Notes: Veterans on the fence

Notes: Veterans on the fence

ATLANTA -- Here today, gone tomorrow?

That's the scenario several veteran Pirates were left to ponder Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the Sunday trading deadline.

"The closer it gets to that deadline, you start to think that it might not happen," said outfielder Matt Lawton, who is reportedly high on the wish lists of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets.

Lawton has been traded three times in the last four years, including a deadline deal in 2001 when he shipped off from Minnesota to the Mets, so he knows the routine. However, his experience doesn't make it any easier for Lawton to ignore the speculation.

"For me, it's really weird hearing something new every day," said Lawton. "But the thing I say about it is, it's all rumors. Nobody really knows what's going on behind those closed doors."

"I've seen my agent create a lot of rumors before," Lawton added. "Maybe he's behind all of this. That's why I really don't get caught up into it. I'll know for sure [Sunday]."

First baseman Daryle Ward, who has been linked to possible deals with the Orioles and Mets, does his best to ignore the speculation.

"I haven't watched TV or anything. I really don't care," said Ward. "I'm just right here. As long as they keep my name up there I'm still a Pittsburgh Pirate. [As far as] the trade rumors, if it happens, it happens. If not, I'm still going to enjoy myself here."

Rather than worry about their immediate futures, some Pirates players have begun making up their own trade scenarios in the clubhouse.

"We kind of joke around with each other about it, just because we hear our names every now and then," said Ward. "We say, 'Are you still here?'

"We have fun with it and don't really stress about the fact that you might have to pack everything up and move."

Veteran wisdom: If Lawton, Ward or any of the other remaining veterans on the Pirates are traded in the next 24 hours, their loss will likely impact the team beyond their production between the lines.

Lawton, closer Jose Mesa and starter Mark Redman have served as important mentors for many of the young Bucs who will be leading the team's youth movement.

"Any time you have a young club, having veterans in that locker room for the younger players to lean on helps," said Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon. "Do you worry about [not having them]? Of course you do. You always want to have that veteran leadership in the locker room. Their voice goes a long way and it can help in a lot of different areas much more than the manager's or the coaches' voices."

Lawton, who credits former teammates Kirby Puckett and Chuck Knoblauch for showing him the ropes as a rookie, believes it is his responsibility to do the same for today's crop of young players.

"That's one of those things that always seems to go unnoticed -- the off-the-field stuff. A lot of young guys need that leadership role off the field," said Lawton.

"Sometimes it can get a little bit overwhelming for a lot of young guys. That's where I come in and try to smooth things over. You don't want to be in their ear all of the time, telling them what they did wrong. But when you see the opportunity to tell them there is a right way to go about things, I think they respect you for that."

For his part, Lawton thinks that players such as Jason Bay and Jack Wilson will fill the leadership void if necessary.

"This team is loaded with a lot of young talent, guys like Jason Bay, who goes out and leads by example," said Lawton. "It's kind of hard to thrust that leadership caliber on him. But why not? He's one of those guys who produces on a day-to-day basis.

"I think it's going to be a great team, regardless [of what happens]."

False alarm: Rookie Ian Snell threw an extended bullpen session Wednesday and did extra running during this past week just in case he needed to replace Redman as the Bucs' starting pitcher Saturday night against the Braves.

As it turned out, Snell's extra work was for naught. Redman made his scheduled start to the surprise of those who expected him to be dealt earlier this weekend.

Not that Snell, who had not pitched since making a spot start during a July 19 doubleheader, was complaining.

"I'm just waiting for my turn to help the team," said Snell. "They didn't need me, so I'm not too worried about it.

"Whenever they need me, I'm there."

Snell has made the most of his spare time by picking the brains of his older teammates in the bullpen.

"I'm learning a lot. They're teaching me how to handle myself," said Snell. "I'm having fun while I'm here. It's better than nothing."

Down on the farm: Right-hander Bryan Bullington, the Pirates' top overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, tossed eight scoreless innings Friday in Triple-A Indianapolis' 3-0 win over Syracuse. Indians catcher Ronny Paulino went 2-for-4 to improve his batting average to .358. ... Double-A Altoona extended its winning streak to six games with a 2-1 victory Friday at Trenton. Center fielder Rajai Davis, who has established a new Curve single-season record with 36 stolen bases, went 2-for-5 with solo home run. ... Starter Kyle Bloom did not allow an earned run in six innings pitched in Class A Lynchburg's 2-1 win Friday at Myrtle Beach. ... Neil Walker, the Bucs' No. 1 draft pick in 2004, went 2-for-4 in Class A Hickory's 6-4 loss Friday at West Virginia. ... Shortstop Brent Lillibridge went 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles in short season Williamsport's 3-2, 13-inning win Friday vs. Staten Island. ... Rookie league Bradenton was limited to two hits in an 8-1 loss Friday against the GCL Red Sox.

On deck: The Pirates and Braves will continue their four-game series Sunday afternoon at Turner Field. Right-hander Josh Fogg (5-6, 4.93 ERA) will take the mound for the Bucs against Atlanta star John Smoltz (11-5, 2.62 ERA).

Ed Eagle is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.