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Notebook: Former Pirates have hand in Cubs’ success

CHICAGO — Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield has heard the accusations and snickers. If the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, he should be given a World Series ring for trading them Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton and Randall Simon.

He offered a quick retort Sunday when it was mentioned again on his weekly radio show.

“I’m thinking more about a World Series share,” Littlefield said, jokingly.

It’s highly unlikely the Cubs would have won the National League Central title without the services of the three former Pirates players. Lofton batted .327 and scored 39 runs in 56 games since the July 22 trade. Ramirez hit 15 home runs and had 39 RBI in 63 games. Simon, acquired Aug. 16, batted .277 with six homers and 21 RBI in 32 games.

Littlefield’s motivation, however, was not to help the Cubs hold off the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals. It was the change of the composition of the roster while freeing up financial flexibility for 2004. Lofton is a free agent at the end of the year and probably wouldn’t have been re-signed. Ramirez will make $6 million next year, and the Pirates had no intention of going to salary arbitration with Simon a second time.

“I credit the Cubs for being aggressive and addressing the needs they needed to fill,” Littlefield said. “There was no logical rationale to orchestrate a trade other than to make us better.”

The Pirates received only one major-league player in the two deals: third baseman Jose Hernandez, who will be a free agent and probably won’t be re-signed. The other players were Class AAA second baseman Bobby Hill and Class AA outfielder Ray Sadler. Minor-league pitcher Matt Bruback, another player acquired from the Cubs, was lost on waivers to the San Diego Padres.

NO REST FOR HOUSE

While the rest of his teammates were either returning to Pittsburgh or rushing to the airport to go home, catcher J.R. House boarded a flight last night for Phoenix. He was headed for the Arizona Fall League, which starts its 12th season Tuesday.

After concluding a memorable week with the Pirates, House wanted to arrive in time to play in the first fall game.

House was called up Monday to fill out the roster and didn’t get off the bench until Saturday’s doubleheader. Inserted as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the second game, House made the most of his major-league debut. He singled up the middle off Matt Clement.

“This has been a dream come true,” House said. “To end the season like this has been an unbelievable experience. I didn’t think I would get to play, but I’m happy to get that first one out of the way.”

PLAYING HIS CARD

Second baseman Jeff Reboulet took out the lineup card before the game, a duty usually performed by manager Lloyd McClendon or bench coach Pete Mackanin.

“Just in case,” Reboulet said, smiling.

Reboulet will be a free agent and, at 39 years old, he doesn’t know what his future holds.

“I may have played my last game, and I may have played my last game for the Pirates,” he said. “You never know what is going to happen.”

Signed to a minor-league contract in April, Reboulet joined the Pirates in May after the season-ending thumb injury to Pokey Reese. In 93 games and 261 at-bats, Reboulet batted .241 with three homers and 25 RBI.


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