Pirates confirm interest in Rick Ankiel

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Last week Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pirates were interested in Rick Ankiel, and yesterday team president Frank Coonelly confirmed their interest in a chat with fans on MLB.com:

Rick certainly had an off-year at the plate for the Cardinals in 2009, but we believe that the Pirates could provide Rick with an opportunity to re-establish himself. We have let Rick’s representative know of our interest.

In his report last week Kovacevic noted that the Pirates were pursuing both Ankiel and Hank Blalock for what’s essentially one potential opening in the lineup. Garrett Jones will start somewhere, but his position isn’t set in stone yet. He could play first base if Ankiel is signed for right field or right field if Blalock is signed for first base.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch speculates that Ankiel is looking for a one-year deal that would give him a chance to put together a comeback season and then hit the open market again, which seemingly fits the Pirates’ plans as well with prospect Jose Tabata nearing the majors. Another option could be Xavier Nady, who played for the Pirates from 2006-2008 and like Ankiel is trying to re-establish his value following a forgettable year.

Adrian Beltre cleared for extended spring training

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Adrian Beltre has been on the disabled list all year because of nagging right calf strain, but he’s about to take a big step toward getting back to action.

Beltre has been cleared to begin playing in extended spring training games. He’ll commence them tomorrow at the Rangers facility in Surprise, Arizona. After three games the team’s doctors will reevaluate him. If things go well, he’ll likely be sent off for a full minor league rehab assignment.

Joey Gallo has filled in for Beltre all season, bringing a lot of power but not much else to the table. While Beltre is 38, his all-around game would be welcomed back on the field and his leadership would be welcomed back in the Rangers clubhouse. On a personal note, Beltre is only 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

Barring a setback, he’ll be back with the big club in early June and will hit the milestone eventually.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.