Inside Pitch: Amaro being courted

Inside Pitch: Amaro being courted

Philadelphia's assistant general ganager, Ruben Amaro Jr., is drawing more attention these days than some free-agent players did last winter.

Amaro, who interviewed for Houston's GM vacancy last week, is also expected to hear from Pittsburgh regarding the Pirates' GM vacancy in the near future.

And then there's his current employer. The Phillies would like to keep Amaro, and several industry sources view him as the eventual successor to Pat Gillick whenever the Phillies' 70-year-old senior vice president and GM decides to retire.

Amaro is the hottest commodity on the GM market these days, and a man whom many expect to be a GM sooner rather than later. The only question is, where will he land?

Amaro was impressive in his initial interview with the Astros, who are looking for someone who has a strong background in player development in addition to experience with contract negotiations and evaluations. Amaro has been the Phillies' assistant GM for the last nine years and has been involved in 40-man roster and Major League contract negotiations, including salary arbitration.

In addition to Amaro, the Astros have interviewed six other candidates: Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant GM in charge of scouting; Steve Lubratich, Cleveland's director of player personnel; Cardinals assistant GM John Mozeliak; former Expos and Orioles GM Jim Beattie; former Phillies GM Ed Wade; and Muzzy Jackson, a former assistant GM for the Reds and the current special assistant to the GM for the Kansas City Royals.

Houston assistant GMs Ricky Bennett and David Gottfried, as well as former GM Bob Watson, currently the vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, will be interviewed this week.

The Astros are farther along in the search process than the Pirates, who dismissed Dave Littlefield last week and will first look to fill the club's CEO position.

Frank Coonelly, Major League Baseball's senior vice president and general counsel for labor relations, is considered the leading candidate to be named the Pirates' CEO. Coonelly is well familiar with Amaro, as their current jobs necessitate their crossing paths. Coonelly, who has been working with MLB since 1998, represents the league in collective-bargaining agreements and coordinates other financial matters, including the slot money assigned to Draft picks.

The Astros and Pirates would each like to have a new GM in place by season's end.

Don't be surprised if one of them is Amaro.

Painting the corners:

• Cincinnati's Joey Votto is hitting as though he intends to be the Reds' starting first baseman next season. Votto had seven hits in his first 14 at-bats following his callup from the Minors, including two home runs, four extra-base hits and 15 total bases.

Scouts love the left-handed-hitting Votto's power potential (22 homers, 45 extra-base hits in 496 at-bats at Triple-A Louisville this year) and smooth swing. Votto turned 24 on Monday, and with the Reds having dealt Jeff Conine, he is a possibility to stick next year even if the Reds pick up the option on Scott Hatteberg's 2008 contract ($1.85 million or a $150,000 buyout). Hatteberg, who turns 38 in December, has been a plus for the Reds and is batting .310.

• The Twins attempted to re-open negotiations with Torii Hunter, but the center fielder, who will be a free agent after the season, is expected to test the market. That makes sense, as the 32-year-old is having a career year (.290, 28 homers, 99 RBIs) and will almost certainly draw considerable interest.

Hunter, a six-time Gold Glove winner, is only 11 months older than Houston's Carlos Lee, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract as a free agent last winter.

Randy Wolf's exploratory arthroscopic surgery revealed no major damage in his left shoulder and necessitated no more than cleanup work around the labrum. The Dodgers lefty has been on the disabled list since July 4. The fact that no rotator cuff problem was found means that Wolf will have roughly eight weeks of rehab and should be ready to rejoin the Dodgers staff for Spring Training next year.

• Toronto's Jeremy Accardo has excelled in the closer's role he took over when B.J. Ryan was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery in mid-May. Accardo, who has saved a career-high 27 games, won't get as many opportunities the rest of the season, as manager John Gibbons feels Accardo may be tiring and would likely use more of a closer-by-committee in the final 20 games of the season.

"We'll back him off a little bit," Gibbons said. "There's no guarantee he's gonna be the guy to come in there and close every day."

Gibbons will now use several options, depending on the situation. Casey Janssen, Scott Downs and Brian Wolfe could be used in the ninth inning.

• After a disappointing start to the season, Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson has rediscovered his stroke and is hitting 90 points higher (.349) since the All-Star break than he was before (.259). He also leads the National League in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.447) since Sept. 1.

• Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez is considering having offseason surgery to tighten his shoulder capsule. He partially dislocated the shoulder on July 22 and will not play winter ball.

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