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Jeremy 11-03-2006 05:23 PM

Some off-season Pirate notes
Brad Eldred looking better in the AFL

The powerful first baseman is struggling, but he has cut down on the strikeouts. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound first baseman was 2-for-11 with a double in three games and did not strike out. In 31 AFL at-bats, Eldred has whiffed just five times. He struck out 18 times in as many games with Triple-A Indianapolis this season.

Pirates close to signing Cuban pitcher

PITTSBURGH -- According to various published reports, the Pirates are close to inking a deal with Cuban defector Yuslan Herrera.

Herrera, 25, is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-handed pitcher. He went 18-7 with a 3.27 ERA in Cuba, and helped lead his country to a gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics before defecting a year later.

Herrera's agent, Jaime Torres, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Wednesday that a three-year agreement has been reached, "pending a physical."

"We're in the process of getting [Herrera] the necessary visa and paperwork," Torres said. "Once that's done, we should have a final binding contract."

The Pirates have not confirmed the signing, but general manager Dave Littlefield said that the team is actively pursuing Herrera.

"He's a guy that we've seen quite a bit, we like and [who] we'd like to acquire," said Littlefield. "We're always interested in trying to acquire players we think are talented, wherever they're from. This is a situation where we like this player, and we're trying to see if there is something we can work out."

Herrera, who throws an 88-92 mph fastball and an above-average curveball, has been working out in the Dominican Republic since fleeing Cuba, but he has not pitched competitively since 2005.

Pirates representatives, including Littlefield, have watched Herrera throw simulated games and bullpen sessions in the Dominican Republic and the United States. The Bucs have been impressed by what they've seen so far from the right-hander.

"He's certainly an advanced guy," said Littlefield. "He's a mature man who has played at a high level in Cuba and had success.

"He looks like a starter. He's physically strong. He's got a good arm, life to the fastball and a very good curveball. He also throws a slider and a changeup and a split. He's very poised."

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