By John Perrotto
Could Octavio Dotel be back as the Pirates’ closer in 2011?
Club president Frank Coonelly said in his monthly chat this week on the Pirates’ official web site that Dotel is not on the trading block.
Sources with other clubs indicate that the Pirates don’t seem very willing to trade Dotel. And a high-ranking Pirates’ source indicated that the club is seriously considering holding on to Dotel and exercising the $4.5-million club option in his contract for next season.
Dotel has been a rare bright spot in another dismal Pirates’ season as he has saved 19 of their xx victories, including 10 of 11 since May 25 and the last seven in a row. He has a 4.28 ERA in 31 games but has made nine straight scoreless appearances, each covering one inning, and allowed just three hits in that span.
The backend of the Pirates’ bullpen has been the club’s biggest strength as Joel Hanrahan has a 3.79 ERA in 37 games and fellow set-up man Evan Meek has a 0.96 ERA in 39 games and will be the club’s lone representative at next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Anaheim.
It has been generally assumed that the Pirates would deal Dotel near the July 31 non-waiver deadline and move Meek into the closer’s role for the final two months of the season.
However, a person familiar with the Pirates’ thinking says they would rather let Meek continue to develop and give their starting pitchers the confidence that they can win the games in which they turn a lead over to the Meek-Hanrahan-Dotel triumvirate.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers are said to have at least slight interest in Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno and second baseman Aki Iwamura, who was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis last month.
The Tigers have had an unstable middle infield all season as rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore was sent back to the minor leagues in May and shortstop Adam Everett was released in June. They have been going with rookie Danny Worth at shortstop and veteran Carlos Guillen at second base, a position he had not played since 2000.
Cedeno is hitting just .220 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 70 games. Iwamura is batting .278 with one homer and four RBIs in 12 games with Indianapolis after hitting just .182 with two homers and nine RBIs in 54 games for the Pirates.
Cedeno and Iwamura are low on the Tigers’ priority list, though, as their main trade target is Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew. The Pirates have also been marketing Iwamura to other clubs who are looking for second base help but have gotten no interest from Boston, Colorado or Philadelphia.
John Perrotto is the editor-in-chief at BaseballProspectus.com and the baseball columnist at the Beaver County Times.