, Lastings Milledge, Andy LaRoche, Delwyn Young and Jeff Karstens — are arbitration eligible. LaRoche and Ledezma are nontender candidates, though Huntington tried to squash such speculation.

"Until we decide differently, our public intent is to tender offers to all of our eligible players," Huntington said.

Sanchez a star

Catcher Tony Sanchez was chosen to play in the Arizona Fall League's Rising Star Game on Saturday in Surprise, Ariz. Other Pirates prospects to play in the game were Andrew McCutchen (2007) and Jose Tabata (2009).

Park a free agent

After the World Series, 142 players automatically became free agents. The only Pirates player on the list is reliever Chan Ho Park.

At the end of the season, Park said he would be open to returning to Pittsburgh, but also said he might prefer to end his career in his native South Korea.

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