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July 9, 2009 at 5:49 PM

Pittsburgh Pirates have top scout in attendance tonight

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Just rode up in the elevator with Marc DelPiano, a special assistant to Pirates GM Neal Huntington. Now, why would the Pirates have somebody here? Not like the Mariners are playing them anytime soon. Hmm, let’s see. There’s that veteran shortstop guy Jack Wilson, who is on-the-block. More importantly, there is infielder Freddy Sanchez,
The Pirates are said to be looking to move all-star second baseman Sanchez, 31, who can also play third. He’s at 329 plate appearances for the year. If he reaches 600, it triggers an $8 million player option for 2010. That’s higher rent district territory for the Pirates. He makes $6.1 million this year.
Sanchez is a former batting champion and has made the all-star team three times in the last four years.

This blog in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported late today that there is “nothing imminent” in the talks held so far with at least two teams, the Giants and Rockies. The Mariners were not mentioned, but obviously have needs up the middle.
What would the Pirates be looking for in a Sanchez trade? Well, not Erik Bedard or Jarrod Washburn. Too old, too rich for their blood. They want young talent. I don’t see anybody in tonight’s lineup being “showcased” or anything. Not like Wladimir Balentien is playing left. No, the Pirates would likely be here to see some of Seattle’s young bullpen arms. For now, at least. DelPiano is probably here for the weekend.
Rob Johnson is catching again, so it’s possible they’ll want a look at him. With Adam Moore looming on the horizon in Class AAA and Kenji Johjima untradeable because of his contract, the M’s will have to start moving somebody around.
Seeing top scouts here is nothing new this time of year when teams, like the Mariners, figure to be active at the trade deadline. Just keeping you up-to-date on what’s going on. If DelPiano is here, you can certainly throw the Pirates in among the list of teams the Mariners are speaking to.
In other news, the Mariners have called up Chris Shelton, who you saw on the opposite page taking grounders at third base. Shelton was moved from first base to third about two weeks into the Class AAA season just to get everybody playing time with the logjam over at first. Shelton said Tacoma manager Darren Brown told him not to put pressure on himself to learn the position, just to go out and have fun. He knows it’s his bat the team is interested in and that this is just a temporary solution to an abundance of personnel playing the same position as him.
Shelton got off to a slow start in AAA, but then his bat picked up where it left off in spring training.
“I got sent down and was frustrated with that,” he said. “And then, a couple of days into it, I was able to move on.”
The third base role has been a challenge. Shelton admitted he’s had good days and bad and is simply looking to stay consistent — on the good side, naturally.
“I wouldn’t say I’m pretty comfortable, but I’m getting better,” he said.
Shelton admitted he was disappointed when he didn’t get called up right away once Adrian Beltre went down.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” he said. “But if they wanted to call me up, they would, and here I am.”
The reason he wasn’t called up right away was that the Mariners have no intention of letting him play third. He’s here strictly to replace Mike Sweeney as a pinch-hitter and as a DH when the M’s face a lefty starter. I asked manager Don Wakamatsu whether he’d gotten positive reports on Shelton’s third base glove.
Trying to keep a straight face, Wakamatsu was brutally honest.
“Not good,” he said. “It was the first thing I asked him. I said ‘Now you’re a Gold Glove, right?’ and he said “Uh, I’m working on it.’ No, I wouldn’t consider him unless it’s an emergency. His true position is first base.”
Spoke to Shawn Kelley a little today and he told me he’s identified a few minor issues he had his last two times out on the mound. The biggie is that he feels he was subconsciously preventing himself from “fully letting go” out on the mound. That’s natural, considering the injury he just spent nearly two months recovering from before being rushed out to the mound. Kelley has undergone Tommy John ligament transplant surgery before, but never come back from a serious injury the same season.
It takes a while for the body to recover and for a player to psychologically be ready to let go at full throttle again. Kelley didn’t even realize he was doing it, but spotted a few things when looking at video of his first two major league outings in Boston and here against Baltimore since coming off the DL.
“Now I’m ready,” he said. “I’m ready to let go.”
We’ll see. He could get that chance tonight. Then again, with Felix Hernandez on the mound, maybe not.
The lineups:
Mariners (43-41)
RF Ichiro
1B Russell Branyan
2B Jose Lopez
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
CF Franklin Gutierrez
LF Ryan Langerhans
3B Chris Woodward
C Rob Johnson
SS Ronny Cedeno
RHP Felix Hernandez
RANGERS (47-36)
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Andruw Jones
1B Hank Blalock
RF Marlon Byrd
LF David Murphy
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Elvis Andrus
RHP Tommy Hunter

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