Bucs' Nutting: Time right for long-term deals
Pirates chairman of the board Bob Nutting doled out more than $17 million from the team's coffers last week to sign 23 draft picks. His approval also is required for a six-year, $15 million contract extension for outfielder Jose Tabata, which the Pirates likely will announce in the next day or two, and a multi-year deal that's in the works for second baseman Neil Walker.
That's a lot of cash to spend in the span of a few days — especially for the Pirates, whose reputation of being tight-fisted might be changing.
"It's important to have talented players in uniform in Pittsburgh," Nutting said Saturday. "That's exactly what we're trying to do, whether it's through a long-term assurance in a contract or whether it's bringing in great talent (through the draft)."
As the contract extensions are not yet official, Nutting was careful not to refer specifically to Tabata or Walker. But locking up the two youngsters — Walker is 25, Tabata turned 23 nine days ago — clearly is part of his plan.
"Our best players are our young players, and we need to hold on to some of them by making those long-term commitments," Nutting said. "It's time to put some of those building blocks in place."
Maholm on DL
Tightness in the front of his left shoulder has landed pitcher Paul Maholm on the disabled list for the first time since he reached the majors in 2005.
"Hopefully, it's a quick thing," Maholm said. "I don't think it's anything big. It just got to the point where I thought I was doing harm to myself and the team by continuing to go out there."
Maholm is 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA and has not won a game since before the All-Star break. He said he's pitched with soreness in his shoulder "off and on" for most of this season and in previous years, but was evasive when asked about the nature of the injury and how it may have affected his performance.
"I know how to pitch, how to grind it out and go through a lot of things," Maholm said. "I'll take responsibility for every start. I'm not going to (blame) my shoulder. It's me, going out there and pitching."
Lefty reliever Tony Watson was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to fill Maholm's roster spot. The Pirates will do more shuffling over the next couple of days.
Brad Lincoln will make a spot start Monday in the second game of a doubleheader. Lincoln was a starter at Indy, but has worked out of the bullpen since he was recalled on Aug. 6.
"He's not stretched out like he was when he got here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "But the opportunity to start again will add some adrenaline."
Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf will be recalled from Indy to pitch Tuesday, and likely will stay in the rotation until Maholm returns.
Boras backs Alvarez
It has been a trying season, in many ways, for third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Agent Scott Boras remains confident his client, who's trying to rediscover his swing at Indianapolis, will rebound soon with the Pirates.
"The great thing about Pedro is, the skill has not in any way diminished," Boras said. "With great, young players, it's always the consistency, not the talent, that's the issue.
"We've got to address that and keep the growth of his career on a pace where we understand there is nothing preventing him from achieving his goals to be a great player because he has the skill and the will to do it."
When rosters expand on Sept. 1, it's usually a team's first chance to expose its top prospects to the majors. Due to a rash of injuries over the summer, many of the Pirates' best minor leaguers already have gotten time in the bigs.
"I think we've gotten a really good look at the depth of our organization already this season," Hurdle said with a chuckle. " If we get everybody back healthy, that would be a pretty good volume of people in the clubhouse."
Hurdle expects most, if not all, of those prospects to be recalled when rosters expand. Without getting specific, he suggested a few other players also will be on the callup list.
"There's always opportunities to give guys a pat on the back for a good Triple-A season, especially with your sixth-year free agents," Hurdle said. "That's how you get sixth-year free agents to come back."
Around the horn
Evan Meek (shoulder tendinitis) will pitch one inning Sunday for Single-A Bradenton. He recently threw a simulated game at Pirate City and had no ill effects. ... Bradenton outfielder Robbie Grossman last week became the first minor leaguer to score 100 runs and draw 100 walks in a season since Nick Swisher did it in 2004 with Triple-A Sacramento. Grossman was the Pirates' sixth-round pick in 2008. ... The Pirates have sold out eight consecutive Saturday home games. Attendance yesterday was 37,826. They need to draw 19,283 fans to top last season's total attendance of 1,613,399.
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