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Notes: Izturis' option declined

Notes: Izturis' option declined

PITTSBURGH -- As expected, the Pirates declined to pick up the 2008 option on Cesar Izturis' contract, officially making the infielder the third member of the 2007 club to file for free agency.

The Pirates had until Thursday to make an official decision on the contract option, which would have called for a $5.45 million salary in 2008. Instead, the Pirates will pay Izturis a $300,000 buyout.

Despite Izturis' status as a free agent, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington expressed a potential interest in bringing the shortstop back next season, albeit at a much lower cost. Any further talks between the Pirates and Izturis will continue during the ongoing free agency period while Izturis also gauges interest among other possible suitors.

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Earlier in the week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals may be interested in courting Izturis as a replacement for David Eckstein if Eckstein chooses to sign elsewhere.

Even with the Pirates' interest, the likelihood of Izturis returning to Pittsburgh remains doubtful. Prior to the end of the season, the 27-year-old infielder expressed an interest to return to the Pirates if given the opportunity to play on a full-time basis. The chances of that role being handed to Izturis, however, are extremely unlikely.

Though Jack Wilson played much of last season under a cloud of uncertainty as to whether or not the Pirates would trade him elsewhere, it appears that the veteran shortstop will be returning for his eighth season in Pittsburgh next year. With Wilson expected to come back, Izturis would again be relegated to a role off the bench, something that will deter him away from wanting to return.

More free agency buzz: The beginning of an open free agent market earlier this week also meant that Shawn Chacon is now free to have discussions with other teams. Huntington said that he has sent an e-mail to Chacon's agent, Dan Horwits, expressing the Pirates' interest in discussing possible contract terms, though the discussions haven't progressed any further.

While the interest remains mutual, it appears unlikely that the two sides will be close enough in terms of expected salary and desired number of years for a deal to be made.

"If his expectations are what we gauged earlier, then I don't think anything is going to be able to happen," Huntington said. "But if it has changed, we are definitely open to talking to Shawn about what it would take for him to return to Pittsburgh. Ultimately, it all comes down to what we feel is the best thing for our club."

Front office additions: Continuing to fill out his front office staff, Huntington announced this week that Larry Corrigan would be added as a special assistant to the GM.

The role is one that Corrigan held in Minnesota for the past nine years, where he assisted former Twins GM Terry Ryan. Corrigan's association with the Twins, however, goes back to 1987, when he was named the organization's supervisor of West Coast scouting. Corrigan, 57, also spent time serving as Minnesota's director of scouting and Minor League field coordinator.

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"Larry is an outstanding veteran baseball man who brings a strong talent evaluation and player development background to the Pirates," Huntington said. "He has had significant success on the amateur, professional and Major League scouting levels, and has held key roles in player development during his days with the Minnesota Twins."

Arizona Fall League wrap-up: Though the regular-season portion of the Arizona Fall League concluded on Thursday, the Phoenix Desert Dogs, who include four Pirates prospects, clinched the East Division and a berth in the league championship game on Saturday.

Making a significant, yet inconspicuous, contribution to the team's success has been Pirates lefty Dave Davidson. The 23-year-old pitcher finished the AFL season with 10 appearances and allowed just one run in 9 1/3 total innings.

Pirates prospects have also made recent waves offensively in Arizona, with both Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen currently on hitting streaks. With a 1-for-6 performance in the Desert Dogs' win Thursday, Morgan extended his hitting streak to 11 games. In those 11 games, the outfielder has hit .333, driven in six and stolen five bases.

As for McCutchen, the center fielder has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, going 13-fo-32 during that span.

Team USA update: Pirates prospects Steve Pearce and Brian Bixler continue to contribute to Team USA's success in the World Baseball Classic, which is currently being played in Taiwan. With a 10-7 win over Taiwan on Wednesday, the team locked up the No. 1 seed and a spot in the tournament quarterfinals, which began on Friday with a 3-1 Team USA victory over Korea..

Pearce has started seven of the eight games played so far, going 7-for-28 with three RBIs, one home run and one run scored. Shortstop Bixler has just four hits in 21 at-bats in the international tournament, but has scored three times, including the eventual winning run in Team USA's 4-2 win over South Africa on Tuesday.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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