MLB Insiders - Pittsburgh Pirates

Doug Mientkiewicz is in the process of changing agents. Perhaps that will change the state of negotiations between the free agent utility player and the Pirates.

Mientkiewicz emerged as one of the clubhouse leaders of a young team last year in his first season with the Pirates. General manager Neal Huntington expressed a strong interest in re-signing Mientkiewicz as a free agent after the 34-year-old hit .277 with two home runs and 30 RBIs in 125 games.

Huntington said he had spoken to Mientkiewicz's agent, Greg Landry, on at least six occasions since the end of the season and was left with the impression they were not close to a deal. Mientkiewicz claims Landry did not apprise him of the talks, which is why he is in the process of hiring Steve Hilliard as his new agent.

"We'll see what happens, but I know I can make a difference there," Mientkiewicz said. "When you've got kids going out there every day, they're going to need a break. I think I proved last year what I can do coming off a bench."

The Pirates have not made an offer to Mientkiewicz. However, Huntington has not ruled out bringing back the 11-year veteran in 2009.

"The door is still open," Huntington said. "Doug is going to evaluate his best fit. We're going to evaluate the makeup of our bench. There still can be a match."

--New pitching coach Joe Kerrigan sees leadership qualifies in LHP Paul Maholm. However, he would like to see all the pitchers who wind up in the rotation shoulder their share of the load.

"I've had situations where all five guys are leaders," Kerrigan said. "All of them show what you want to see in a leader. Ideally, that's what will happen here. You want to see everyone do their part."

--OF Craig Monroe, signed to a minor league contract and invited to major league spring training, and stands a decent chance of winning the vacant corner outfield spot opposite Brandon Moss. Monroe, 31, hit just .202 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 58 games with Minnesota last season. However, the right-handed hitter belted a career-high 28 home runs for Detroit in 2006 when the Tigers won the American League pennant.

--C Miguel Perez was re-signed as a minor league free agent and invited to major league spring training. Perez, 25, hit .281 with two home runs and 22 RBIs in 57 games with Class AA Altoona last season.

--OF Brandon Moss took live batting practice during the Pirates' minicamp in Bradenton, Fla., for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in November. Moss hit .222 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 45 games last season after being acquired from Boston in a July 31 trade.

--LHP Tom Gorzelanny reported to minicamp 15 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season. Gorzelanny had a miserable 2008, going 6-9 with a 6.66 ERA in 21 starts after compiling a 14-10 record and 3.88 ERA in 32 starts in 2007.

--RHP Jeff Karstens missed his last throwing season at minicamp because of some slight elbow discomfort but is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. Karstens was 2-6 with a 4.03 ERA in nine starts last season after being acquired from the Yankees in a July 26 trade.

BY THE NUMBERS: $48 million -- The Pirates' payroll last season, the fourth-lowest in the major leagues behind Florida ($21 million), Tampa Bay ($43 million) and Oakland ($47 million).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no question that, a market like Pittsburgh, a salary cap would be advantageous. That being said, you see opportunities, whether it was Tampa Bay, whether it was Colorado the year before, there certainly is a model that teams with lower payrolls, smaller markets have succeeded, can succeed, and that's where we need to focus our attention." -- Pirates owner Bob Nutting, when asked if he would like Major League Baseball to adopt a salary cap.

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