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PITCHER CLAIMED OFF WAIVERS FROM DETROIT


PITCHER CLAIMED OFF WAIVERS FROM DETROIT
If there is a familiar feel to the statistics of Virgil Vasquez, the pitcher the Pirates claimed off waivers yesterday from the Detroit Tigers, there probably is a reason: They sound quite a bit like those of Josh Fogg, good and bad.

Vasquez, a 26-year-old right-hander, went 12-12 with a 4.81 ERA for the Detroit Tigers' Class AAA affiliate last season, with 115 strikeouts and 37 walks. That quality control is something he has shown throughout his professional career: In six minor league seasons, he is 54-48 with a 4.25 ERA, with 610 strikeouts and 185 walks.

Like Fogg, who pitched in Pittsburgh in 2003-06, the record sits at about .500, and the strikes come effortlessly.

But there is the bad that is comparable to Fogg, too: Vasquez gave up 27 home runs last season, with one every 10 innings over his career, as well as 179 hits in 159 innings.

Still, the Pirates liked his potential enough that they became the third team to claim him off waivers this offseason -- the Boston Red Sox did so Oct. 28, the Padres Jan. 9 -- and will give him a chance to add depth to their rotation and bullpen mix, likely after starting out with Class AAA Indianapolis.

"Vasquez is a pitcher we liked as a prospect in 2006 and 2007, when we felt he had the weapons to be a major league starting pitcher," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "Obviously he was not as productive last season and, as a result, was put on waivers. But he has a potential average-to-solid mix of pitches, with solid command and control."

Vasquez does not throw hard, but has control of a good slider, a changeup and a curveball. All of that seemed to come together in 2007, when he went 12-5 with a 3.48 ERA for Toledo and made his major league debut with Detroit, going 0-1 with an 8.64 ERA in five appearances.

Vasquez has an option remaining, so the Pirates would not risk losing him if he does not make the team out of spring training.

His addition filled the 40-man roster and raised the number of spring invitees to 57, close to where Huntington expects it to finish.

Also yesterday, the dates were set for the arbitration hearings of outfielder Nate McLouth and starter Paul Maholm, McLouth's is scheduled for Feb. 17, Maholm's for Feb. 10. Given that Major League Baseball schedules the hearings at any point during Feb. 1-21, the later dates afford the team and players some breathing room to reach an amicable settlement.

In the case of Maholm, as has been known for more than a week, he and the team have been discussing a multiyear contract, and there were indications yesterday that such a term is becoming more realistic by the day. That is not the case with McLouth, who almost surely will end with the standard one year.

The players and team exchanged salary figures last week, and the gaps were sizable: Each player is seeking $3.8 million, and the Pirates offered $2.75 million for McLouth, $2.65 million for Maholm. The arbitration panel must choose one number or the other, but a settlement can be reached at any point until the hearing.

However the hearings or settlements turn out, the Pirates likely will wind up close to their self-imposed payroll limit of $54 million for 2009.

The total committed to the 10 signed players on the roster is $35.25 million. That includes $22.4 million for the infield alone, with shortstop Jack Wilson ($7.25 million), first baseman Adam LaRoche ($7.05 million) and second baseman Freddy Sanchez ($6.1 million) the team's three highest paid players.

The two arbitration salaries remain unknown, obviously, but a range has been set: The most the Pirates can pay McLouth and Maholm is a total of $7.6 million, the least $5.4 million.

From there, barring trades or additional free-agent signings, the final 13 spots on the 25-man roster will be filled out by players either on minor league contracts or with little enough experience that they make at or close to the major league minimum salary of $400,000. Assuming an average wage of $450,000, that would add $5.85 million.

Add to that $1.4 million in 2008 buyouts that get assigned to the following year -- $1 million of that to released starter Matt Morris -- and the total payroll is $50.1 million if McLouth and Maholm each win their cases, $47.9 million if each loses.

All of which would leave Huntington roughly $4 million to spend for the year.

*

NOTES -- The Pirates signed starter Ty Taubenheim and catcher Hector Gimenez to minor league contracts, Taubenheim returning after a year in their system. Taubenheim, 26, went 4-9 with a 5.60 ERA for Indianapolis and had one quality start -- six innings, two runs -- in Pittsburgh June 28 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Gimenez, 26, batted .226 with two home runs for Tampa Bay's Class AAA affiliate in Durham, N.C. He played two games for the Houston Astros in 2006.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 28, 2009

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