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02-24-2007, 09:10 AM

Pirates Notebook: No extra workload for Torres

Saturday, February 24, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Salomon Torres' plan to ensure early success in 2007 will not be nearly as complex as once thought.

Put simply, he needs to think about it.

And think hard.

Torres and manager Jim Tracy had a lengthy meeting last week to discuss Torres' new duties as closer and, more important, how he can avoid another sluggish first half. Last season, he had a 4.63 ERA before the All-Star break, 1.22 afterward. For his career, the numbers are 5.12 before the break, 3.53 afterward.

It is one thing for a setup man to start slow, quite another for a closer.

"It's just about preparing myself mentally, and that's what I told Jim Tracy," Torres said yesterday. "Maybe in the past when I came here, things were more relaxed for me. I knew what was expected, what my role would be, and that was my approach. This is different. I'm the closer now, and I know I need to be at my best at the start."

Tracy, his staff and advance scout Kent Tekulve, a former closer, had toyed with the idea of giving Torres a heavy workload in the spring. The reasoning: Torres thrives off such use, as evidenced by his 94 appearances last season that were most in Major League Baseball, and his sinker has better bite the more he pitches.

But the workload apparently will be nothing out of the norm.

"No, he's just going to pitch like he always would," Tracy said. "From listening to him, this is going to be much more about how he handles things mentally. That's how we'll go."

More rest for Nady

The expected return of outfielder Xavier Nady, hospitalized Tuesday through Thursday for a viral infection of the intestine, was delayed a day.

The Pirates loosely projected that he could return to camp yesterday and have limited activity, but the team and player opted to use the day for rest. General manager Dave Littlefield said Nady should return today.

Bayliss held back

Reliever Jonah Bayliss has been kept off the mound since Tuesday because of a strained quadriceps muscle in his left leg. He called it "no big deal" and predicted he could pitch over the weekend.

McCutchen exits early

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' top prospect, left the workout because of gastritis. He also made an early exit Thursday. Littlefield described the ailment as "nothing serious" and suggested McCutchen would be back soon.

Buried treasure

Jose Castillo finally joined the major-leaguers for infield drills. He and Jose Hernandez switched off at third base, sharing the infield with Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche.

Even though outfielder Jody Gerut still is not running, Littlefield said the Pirates' doctors have told him Gerut should be able to start the season. Gerut had knee surgery in late May.

Some of the Penguins' contingent had hoped to participate in batting practice with the Pirates this morning, but the plan was scrapped because of the timing and location of their practice.

Six pitchers threw to hitters, including Torres, John Grabow, Josh Sharpless and Masumi Kuwata.

Because Sanchez made contact with one of the six pitches he saw from Kuwata, he was peppered with 10 minutes of questioning by the Japanese media. "How were you able to get your bat on the ball?" one reporter asked in English.

The workout today begins at 9:50 a.m.

02-24-2007, 10:22 PM

Notebook: Pirates center fielder McCutchen not practicing

Saturday, February 24, 2007

? Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' top prospect, did not practice Friday. Wearing street clothes, McCutchen showed up briefly at Pirate City before leaving to be examined by team doctors. "Stomach irritation," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "Nothing serious."

? Xavier Nady (intestinal inflammation) also skipped yesterday's workout after being released Thursday from a local hospital following a three-day stay. "We decided to give him another day (off), and he'll be back at it (today)," Littlefield said. Littlefield said Nady is taking medication, but he would not divulge specifics about the right fielder's diagnosis.

? Shortstop Javier Guzman (sore left knee) sat out practice for the second day in a row.

? After spending the past few days working with the minor leaguers, Jose Castillo worked at third base with starters Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche. Jose Bautista was on Field 2, taking grounders at third with the minor leaguers.

? There are indications pitcher Serguey Linares might report to camp early next week. Linares, a Cuban defector, is in the Dominican Republic awaiting a work visa. A box full of equipment and personal items showed up two days ago at Linares' locker at McKenchnie Field. Also, Linares' name has begun popping up on the list of assignments for various drills during practice.


19 - Days Xavier Nady missed last season after undergoing an appendectomy.

.300 - Nady's batting average in 55 games with the Pirates last year.

-- Rob Biertempfel

04-28-2007, 12:51 PM

Pirates Notebook: Other closer options exist if 'spiral' continues

Saturday, April 28, 2007

By Dejan Kovacevic
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pirates' unquestioned preference is for Salomon Torres to be their closer.

If he overcomes his recent struggles, as manager Jim Tracy made clear on the day Torres recorded a shaky seventh save, that makes for a bullpen with a reliable veteran in the anchor role, a young but highly dependable setup man in Matt Capps, and another youngster capable of late-inning work in Jonah Bayliss. With Shawn Chacon maybe working his way into the mix, too.

"It has the makings of something very special," Tracy said.

Which might best explain why Tracy is sticking by Torres despite three blown saves in 10 chances and an average of 1.9 walks and hits per inning that is third-highest among National League relievers.

At the same time, Tracy continues to qualify his support. And that might be because he is aware he has other, potentially attractive options.

"If things continue to spiral downward, you've got to look at the situation and see if there's a difference course of action we can take," Tracy said. "But we're not to that point. And I don't want to make it seem like I'm suggesting that that's where we're headed. Not today we're not."

Capps is the clear choice to replace Torres if it comes to that. He has swing-and-miss stuff and some of the best command in all of Major League Baseball. But Tracy stressed caution with Capps, 23, who is in his second full season.

"We've got to give ample time for a guy to say, 'Hey, that's my job,' or to force your hand," Tracy said. "And we've got to bear in mind that this guy who has been so successful the past couple seasons had pitched in all of four major-league games prior to 2006."

Capps and Bayliss are standing firmly behind Torres, but each also allows that he would welcome the opportunity to close someday.

Capps had 21 saves in his final season in the minors, 21 total for Class A Hickory and Class AA Altoona. Bayliss had 23 last season for Class AAA Indianapolis.

"Most guys in the bullpen, that's the role they eventually want," Capps said. "I feel like Salomon's done a good job. But, if that opportunity comes up, it's something I'll embrace."

"There's a real rush to it, something I feed off," Bayliss said. "It's something I'd love to do in the majors. But it's not even in my vision right now."

It also should not be forgotten that Chacon, another of the Pirates' best relievers so far, had 35 saves for the Colorado Rockies in 2004.

Nady out for weekend?

Outfielder Xavier Nady, still slowed by a strained left hamstring, did not return to the starting lineup last night, as had been the most optimistic projection. Tracy said he will be limited to bench duty for "a couple more days."

Nady did his first serious running yesterday, and his recent strength tests have been "very good," Tracy said.

Buried treasure

Ryan Doumit was shagging flies in right field before the game and could start there tonight against Cincinnati right-hander Matt Belisle. A catcher by trade, he spent almost all winter in the outfield in Mexico. "We're going to get him involved there," Tracy said.

Carlos Maldonado spent last September with the Pirates, but has fallen far: He was demoted yesterday from Indianapolis to Altoona, and this after disappointing management by reporting to spring training overweight. Einar Diaz and Milver Reyes are Indianapolis' catchers now.

Utilityman Don Kelly will throw out the first pitch for Brighton Heights' Little League opener at 12:25 p.m. today. The league's field was renovated by the Pirates and 84 Lumber in the offseason.

05-26-2007, 02:43 PM

Pirates Notebook: Weekend series looms as potential crossroads

Saturday, May 26, 2007
By Paul Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CINCINNATI -- The Pirates arrived here early Thursday night none too fresh from having lost a fifth consecutive game in St. Louis.

They had slipped a season-low eight games under .500. They are a lot closer to last place than first in the National League Central Division.

With the Memorial Day milestone rapidly approaching, it would seem the Pirates have reached a crossroads in their season.

"I hadn't thought about it that way," left fielder Jason Bay said. "Our saving grace [previously] was that we were always close record-wise. It wasn't life and death [at the Memorial Day milestone]. There were still a ton of games to be played. But we're getting to the point now where we need to still be in striking distance and these four games are a part of that.

"It's tough to put that much pressure on one four-game series out of 162 games, but the offense was coming around and we were playing good and now we've kind of [slipped]."

Shortstop Jack Wilson took another tack.

"I'm the optimist around here," he said. "There's a lot of baseball left. We just finished the quarter mark [at 19-22]. If you have three good quarters out of four, you're going to be in good shape.

"Obviously, we don't want to put ourselves in too deep a hole like we did last year, but, at any time, this could turn around for the better. We're not close to where we believe we should be, but, at the same time, there is a lot of baseball left, so there's plenty of time to get back into it."

Gorzelanny says he is OK

Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, struck on his left thumb by a line drive Thursday, believes he will be able to take his next turn Tuesday night against San Diego.

"I don't see any reason why I won't," he said yesterday.

"[The medical staff] did a very good job of keeping the swelling down," said manager Jim Tracy, who feared initially the ball hit by Aaron Miles had broken Gorzelanny's thumb. "We were very lucky."

Gorzelanny played catch yesterday and probably will throw his usual between-starts bullpen session tomorrow.

Chacon on pitch count

Shawn Chacon makes his first start of the season tonight as he replaces Tony Armas as the Pirates' fifth starter.

"I think he'll go out there and be very competitive," Tracy said.

Chacon's pitch limit will "probably be in the neighborhood of about 90 -- somewhere around in there," according to Tracy.

Pearce makes a hit

First baseman Steve Pearce, promoted from Class A Lynchburg to Class AA Altoona almost a month ago, seems to be fitting in nicely with the Curve.

"He's probably one of the goofiest guys I've ever met," third baseman Neil Walker said. "He's fun to play with. He keeps it light."

"He's funny, quirky," Altoona manager Tim Leiper said.

Also pretty good. Through Thursday night, Pearce had a .280 batting average with six doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs in 75 at-bats.

"He's awesome," Leiper said.

"He has no fear. He attacks the ball. He's absolutely ready to pounce on every pitch. He's a gamer. He wants to win. He wants to be great out there every single day."

Delaney makes improvement

It would seem Lynchburg's Jason Delaney has put himself in the position of perhaps earning a promotion to Altoona.

"He's definitely in a position to be considered a prospect," said Brian Graham, the Pirates' senior player development director.

Delaney, 24, was drafted as an outfielder out of Boston College in the 12th round of the 2005 draft. He's added first base to his resume after Pearce's promotion Altoona.

Delaney had a rough time transitioning to a wood bat with Williamsport in 2005, batting just .213 in 55 games.

But he hit .300 with Class A Hickory last season. This season, helped by a recent 13-for-25 surge, he leads the Carolina League with a .358 batting average. In 42 games, Delaney has 10 doubles, five home runs and 28 RBIs.

06-08-2007, 06:44 AM

Pirates Notebook: Nady healthy enough to DH

Friday, June 08, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WASHINGTON -- Xavier Nady is well enough that he could be the Pirates' designated hitter for the three-game set that opens tonight in Yankee Stadium.

Or he could do more.

Manager Jim Tracy said yesterday that the team's athletic trainers were encouraged enough by Nady's recovery from a tight left hamstring -- he was removed in the second inning Wednesday night after feeling what he described as a "burning sensation" running the bases -- that he was made available for pinch-hitting yesterday.

He did not pinch-hit, but he did some running before the game -- by his estimate, "60-70 percent speed" -- and reported little difficulty.

"It's not anything like the last time," Nady said, referring to missing 10 starts to the same injury in late April and early May. "It's already feeling better."

More tests today in New York will determine if Nady can return to right field, something Tracy did not rule out for this weekend. If he cannot, he probably will be the designated hitter rather than Ryan Doumit.

Another dead duck

The Pirates had their 14th runner thrown out at home yesterday, the second time it happened without a slide.

In the second inning of the 3-2 victory against the Washington Nationals, Ronny Paulino was on first base when Jack Wilson doubled to left. Although Paulino clearly was going less than full tilt from first to third, third base coach Jeff Cox waved him home.

Tracy praised Cox for the decision, pointing out that pitcher Ian Snell was on deck with two outs.

Left fielder Ryan Church's throw to catcher Brian Schneider was on target, and Paulino was tagged without a slide. Why no slide?

"I never got a signal," Paulino said.

That was because Snell was back at the on-deck circle rather than close to the box to give Paulino the slide sign.

Tracy took no issue with any aspect of the play, including the non-slide.

"It didn't look to me like he had a chance to score," Tracy said.

Un-American attitude

The Pirates tonight begin a stretch of 15 interleague games, and that never is a good thing.

They are 52-84 overall since the leagues began crisscrossing in 1997, and that includes 10 opposition sweeps in 46 series and a 19-46 mark in American League parks.

And they bottomed out last year, going 3-12 and getting outscored, 93-71.

"It hasn't been very kind to us," Tracy said. "There are some good teams in the American League, I'll tell you that."

Few would dispute that, given the American's continuing dominance of the National across the board. Still, the Pirates' negative numbers are staggering, and they might be traced to a massive disparity in designated hitters when playing on the road: Opponents send to the plate sluggers whose careers are built around the bat, while the Pirates' designated hitters for the past decade have batted .254 with nine home runs in 240 at-bats.

Doumit, the main DH the past two years, batted .182 -- 6 for 33 -- with no home runs and four RBIs.

"Those teams have their lineups and don't have to change a thing when we come into their place," Tracy said. "But that will be different next week, when they come to Pittsburgh and their pitchers have to hit."

The Pirates are 9-23 against the five teams -- Yankees, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels -- they face in this stretch.

Capps hearing today

Closer Matt Capps' appeal of his four-game suspension for hitting the Milwaukee Brewers' Prince Fielder with a pitch May 5 finally will be heard this morning in New York.

The case will be heard by Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, and a ruling is expected before the game tonight.

Capps spent part of yesterday morning on the phone preparing for the hearing.

Asked if he remembers anything about the incident, now five weeks old, he laughed and replied, "We'll see."

Buried treasure

Salomon Torres will be the closer in Capps' absence, and Tracy reiterated -- passionately -- his support for Torres despite monster struggles of late: "We need him. We need him! You can't manage around Salomon Torres. He has to be a part of what we do."

Rajai Davis made his third start in a row since being promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis, and he should get a fourth tonight against left-hander Andy Pettitte.

Josh Shortslef, a left-handed starter for Class AA Altoona and member of the Pirates' 40-man roster, yesterday avoided opening his season 0-7, which would have matched a Curve record. Shortslef, 1-6 despite a respectable 3.88 ERA, went six innings in a 13-6 rout of New Britain.

06-09-2007, 10:48 AM
I like these comments by Torre. :thumbsup:


Pirates Notebook: Torre would rather be at PNC

Saturday, June 09, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEW YORK --The oddity of the Pirates visiting Yankee Stadium for the second time in the past three years, while the Yankees have not been to Pittsburgh since 1960, apparently was not lost on New York manager Joe Torre.

"This series probably made more sense being played in Pittsburgh," Torre said before the game last night. "We probably would have helped to sell out their ballpark. This is the second time now that we've played them here. ... But I'm not the schedule-maker."

Major League Baseball makes the schedule, of course, and the one for 2008 likely will include the Yankees visiting PNC Park, though that is not official.

Torre admitted knowing little about the Pirates, whom the Yankees see only in Grapefruit League exhibitions.

"That's the extent of it," Torre said. "You watch them from time to time on TV but, to be honest, you spend more time scouting the American League. This is one reason I'm not a real fan of interleague play, because you don't know a lot about your opposition. It's uncomfortable."

He did offer a word of praise for Pirates manager Jim Tracy.

"I do know this: Mr. Tracy does a real good job of getting his players' attention," Torre said. "I've had a lot of respect for him for a long time."

Capps' ruling is delayed
No ruling will be made on Pirates closer Matt Capps' appeal of a four-game suspension until Monday or Tuesday, making him available to pitch all weekend.

"Music to my ears," Capps said.

Capps was suspended for hitting the Milwaukee Brewers' Prince Fielder with a pitch May 5. He argued then, and again yesterday in meeting with MLB vice president Bob Watson, that he did not intend to throw at Fielder.

"Thought I did pretty well," Capps said.

Clemens debut today
Roger Clemens' 2007 debut this afternoon will draw media from across the country, as well as a throbbing sellout crowd to Yankee Stadium. And that is sure to have an intangible impact on the game, given Clemens' history of feeding off such environs.

As Torre put it, "He should have an advantage, emotionally, over the other team, though you certainly don't take for granted a victory."

Ask some of the Pirates, though, and they will point out that facing Clemens eight times in the three previous years -- they were 3-5 against him while he pitched for the Houston Astros --will nullify some of that.

"This would have been a much bigger deal for us if we'd never faced him," center fielder Chris Duffy said. "I mean, it's still going to be crazy. But that makes it a little easier."

Torre said that Clemens, slowed in recent days by a sore groin, likely will go no deeper than four or five innings.

Kuwata has famous fan
Count Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui among those pulling for the Pirates to promote reliever Masumi Kuwata from Class AAA Indianapolis.

"He's very close, I know," Matsui said in a brief and rare English-only interview yesterday.

"He's a good pitcher, friend and teammate. He will do very well."

Matsui and Kuwata were teammates for a decade on Japan's Yomiuri Giants, one the team's slugger, the other its star pitcher.

Their other difference?

"His English is much better," Matsui said, laughing.

Matsui ended the interview by saying, "When he comes to Pittsburgh, tell him I said hello."

Buried treasure
Xavier Nady, whose left hamstring was reinjured Wednesday in Washington, was cleared to be the designated hitter after an afternoon running test. He probably will remain in the role for the weekend, as Tracy deemed his hamstring "about 80 percent."

Pirates owners Bob Nutting and Kevin McClatchy are in New York for the series.

The Texas Rangers' rotation for the series next week at PNC Park -- Kevin Millwood, Kameron Loe and Robinson Tejada -- each has an ERA above 6.00.

06-11-2007, 07:39 PM

Pirates Notebook: Kuwata gets rude welcome

Monday, June 11, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEW YORK -- Masumi Kuwata took a long time to pitch in a Major League Baseball game.

And it surely will be a lot longer before he forgets it, for good reasons and bad.

Kuwata, so joyous yesterday morning upon finally joining the Pirates after being promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis, so fired up after a 1-2-3 debut inning against the New York Yankees, experienced his true welcome-to-the-majors moment when Alex Rodriguez took him deep for a two-run home run in the sixth.

It was a first-pitch fastball that was intended to go inside but ended up over the plate, and Rodriguez drove it high above the right-field fence for a 10-6 New York lead.

"The first inning was OK," Kuwata said. "The second inning was not. A walk after two outs. Not good, you know?"

Kuwata described himself as "very nervous" when he entered in the fifth, but he zipped through it on 11 pitches. He got two quick outs in the sixth, too, before Bobby Abreu drew a seven-pitch walk to bring up Rodriguez.

"He did fine," manager Jim Tracy said of Kuwata. "We saw strikes. We saw know-how. And the guy who homered off him can do it anywhere."

Kuwata, at 39 years, 70 days, became the oldest player to make his major-league debut since Sept. 5, 1960, when Diomedes Olivo debuted with the Pirates at age 41.

Before the game, Kuwata was interviewed by about 40 members of the Japanese media.

"Playing in America became a dream of mine when I was 20 years old," he said. "I'm very happy to be able to pitch in the major leagues. I'm glad to finally realize my dream. I can't believe this, you know?"

Bullington has setback

Bryan Bullington was pulled after one inning of his start for Class AAA Indianapolis yesterday in Charlotte, N.C., because of what the Pirates described as discomfort in his right shoulder. The team called the move precautionary.

Bullington, in his first full year back from 2005 surgery on that shoulder, is an International League-best 9-2 with a 2.83 ERA.

Relief on the way?

General manager Dave Littlefield confirmed he is considering bringing up help from Indianapolis to keep the bullpen at full strength, given that Matt Capps' suspension should begin tomorrow and Salomon Torres is on the disabled list. To do that, a position player must be demoted.

"We'll consider a few different things," Littlefield said.

Littlefield cited Franquelis Osoria, Dan Kolb and Juan Perez as the relievers being considered. Osoria, owner of a 2.35 ERA, is the most likely choice.

It also is possible, given the miserable performance of the bullpen on this trip, that more than one reliever could be recalled and someone sent down.

Wilson, Paulino sit

The day after shortstop Jack Wilson and catcher Ronny Paulino contributed to a poor overall defensive showing by the Pirates, neither was in the lineup. Jose Castillo was at short, Ryan Doumit behind the plate.

Tracy was adamant that the moves were "not at all" influenced by the defense Saturday.

After the game, Tracy was effusive in his praise of Castillo, who went 2 for 3 with a walk and two gems in the field. The best of those came in the fifth, when he ranged deep in the hole on a Wil Nieves grounder for one of the Pirates' finest plays of the season.

"Tremendous game," Tracy said of Castillo. "Two highlight-reel plays, and another routine ground ball that he fielded ... you know, like you like to see a player field a routine ground ball."

Buried treasure

Tracy said his closer in Capps' absence would be by "a couple of people." Jonah Bayliss, who had 23 saves for Indianapolis last season, will be the primary. But, if a left-hander is needed, he would use Damaso Marte, who had 21 saves for the Chicago White Sox in 2002-03.

Littlefield said catcher Humberto Cota, whose period of being designated for assignment expires Thursday, will not be released. He will be traded or outrighted to the minors.

Kuwata did not have a chance to speak with New York left fielder Hideki Matsui, his decade-long teammate in Japan, but he faced him in the sixth inning. Matsui drew a five-pitch walk. "He was confused by my pitches," Kuwata said. "I think I was confused, too."

The Pirates are 0-6 against the Yankees in interleague play.

06-12-2007, 01:30 PM

Pirates Notebook: Torres gets good news; Kolb coming up

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pirates reliever Salomon Torres experienced quite a relief yesterday, learning that his ailing elbow will not require surgery.

An MRI taken yesterday morning at Allegheny General Hospital showed that the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow is inflamed but not torn. That means the injury should heal with some rest, though it was not immediately known how much.

"I'm hoping to come back as soon as possible," Torres said yesterday.

He is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list June 24.

Torres, 35, initially informed management of elbow discomfort in spring training, but he pitched through off-and-on pain as the Pirates' closer until complaining of pain Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.

Kolb to be promoted

Reliever Dan Kolb will be promoted today by the Pirates from Class AAA Indianapolis.

Kolb, a 32-year-old right-hander, had a 3.15 ERA in 18 appearances, along with 16 strikeouts and nine walks in his 20 innings. He missed the final three weeks of May to a hamstring injury but pitched five times after that.

Kolb's promotion, which will become official this morning, will require two other moves: One, a player -- likely a position player -- must be demoted off the 25-man roster. Two, a space must be cleared on the full 40-man roster.

Management also was weighing the possibility of bringing up reliever Franquelis Osoria. If he joins Kolb, a current reliever would be returned to Indianapolis.

Bullington's arm tired

Indianapolis starter Bryan Bullington, removed after one inning Sunday because of shoulder discomfort, is being described as having little more than arm fatigue and probably will miss just one turn in the rotation. In his first year back from shoulder surgery, he has averaged 61/3 innings in his 13 starts.

Sean Burnett, another ailing starter at Indianapolis, performed his scheduled long-tossing session Sunday and is with the team in Charlotte, N.C.

Buried treasure

There was no announcement on reliever Matt Capps' appeal of his four-game suspension. That is expected today.

No fewer than 20 Japanese journalists -- likely more -- will be at PNC Park tonight for reliever Masumi Kuwata's first home game. And several of those plan on sticking with the team for the foreseeable future.

The Pirates signed the first seven of their 2007 draft class: catcher Juan Garcia (seventh round), left-hander Anthony Watson (ninth), infielder Erik Huber (12th), right-hander Harrison Bishop (17th), infielder Matt Cavagnaro (21st), right-hander Taylor Cameron (31st) and right-hander Gary Amato (48th).

06-13-2007, 12:30 PM

Pirates Notebook: Castillo starts in Wilson's spot again

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jack Wilson, the Pirates' everyday shortstop for seven years, was benched a second consecutive game last night in favor of Jose Castillo.

Still, as was the case Sunday at Yankee Stadium, manager Jim Tracy was adamant yesterday that his decision was no reflection on Wilson.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with Jack," Tracy said. "You'll see Jack much sooner rather than later."

He did not get more specific with that timetable, but he did make abundantly clear his view that Castillo deserved another start after a strong showing Sunday in New York. He went 2 for 4 with a walk and made two defensive gems at shortstop.

"When a player goes out and performs in that manner, it would be very difficult for Jose to come into this clubhouse, sit down at his locker and see that his name is not in the lineup," Tracy said. "Not with the game he played."

Tracy was asked if such a move sends a positive message to the clubhouse that good performance will be rewarded.

"You know something? With teams that perform well, the individuals who are in the lineup, they perform."

Kelly's future uncertain

Utilityman Don Kelly, the Mt. Lebanon native and Point Park College graduate who was the greatest surprise out of spring training, was designated for assignment yesterday to clear roster space for reliever Dan Kolb.

A team has 10 days after making such a designation to trade, release or demote a player if he clears waivers.

"Who knows what can happen?" Kelly said.

Kelly batted .154 -- 4 for 26 --without an extra-base hit or RBI.

"It's a tough deal to go out there two or three times a week and take an at-bat," he said. "If I end up in Indianapolis and get consistent at-bats, that will be a positive out of this."

Kolb's contract was purchased from Class AAA Indianapolis, and he arrived about two hours before the game.

Tracy said Kolb will be used in middle relief and will not be a closer option if Matt Capps is suspended.

Torres to Bradenton

Reliever Salomon Torres, who will fly soon to Bradenton, Fla., to rehabilitate his ailing right elbow, will not resume throwing until the middle of next week.

Given that he surely will need to make some minor-league rehabilitation outings after that, it seems highly unlikely he will come off the 15-day disabled list June 25, his first day eligible. A more realistic target would appear to be during the June 29-July 8 homestand.

Torres has what he described yesterday as a "severely inflamed" medial collateral ligament.

Buried treasure

Capps had been told by Major League Baseball he would have a ruling on his appeal of that four-game suspension no later than yesterday, but it passed with no word.

Xavier Nady's seamless running tests before the game convinced management he was well enough to play right field. Nady's strained left hamstring limited him to designated hitter duty over the weekend in New York.

The Pirates issued more than 40 credentials to Japanese media for reliever Masumi Kuwata's first game in Pittsburgh. That group also had a chance to gather around Texas closer Akinori Otsuka, who knows of Kuwata but never played in the same Japanese league with him.

The Pirates signed six more draft picks, including Tracy's son, right-hander Brian Tracy, their 20th-rounder. The rest were right-handers Matthew Foust (sixth) and Kyle McPherson (14th), outfielder Marcus Davis (18th), shortstop Chad Rice (24th) and left-hander Daniel Forrer (32nd).

The 40-man roster remains full, as Kolb took Kelly's place.

Kolb's addition adds $1.25 million to the payroll. He and starter Tony Armas were the Pirates' only free-agent signings in the offseason.

06-16-2007, 08:11 AM
Castillo is a bum! Jim Tracy must be just about the dumbest manager in major league baseball. The infield he runs out there every night is far and away the worst one in baseball and he's the only person who doesn't seem to notice.

06-18-2007, 10:21 PM

Pirates Notebook: Snell won't be cooking in Seattle

Monday, June 18, 2007
By Paul Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ian Snell will not start tomorrow night against Seattle because of a blister on the index finger of his right hand.

The right-hander blistered his finger while cooking in his kitchen.

"I was cooking a chicken breast for a salad and burned my finger," Snell said. "I'm all right, but the salad wasn't too good."

Snell now is scheduled to start Saturday night in Anaheim.

Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm and John Van Benschoten will start the three games in Seattle, with Zach Duke starting Friday night against the Angels.

We meet again

The Mariners' series will give the Pirates their first look at Ichiro Suzuki since 2004. The two-time American League batting champion went 3 for 12 against the Pirates in a three-game series at PNC Park that year.

It's possible Pirates reliever Masumi Kuwata will face Suzuki in a confrontation of former Japanese League legends.

"I would enjoy facing him," Kuwata said. "He's a good hitter. I would just try to get him to hit a ground ball."

Because they played in different leagues in Japan, Kuwata and Suzuki didn't face each other regularly.

Kuwata remembers pitching to Suzuki three times.

The right-hander retired Suzuki on a ground ball to shortstop in an All-Star game. In exhibition games against Kuwata, Suzuki struck out and doubled.

Remembering Ichiro

Jason Bay remembered the series against the Mariners -- and Suzuki -- at PNC Park.

"Speed kills, and he's got that," Bay said. "He puts a lot of pressure on the infielders to make plays. They know they have to be quick, and they panic a little bit.

"I think he's somebody who gets overlooked a little bit because he's a leadoff guy and a singles hitter, but he's one of the better hitters in the game."

"He's definitely an offensive threat," Pirates bench coach Jim Lett said. "He's the only guy on which the infielders have to play in instead of back because of his speed.

"You try basically to keep the ball in and let him try to hook it to the second baseman or first baseman. He has good plate coverage, and he's got sneaky power."

Suzuki isn't a real selective batter.

"He's not up there to walk," Lett said. "You're hoping he'll fish for something."

Negotiations continue

The Pirates continue to negotiate a signing bonus with left-hander Daniel Moskos, their first-round pick in the draft.

Negotiations include a "start, middle and done," according to Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield. The Pirates, then, would be in the "middle" part of the process.

Not looking back

John Van Benschoten had plenty of time to reflect on pitching in a major-league game Saturday night for the first time since 2004. He could have done that while flying from Durham to Indianapolis Friday. Or while driving from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh Friday. Or after the game Saturday night. But he didn't.

"Looking back on it [shoulder surgeries] is kind of depressing," he said. "I'd rather look forward to what could happen the rest of this year. The last two years wasn't a good time. I wasn't really reflecting on that."

In the minors

Sean Burnett, who had been bothered by a left hand problem, is scheduled to start tonight for Class AAA Indianapolis.

Right-hander Bryan Bullington, who left his start at Charlotte after one inning a week ago because of shoulder discomfort, is throwing, but his next start hasn't been scheduled.

"He doesn't seem to be having any difficulty throwing," Indianapolis manager Trent Jewett said. "I don't think this is a long-term situation."

Buried treasure

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who has been out because of the flu, reported he felt "a lot better" yesterday. He should be able to start tomorrow night.

Center fielder Chris Duffy, out with a tight right hamstring, said yesterday he felt "twice as good" as he did Saturday. "I'm progressing quickly," he said, adding he hoped to be able to start again tomorrow night. Duffy did pinch-hit yesterday and bounced to second in the sixth inning.

Lynchburg outfielder/first baseman Jason Delaney (.341) continues to lead the Carolina League in hitting. Might he be in line for a promotion to Class AA Altoona? "It's probably close," said Jeff Banister, the Pirates' minor-league field coordinator. "His biggest thing is finding a position he can play consistently."

06-20-2007, 08:34 PM

Pirates Notebook: Tracy sticks by Paulino as catcher

Wednesday, June 20, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SEATTLE -- To get more offense from their catcher, the Pirates could do one of two things:

1. Get Ronny Paulino to hit something approaching his .310 mark as a rookie last year.

2. Use Ryan Doumit instead, but have him lower the gaudy 6.63 ERA that pitchers have when he is behind the plate.

To hear manager Jim Tracy tell it, each option will be pursued. The coaching staff will continue to work with Paulino to raise his .218 average. And Doumit will keep getting work behind the plate with a primary focus on his game-calling.

At the same time, Tracy left little doubt that the first option is his No. 1.

"We absolutely love what Ronny Paulino does for this pitching staff," he said last night before the Pirates' game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. "There's great value to it. Just look at the numbers."

The statistics are, indeed, stark in their contrast: Pitchers have a 3.97 ERA when Paulino catches, much lower than Doumit's 6.63 or Humberto Cota's 5.71. Moreover, the Pirates are 28-22 when Paulino starts behind the plate, 2-13 when it is Doumit, 1-4 when it was Cota.

Then again, the difference is just as stark offensively: Doumit is batting .331, while Paulino's average ranks 14th among the National League's 16 starting catchers.

"Believe me, I know Ronny Paulino's not performing offensively the way we saw him a year ago," Tracy said. "But do you compromise your pitching when you know there's a comfort level there with what's a major strength of our club? Are you going to compromise that for some added offense?"

Tracy added that he has seen improvement in Doumit's game-calling this season vs. last, but he stressed the importance of making adjustments once the starting pitcher is facing the lineup for the second or third time.

"That's a big part of the craft," Tracy said.

The Pirates could simply call the game from the dugout when Doumit catches, of course, as many teams do. But Tracy's preference, as he reiterated, is to have the catcher do it because of his unique vantage point.

"No one sees the pitches the way the catcher does," Tracy said. "No one sees better how the batter moves his feet, which pitches are fooling him, which ones aren't working. You can't see it from anywhere else in the stadium."

Doumit, who started in right field last night, expressed optimism that his game-calling will become a strength. But he also acknowledged it can get better.

"I'd like to think it's coming along OK," he said. "I've been watching a lot more film about opposing team's hitters than I have in the past, and I've been working with our pitchers to find out how they want to approach each guy. I've worked hard at it."

Asked if he might be more comfortable having the game called from the bench, Doumit replied, "You know what? To be honest with you, sometimes I do get stuck. I think every catcher does, with so much going on. Obviously, I don't want to look over there every single pitch. But there are some times when I do need help."

Bay gets semi-break

Jason Bay, the only member of the Pirates to have appeared in all 70 games, was the designated hitter last night, Tracy said, so that he essentially could rest Bay without actually resting him.

"And we might do it again on this trip," Tracy said, referring to the weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels. "We're just looking to give him a chance to get his legs back under him."

The timing was no accident: Bay entered the game in a 5 for 46 tailspin.

Bay, Doumit near home

No member of the Pirates is from Seattle proper, but Bay is from Trail, British Columbia, a seven-hour drive, and Doumit graduated from Moses Lake High School, a two-hour drive away.

Doumit estimated his following in the crowd at 70.

"Just awesome," he said. "It means so much to me."

Two buses full of Bay admirers, including much of his family, from Trail made the trip for the game last night and filled an especially boisterous section of the stands.

Buried treasure

Center fielder Chris Duffy, out since Friday because of a tight right hamstring, did running exercises but remained unable to start, Tracy said. His status is day to day.

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez was back in the lineup after a weekend bout with the flu.

Seemingly on a whim, first baseman Adam LaRoche grabbed some clippers and gave himself a spiked haircut before the game. "Just to fit in, I guess," he said, referring to Seattle's eclectic social scene.

Now that the Pirates finally have played in Seattle, the only current MLB city in which they never have played a regular-season game is Baltimore. History will show, of course, that they did play some fairly meaningful games there in 1971 and 1979.

The Pirates signed two more draft picks, right-handed pitchers Matt Welker (second round) and Maurice Bankston (eighth), to raise their total to 23.

06-20-2007, 11:56 PM

Pirates Notebook: Wild relievers could take a walk

Thursday, June 21, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SEATTLE -- The Pirates are carrying a rather unwieldy total of 8 relievers, but that is sure to be reduced soon.

One might be out as early as tomorrow, when closer Matt Capps' three-game suspension ends.

Another could be out by the end of the weekend, when the team loses the ability to carry a three-man bench as it can in American League stadiums.

Who will go?

The best way to guess, judging by the pointed message sent by manager Jim Tracy before the Pirates' game last night at Safeco Field, is to check the relievers' walk totals.

"Walks are never good, and they're even worse late in the game," Tracy said. "If you walk people with six outs or less to go in a major-league game ... we've seen how that plays out."

Listen, too, to Tracy's description of why he appreciates the work of newcomer Masumi Kuwata:

"I trust him. He's a professional. He knows what he's doing. When he takes the mound, you know he's going to throw strikes. Watch him, and you might learn something."

Sure sounds like Kuwata is sticking around.

So, who does that leave on the bubble?

Dan Kolb, whose $1.2 million contract was purchased from Class AAA Indianapolis last week, has given up three runs, six hits and two walks -- one intentional -- in his first three appearances. Only 34 of his 64 pitches were strikes. Still, management might feel he has not had enough opportunity.

Jonah Bayliss, owner of a 7.56 ERA, has been scored upon in four of his past five outings, with two walks in that span.

Tony Armas, relegated to mop-up duty after a miserable run as a starter, has a 6.35 ERA as a reliever. For the season, he has 35 walks in 61 innings.

Demoting or releasing Armas would be the most eyebrow-raising, if only because the Pirates committed $3.5 million in guaranteed money on him as their only free-agent signing of the offseason. Eating that would be a blow under any circumstance, but especially for a team that has little to show for the $12.5 million it spent last year on its only three free-agent signees: Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa and Roberto Hernandez.

Grabow: No injury

Another struggling reliever -- but one whose status is in no jeopardy -- is John Grabow, scored upon in three of his past four outings.

Given that he experienced elbow pain late last season and again this spring, it might be natural to wonder if he, like Salomon Torres, is seeing his performance affected by injury. But he insisted that is not the case.

"I feel fine. My arm feels fine," Grabow said. "I'm just not getting the job done the way I want to. We've been working on my mechanics on the side, and I'm not walking guys anymore the way I was earlier. Now, it's just a matter of pitch selection and executing."

Buried treasure

Utilityman Don Kelly, designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and accepted an outright to Indianapolis.

Center fielder Chris Duffy did more running tests on his tight right hamstring in the afternoon, but he remained without a timetable to rejoin the lineup. Tracy described him as running at "85 percent."

Reliever John Wasdin will make his fifth rehabilitation start tomorrow for Indianapolis, an unusually long stint for a thumb that was sprained in mid-May. The Pirates must decide by July 2 what to do with Wasdin, who is still on their 40-man roster.

First baseman Adam Laroche's self-inflicted spiked hairdo was short-lived. It was gone by late Tuesday night, no doubt because he has family accompanying him on the trip.

The Los Angeles Angels' rotation for the upcoming series: Jered Weaver, Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey.

06-25-2007, 12:48 PM

Pirates Notebook: Littlefield says team's basics are 'better'

Monday, June 25, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Pirates have improved at the basics since last season, general manager Dave Littlefield said, but there remains work to do.

"I think it's better," he said yesterday of the team's fundamental play, which has been a central -- and largely negative -- issue of late. "When I look at our bunting, frankly, it's a lot better. And there are other areas. But, when you go through a period of losing a few in a row and some games get away, those are the things that get highlighted."

He also expressed a view that, because shortstop Jack Wilson is the only position with more than three full seasons of major-league experience entering this year, some learning still was taking place on the job.

"It's something Jim Tracy and I have talked about, that there's minor-league development and major-league development, too," Littlefield said. "When you look at experience, we have a very young group as you go around the diamond as compared to other teams."

At the same time, he acknowledged that the Pirates have fared poorly at times, notably the series at Yankee Stadium and the one that concluded at Angel Stadium yesterday.

"You see it, and you don't accept it. You can't accept it. We have a team built on starting pitching that isn't going to score a lot of runs. We've got to play as clean as we can, and we pay attention to that all the time. When we're winning, we'll make mistakes that some people will look by. Not us."

GM: Roster staying steady

Littlefield advised against expecting a seismic personnel move in advance of the July 31 trading deadline.

"Our team is basically the team we have," he said. "We're always looking to improve, obviously, but we also have to keep improving with the group we have, keep building from it. It's not like you can just sprinkle some magic dust to make it better."

Bayliss sent to minors

The Pirates optioned reliever Jonah Bayliss to Class AAA Indianapolis immediately after the game yesterday.

No roster replacement will be named until tomorrow, but it is sure to be John Wasdin coming off the 15-day disabled list.

Wasdin, out since May 2 because of a sprained right thumb, has made five starts for Indianapolis. with decidedly mixed results: He is 1-1 with a 5.97 ERA, a .297 opponents' batting average and nine home runs. But he also has struck out 31 while walking none.

Bayliss had a 7.53 ERA in 38 appearances, and opponents batted .315 against him with five home runs.

On Paulino's defense

Catcher Ronny Paulino was held out of the starting lineup because of an injured arch to his left foot, though he did enter the game as a late substitute.

He was hurt in the second inning Saturday night when Howie Kendrick slid into him, the latest in a series of drops by Paulino on plays at the plate.

Tracy was asked if the coaching staff is working to address the matter.

"We do it enough," Tracy replied. "I mean, you don't simulate collisions. That wouldn't be a very good idea. But there are situations in spring training where you use a machine that shoots the ball in from specific spots from different locations in the outfield to work on positioning stuff with relation to home plate to catch the ball in time. Yes, we do."

"Those are tough plays," Littlefield said. "But, as I think he certainly would agree, there are some he would like to have caught."

Buried treasure

Outfielder Nate McLouth did not play again because of a stiff neck, but indications were that he could return for the Florida series tomorrow.

Third baseman Jose Bautista, in a 1-for-14 slump, was rested in favor of Jose Castillo.

The Pirates' total bill for reliever Dan Kolb, designated for assignment Thursday, was about $100,000. The team paid eight prorated days of his major-league salary of $1.2 million. Everything before that was prorated off a minor-league salary of $100,000.

06-25-2007, 07:51 PM
I'm not buying it. That's all I have to say.

06-25-2007, 09:02 PM
I'm not buying it. That's all I have to say.

The only thing better now then is the win count.

06-27-2007, 07:40 PM
Tony suggested and I thought it was a good idea.

Anyone posting a Pirates Notebook update, PLEASE POST THEM HERE not as a seperate thread.

07-02-2007, 03:46 PM

Pirates Notebook: Duke pulled from Tuesday start
Struggling left-hander has tendinitis in his elbow; Duffy goes on DL

Sunday, July 01, 2007
By Paul Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Left-hander Zach Duke will not start the game Tuesday against Milwaukee and might not start again until July 17.

"Let's not put the cart before the horse," Pirates manager Jim Tracy cautioned yesterday.

Duke has been diagnosed with tendinitis in his left elbow. He is taking anti-inflammatory medicine. He definitely is not starting Tuesday. His next scheduled start would be a week from today. Then comes the All-Star break.

The Pirates will not play again until July 13 in Atlanta. Duke could make his next start four nights after that. That should be plenty of time for him to "be 100 percent again," as he said yesterday.

Officially, the Pirates haven't committed to anything beyond today when Duke will play some catch to see how his elbow has reacted to the medicine.

Their starter Tuesday will be somebody internal -- Shawn Chacon? -- "or somebody from Class AAA [Indianapolis]," Tracy said.

Left-hander Sean Burnett, who is scheduled to make his next start for Indianapolis Tuesday, would be a candidate. He missed a couple starts with arm trouble recently, however, and only pitched 21/3 innings in his start Thursday because he was on a pitch limit.

Left-hander Shane Youman might be a better candidate. He pitched well for the Pirates in September and in spring training and has begun to pitch better recently for Indianapolis.

Youman is scheduled to start tomorrow, but that could be taken care of by starting Kip Bouknight in his place. Bouknight, 7-3 with a 3.80 ERA in 16 games with Class AA Altoona, was promoted to Indianapolis yesterday.

It would seem more prudent, then, for the Pirates to simply place Duke on the disabled list, fill in his next two starts with, say, Youman, and leave the major-league bullpen intact.

"We won't talk about that," Tracy said yesterday.

In six June starts, Duke had a 6.21 ERA and allowed 54 hits in 33 1/3 innings while striking out 15.

"The late life and late movement [on his pitches] that are so vitally important to his success, you don't see that consistently," Tracy said.

Duke said he had been feeling some tightness the past two or three weeks and that the Pirates' training staff was aware of it and had been treating him.

He had a particularly tough time getting loose Thursday when he had a poor start against Florida.

Pirates medical director Patrick DeMeo examined Duke Friday. and tests were run.

"He passed them all with flying colors," Tracy said.

Still ...

"It's to the point where I don't want to hinder the team anymore," Duke said. "It's very hard for me to repeat my delivery at this point, and we've got to do something about it. I want to get right so I can be 100 percent again. You can't really rush anything. You just kind of take it one step at a time."

Duffy on DL

The Pirates yesterday placed center fielder Chris Duffy on the disabled list because of a sprained left ankle and brought up utilityman Matt Kata from Indianapolis.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Kata, the Pirates designated right-hander Marty McLeary for assignment.

Kata began this season with Texas, but after going 1 for 30 in May he was designated for assignment and signed by the Pirates June 13.

A switch-hitter, he batted .265 in 13 games for Indianapolis while batting almost exclusively at the top of the order.

Capps vs. Fielder

Matt Capps and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder will be "reunited" beginning tomorrow when the Pirates began a four-game series against Milwaukee.

Capps drew a three-game suspension and a $1,000 fine after hitting Fielder with a pitch May 5. He served the suspension last week when the Pirates were in Seattle.

Capps' feeling on Milwaukee's visit?

"No hard feelings on my part," he said. "What happened, happened. It's done with. Now, we just want to try to win four games. I'm not going to throw at anybody. It's behind us and done with, and now we'll just go out and compete."

Torres update

Reliever Salomon Torres, on the disabled list because of inflammation in his right elbow, continues his rehabilitation in Bradenton, Fla. He is scheduled to throw bullpen sessions today and Tuesday, then perhaps pitch an inning in a Gulf Coast League game Thursday.

07-04-2007, 10:22 PM

Pirates Notebook: Duke seeks second opinion on elbow

Tuesday, July 03, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Zach Duke is not ready to breathe easily just yet, it seems.

His ailing left elbow has no ligament tears and will not require surgery, according to tests taken yesterday afternoon at Allegheny General Hospital under the supervision of the Pirates' medical staff. The formal diagnosis was irritation of the ulnar collateral ligament.

But that evidently did not satisfy Duke, who revealed later in the day that he would exercise his right to seek a second opinion Friday from Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedist famous for performing reconstructive arm surgeries on pitchers, in Birmingham, Ala.

If the Pirates' diagnosis is confirmed, Duke simply must rest for two weeks before beginning a rehabilitation -- long-tossing, bullpen sessions, minor-league starts -- that likely will take another two or three weeks.

If all goes well, he will be back by mid-August.

"I have to be cautious, and I know that," Duke said. "I have to make sure it's right. Obviously, I'm happy that there's no structural damage, but I still want to make sure I'm right before I try to go back out there."

The procedure Duke had yesterday is called an arthrogram. Dye is injected into the affected area -- in his case, the medial collateral ligament of the elbow -- to enhance the medical images. If dye leaks, that usually is a sign of a tear. No leakage was detected on Duke's scan, according to Pirates manager Jim Tracy.

"It's clean," Tracy said.

Tracy was asked if Duke's elbow might have contributed to his 3-7 record, 5.79 ERA and .364 opponents' batting average.

"We'll see," Tracy replied. "We won't know the answer to that question until he gets back to pitching. If, when he comes back, we see fewer hits, fewer balls put in play, more life on his pitches, then we'll know for sure that the elbow contributed to what he's done so far."

Youman's second chance

Shane Youman already has shown the Pirates his stuff, having posted a 2.91 ERA in five appearances late last season, then having a fine spring training this year.

Tonight, after mixed results in three months at Class AAA Indianapolis -- 4-6 record, 4.70 ERA, but three of four good starts leading into this promotion -- he gets another shot.

"I'm looking forward to it," Youman said. "I've been working hard, and I feel like I'm ready."

Buried treasure

First baseman Steve Pearce, the Pirates' unquestioned best performer in the minors this year, yesterday was named Eastern League player of the week after going 12 for 24 with two home runs and nine RBIs for Class AA Altoona.

Pearce, third baseman Neil Walker and pitchers Luis Munoz and Matt Peterson were selected to the Eastern League All-Star Game, July 11 in Norwich, Conn. The glaring omission: Andrew McCutchen, owner of a .234 average.

The Pirates had a combined no-hitter pitched by their Venezuelan Summer League team, Wilson Ortiz fanning eight in six innings and Jesus Martinez fanning four in the final three innings of an 8-0 shutout of Detroit.

07-04-2007, 10:27 PM

Pirates Notebook: Burnett to see elbow specialist

Wednesday, July 04, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sean Burnett's career could be in jeopardy again.

Citing continuing pain in his surgically repaired left elbow, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2000 pulled himself out of Class AAA Indianapolis' game last night in Louisville, Ky., after pitching one inning. He gave up three runs and three hits and three walks, throwing only 16 of 33 pitches for strikes.

Burnett had similar discomfort a month ago and was examined by the Pirates' medical staff June 6, after which he was cleared to return after a short rehabilitation period.

Now, agent Jim Munsey said late last night, Burnett plans to exercise his right to a second opinion and will visit Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist in Birmingham, Ala., at the earliest opportunity.

"We have to get this right," Munsey said.

Burnett, 24, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2000, had reconstructive elbow surgery in late 2004, after his rookie season. In 14 starts for Indianapolis this year, he is 4-6 with a 4.48 ERA.

He would be the second pitcher in a week -- Zach Duke was the other -- to seek a second opinion from Dr. Andrews about elbow trouble.

Bay seeking swing

Jason Bay still is searching for answers after his 0-for-4, two-strikeout day in the Pirates' 6-2 victory against Milwaukee yesterday. His average has plummeted from .312 to .256 since June 4, and he has gone 13 for 98 in that span -- a .132 clip -- with one home run and nine RBIs.

Not exactly All-Star stuff.

"It's not that I'm not getting pitches to hit," Bay said afterward. "The last couple days, especially, I'm seeing the ball. Usually, when I'm going bad, I'm just kind of flailing and not seeing it at all. I feel like I'm picking the right pitches. I feel like my swings are good. But I'm just fouling them all off."

Or missing entirely. Thirty of his season's 80 strikeouts have come in this span.

Manager Jim Tracy tried lowering Bay to sixth in the order Monday but had him back at fifth yesterday. His plan: Keep running Bay out there until he figures it out.

Nady's foot ailing

Despite reaching third base twice on hits yesterday, right fielder Xavier Nady showed Tracy signs that his left foot -- the instep of which was struck by a foul ball Monday -- might be bothering him.

"We'll have to see how he is tomorrow," Tracy said.

Tracy defends Torres' rehab

Tracy backed general manager Dave Littlefield's stance that injured reliever Salomon Torres is not being blackballed with a lengthy rehabilitation schedule, as Torres charged Monday.

"This is a rehab situation," Tracy said. "We're dealing with what was diagnosed as a ligament strain. Until the head trainer comes in and says this is no longer medical in nature, this is a baseball decision. ... I haven't heard those words yet."

Torres is scheduled to make his first rehabilitation game appearance tomorrow for Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League.

Cautious with Bullington

Bryan Bullington, the pitcher with the best numbers in the minor-league system, might well have started last night at PNC Park had he been healthy. But, as Littlefield acknowledged, Bullington's health was one of the issues in his decision to promote Shane Youman instead.

Bullington, now 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA, missed two turns in Indianapolis' rotation in mid-June because of discomfort in his surgically repaired right shoulder. And his two starts after coming back were erratic.

"He had some stiffness and fatigue, which is part of the process in coming back from shoulder surgery, so we want to be appropriately cautious," Littlefield said. "Also, Shane was doing a fine job, was throwing a little better, and we felt he gave us a better chance to win at the major-league level."

Buried treasure

The Pirates have gone a season-high 88 consecutive innings without an error.

Jack Wilson's run in the fourth inning came with a big assist from Freddy Sanchez, the batter on deck. As Wilson was approaching home, Sanchez, seeing that the throw from the outfield was going to pull catcher Johnny Estrada to the outside of the plate, emphatically waved both arms for Wilson to slide to the inside. After Wilson was safe, he gestured appreciatively to Sanchez.

The Chicago Cubs' rotation for the weekend series: Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano.

07-08-2007, 09:43 PM

Pirates Notebook: Paulino defends his defense

Sunday, July 08, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Perhaps no one on the Pirates' roster could benefit more than Ronny Paulino from the fresh-start feel that follows the All-Star break.

His average has plummeted from the .310 of his rookie year to .237 now, even after his first three-hit game of the season last night in the 7-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs. He has one home run in his past 50 games, he has four RBIs in the past six weeks, and his defense has, in the eyes of most observers, regressed.

Small wonder that, when asked yesterday to assess his first half, Paulino replied flatly, "I'm hoping to be better in the second."

He quickly amended that, though.

"It's just about the hitting, I think. Defensively, I feel like I'm doing much better than what I did last year. Hitting? That's been difficult. I feel like, with every at-bat, there's so much more pressure. It's like I'm trying to get three hits in one at-bat."

Paulino's view that he has improved behind the plate might be jarring to some, particularly those who have noticed his frequent drops on throws from the outfield. But he stood by it firmly when that specific subject was raised.

"The plays I've been getting have been bang-bang," Paulino said. "I know there have been some plays, but they've been close and, some of those times, I've been hit before I got the ball."

He maintained that his other facets all are upgraded.

"Everything," he said.

Paulino has five passed balls, on pace to match his 10 from last year. He has five errors, also on pace to match his 11 from last year. And he has thrown out 15 of 43 runners, a 35 percent rate that is slightly up from his 32 percent of last year.

His game-calling remains an apparent strength, the primary evidence for that being that pitchers have a 4.15 ERA when he catches, 5.75 when it is anyone else.

Paulino pointed to the team's 33-28 record when he catches.

"When I see that, I feel like I'm doing my job."

Manager Jim Tracy yesterday reiterated his fervent backing of Paulino.

"What that man did a year ago ... I'm sorry, but that wasn't an accident," Tracy said. "He's capable of revisiting that, and he's capable of being a very, very good catcher in the major leagues. It's his second year. You don't quit on people like that."

He expressed hope, too, that Paulino's output last night could resonate.

"I saw a lot better swings from Ronny tonight."

LaRoche a late scratch

First baseman Adam LaRoche was scratched shortly before the game because of lingering pain in his left knee, a problem he has had since the June 26-28 series in Miami.

He pushed himself through the afternoon batting practice to try to play, but he and Tracy agreed it was not a good idea.

"Adam gave it everything he had," Tracy said.

Tracy said no decision about today would be made until shortly before the game. One factor surely will be this: If LaRoche is off, he would have six consecutive days of rest -- including the All-Star break -- before the next series in Atlanta.

Asked last night if he might play today, LaRoche said, "We'll see then."

Duffy improving

Center fielder Chris Duffy, rehabilitating his sprained left ankle in Bradenton, Fla., has made good progress. The inflammation and bruising has gone down, and he has begun range-of-motion exercises.

He has no timetable to play in a minor-league game, so it still seems quite unlikely he will be able to come off the 15-day disabled list July 14, the first day he is eligible.

Pearce's big stage

First baseman Steve Pearce left the Class AA Altoona Curve yesterday to prepare for the Futures Game, 4 p.m. today at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

His final pre-break numbers: .334 average, .401 on-base percentage, 22 home runs, 24 doubles and 75 RBIs.

"Every year, there are one or two players who just jump up out of the pack, and Steve Pearce has done that," director of player development Brian Graham said.

The game will air on ESPN.

Buried treasure

Reliever Salomon Torres will make his second rehabilitation appearance today for Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League. He is scheduled to pitch one inning, but it could be two if he is efficient.

Xavier Nady was shifted to center field, largely to keep Ryan Doumit's hot bat in the lineup, Tracy said. Tracy added that he wants to see more of the switch-hitting Doumit from the right side. Doumit is batting .312 vs. left-handers, .292 vs. right-handers. All six of his home runs have come left-handed.

Yet another golden Saturday passed without a sellout, this crowd ending up at 33,293. There has been one sellout since the home opener, that coming June 16.

07-09-2007, 04:29 PM

Pirates Notebook: Sanchez rediscovers All-Star form in field

Monday, July 09, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When Freddy Sanchez boarded a private plane last night to fly to San Francisco for the All-Star Game, he took along a bat that has delivered an inclining .296 average and a glove going in the same direction.

As Sanchez put it, "All around, I think things have gotten better."

That has been most evident with his offense.

His average was at .206 on April 29, but it has hovered steadily in the .280s or .290s since mid-May, largely because he has hit safely in 53 of his past 62 games.

Not the stuff of National League batting titles, but not bad.

The glove has been slower.

A sprained ligament in Sanchez's right knee, the result of a collision in spring training, cost him the opening week of the season and plenty of aches and limitations in his first month back. That, combined with being moved from third base to second for the first time in his career, brought a visible lack of range and fluidity in the field.

Now, as might have been best evidenced Thursday with his excellent stop of a grounder well to his left by the Milwaukee Brewers' Tony Graffanino, those issues seldom come up.

"No question, Freddy looks a lot more comfortable," manager Jim Tracy said. "He looks more sure of himself in going after the ball, in fielding the tough hops, even in going after those popups that are between him and the outfielder. And there's no question our double plays have been better."

The Pirates lead the National League with 99 double plays.

"Obviously, I wasn't able to get a lot of reps in the spring, so those reps came in the first month or two of the actual season," Sanchez said. "I feel like I've still got a lot of work to do at second base, but I also like the way our whole infield is coming together."

Doumit's hamstring ailing

Catcher Ryan Doumit was scratched yesterday because of discomfort in his left hamstring, the same one that cost him two-thirds of last season.

He was injured Saturday in the seventh inning while running from first to second base on a Ronny Paulino single. He wound up scoring on Jack Wilson's double and stayed in the game, but he later complained to the athletic trainers.

Yesterday morning, Tracy said, it was decided he should stay out for precautionary reasons.

"With it being the same hamstring, that sends up kind of a red flag," Tracy said. "We can't take a chance on damaging that thing again."

Doumit missed three stretches of last season because of the hamstring, including most of June, July and August when it was torn.

LaRoche's knee to linger?

First baseman Adam LaRoche was back in the lineup after his left knee "felt better," Tracy said, than when he was scratched Saturday night.

Tracy said the Pirates' medical staff has told him the knee trouble -- infrequent fluid buildup that began with the June 26-28 series in Miami -- has a chance to linger, but little chance to worsen.

"It's just something we've got to manage day to day," Tracy said.

Buried treasure

Reliever Salomon Torres pitched two scoreless innings -- one hit, three strikeouts -- in his second rehabilitation appearance for Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League. He will pitch a side session Wednesday at PNC Park. After that, general manager Dave Littlefield said, he will begin a rehabilitation assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis.

Littlefield said he is "getting closer" to contract terms with pitchers Daniel Moskos and Brian Friday, the Pirates' first- and third-round draft picks.

Altoona first baseman Steve Pearce, the top player in the Pirates' minor-league system this season, was 0 for 1 with a walk in two plate appearances in the Futures Game yesterday at San Francisco's AT&T Park. The Pirates' other representative, Class A Lynchburg pitcher Serguey Linares, did not play.

07-16-2007, 01:14 PM

Pirates Notebook: Burnett avoids surgery

Friday, July 13, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sean Burnett will avoid another surgery.

For now.

Burnett, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2000, and several doctors decided yesterday against a minor procedure to relieve some nerve discomfort in his once-again ailing left elbow. He will get a cortisone shot next week, then begin a throwing program in Bradenton, Fla., with an eye toward a return to Class AAA Indianapolis' rotation later this month.

"We'll see how it goes," Burnett said yesterday. "In the best case, everything will be just fine. The worst case is that I have surgery and still would be ready for spring training next year."

Burnett was examined Monday by Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist, in Birmingham, Ala. Andrews backed the Pirates' medical opinion that there was no damage to the elbow ligament that was reconstructed in 2004.

But Andrews did find issues related to Burnett's radial nerve in that elbow and recommended that a nerve specialist examine him, which happened Wednesday.

The nerve was found to be slightly out of place, and minor surgery to relocate it was discussed. That would have kept Burnett out for two months and ended his season. But all concerned, including Burnett, agreed there was no point in taking that route now.

Burnett, 24, is 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA in 15 starts for Indianapolis.

Torres to return Monday

Reliever Salomon Torres flew to Rochester, N.Y., yesterday, where he will join Indianapolis for a rehabilitation stint tonight. If all goes well in two appearances over the weekend, he will rejoin the Pirates Monday for their home game against the Colorado Rockies.

Torres' side session Wednesday at PNC Park went "very, very well," according to manager Jim Tracy, and reminded pitching coach Jim Colborn of the dominant way Torres was throwing late last season.

Back in the groove

All of the Pirates except second baseman Freddy Sanchez -- given an extra day off after the All-Star Game -- participated in a light workout at PNC Park last night in advance of their game tonight in Atlanta.

Tracy spoke optimistically of extending that 9-4 run they took into the break.

"What makes that stretch of 13 games much more intriguing is the fact that we beat some very good clubs in the process," Tracy said.

The Pirates had not taken a series from a winning team until ending that run with victories against the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs.

"You just hope that we can get on the same kind of roll right away. And, given the manner in which we've been playing, I'm hopeful that can happen."

Buried treasure

Catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit, who missed the final game before the break because of a sore left hamstring, participated in all drills last night. Tracy said more would be known about his playing status today.

The Pirates signed right-handed reliever Jose Paniagua to a minor-league contract. Paniagua, 34, made 270 appearances in the majors in 1996-2003 -- 4.49 ERA, 13 saves -- but he has played in Mexico the past three seasons.

Justin Vaclavik, a pitching prospect at Class AA Altoona, was placed on the minor-league disabled list because of a hyperextended left knee.

Bill Mazeroski and Ralph Kiner will be part of the ensemble on hand for the Pirates' retirement of Paul Waner's No. 11 July 21 at PNC Park. Mazeroski and Kiner are among the eight players already honored that way.

07-16-2007, 01:18 PM

Pirates Notebook: Francoeur's forecast for LaRoche looking fine

Saturday, July 14, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

ATLANTA -- When Adam LaRoche's offensive production was awful in April and miserable in May, the list of his doubters could have filled a scroll the height of Mount Washington.

Jeff Francoeur, his good friend, fishing partner and former teammate with Atlanta, most assuredly was not among them.

He had predicted great things for LaRoche back in spring training and, even when the Braves visited PNC Park in early May and the boos were mounting for the Pirates' first baseman, Francoeur told this to a reporter: "He will end up hitting .270 here with 25-30 bombs. I still swear by it. Adam's a heck of a player, and this city's lucky to have him."

Now that LaRoche's recent eruption has those numbers looking eminently attainable, Francoeur's smile was wider even than usual when the subject was raised yesterday during the Braves' batting practice.

"What did I say?" Francouer said. "And trust me: He's just getting started. You know you see some guys go hot-cold-hot-cold? Not Adam. When he gets locked in, he stays that way for a good bit."

The two speak often, and they did so again yesterday.

"I'm so happy for him right now," Francoeur said. "He's relaxed finally. He's enjoying playing in Pittsburgh. Not that he wasn't before, but he's really enjoying it now. I think he realizes that, hopefully, that city has some confidence in him now. When I was up there, people were saying stuff like, 'Y'all can have him back.' I guarantee you they're not saying that right now."

His painful first-inning error aside, LaRoche went 1 for 3 at the plate last night to raise his average to a season-high .240. He has 13 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Doumit out two more

Catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit, still limited by a sore left hamstring, will not rejoin the Pirates' lineup until tomorrow at the earliest, manager Jim Tracy said yesterday.

Tracy described the hamstring as progressing but said the team continues to be "a little guarded," given that the same hamstring cost Doumit two-thirds of last season. Doumit is running at about three-quarters strength and, until that improves, he will not catch, play right field or run the bases.

He was available to pinch-hit, though.

Buried treasure

Reliever Salomon Torres pitched 11/3 scoreless innings -- one hit, three strikeouts, 14 of 21 pitches for strikes -- in his first rehabilitation appearance with Class AAA Indianapolis last night in Rochester, N.Y. He entered with two men on and two out in the sixth inning and got a groundout, then returned for the seventh. Torres is expected to make one more outing this weekend, then rejoin the Pirates on Monday.

The Pirates signed shortstop Brian Friday, their third-round draft pick, raising their total of signees to 25.

The Pirates were one of seven teams in Major League Baseball with three 50-RBI players at the break: LaRoche, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady. The Pirates' media relations staff determined that the team has not had that many since 1960, when the trio was Roberto Clemente, Bob Skinner and Dick Stuart.

The Colorado Rockies' rotation for the next series: Taylor Buchholz, Josh Fogg and Jeff Francis. It will be Fogg's first game appearance in Pittsburgh since the Pirates cut him loose in 2005.

07-16-2007, 01:19 PM

Pirates Notebook: Maholm tilts starters' scale

Sunday, July 15, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

ATLANTA -- Look at Paul Maholm as the swing vote.

When he pitches as well as he has in his past nine starts, the Pirates' rotation goes from having two steady contributors in Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny to a majority of three.

And if those three guys win more often than they lose ...

"It makes a big difference," manager Jim Tracy said. "A huge difference."

"It gives our whole team a better chance to be more successful," Maholm said. "For me to go out there and give the team seven or eight innings, I think it's kind of solidified the rotation a little more."

Maholm, the starter in the series finale today with the Atlanta Braves, was 2-6 with a 5.82 ERA through his first nine starts.

In the next nine, he has gone a still unflattering 3-5, but he has averaged seven innings per outing with a 3.84 ERA.

And the key, according to all concerned, has been a simple steadying of his delivery, with an emphasis on not leaning toward the batter when releasing his pitch.

"If you looked at my film before and after, I don't think you'd see a lot," Maholm said. "It's more a matter of comfort and rhythm. Initially, when things weren't going well, I kept trying to tweak stuff and figure out what I was doing before. Now, I'm just working a little quicker, throwing sinkers for strikes and watching the defense make the plays. It feels good and, honestly, this is what I expected from myself all along."

Part of the challenge was ignoring the statistics that show him on a 20-loss pace.

"I think the record's a little deceiving," Maholm said of being 5-11.

"I feel like I've had some great starts where the results just weren't there, or where there was maybe one pitch that could have made it be a totally different game. I just tried to keep competing."

Maybe this number will mean something: Maholm's career record after the All-Star break is 8-3.

Doumit back today

Ryan Doumit will catch today, marking his first start since his left hamstring was tweaked eight days ago at PNC Park.

"I'm good," he said of his health. "Really good."

Lincoln eyeing spring

Starter Brad Lincoln, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2006 who had reconstructive elbow surgery in April, has had no rehabilitation setbacks and remains on pace to take the mound for the first time in spring training and pitch next summer. Lincoln will not begin throwing until this fall.

Buried treasure

The Pirates have yet to respond to reliever Shawn Chacon's request to discuss a contract extension.

Atlanta management would seek nothing less than an impact-caliber young pitcher in exchange for promising catcher/first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Pirates are among several teams to have inquired about him in the past month.

Bizarre moment of the day: As the Pirates were taking batting practice, the Turner Field sound system was blaring Donnie Iris' "Ah Leah."

First baseman Adam LaRoche might want to watch his stuff today. When the Pirates faced the Braves in a spring exhibition March 2 in Orlando, Fla., LaRoche allegedly took scissors to some of his former teammates' clothing. And speculation is swirling through the Atlanta clubhouse that revenge is in order.

07-16-2007, 01:22 PM

Pirates Notebook: Bautista's gash lands him on DL

Monday, July 16, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

ATLANTA -- When Jose Bautista tried to steal third base Saturday night at Turner Field, his left palm caught the cleats of Atlanta's Chipper Jones, causing a deep, wide gash and heavy bleeding.

It brought a highly unusual sensation, too.

"I could feel the wind in my hand," Bautista said. "That's not a good feeling."

He might have felt worse yesterday upon learning that his cut was serious enough for the Pirates to place him on the 15-day disabled list. And he surely will feel worse still if, as expected, he is not ready to return until early August rather than when he is eligible July 31.

Bautista's stitches must remain in place for 10 days, and he is forbidden any activity with the hand for the first five of those days. From there, he must show he can swing a bat through a minor-league rehabilitation, and the positioning of the cut could make that a challenge.

"That's my bottom hand on the swing, so it's going to take some stress," Bautista said.

There were three other roster moves on the day: Reliever Salomon Torres was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list, the contract of utilityman Don Kelly of Mt. Lebanon was purchased from Class AAA Indianapolis, and reliever John Wasdin was designated for assignment.

Jose Castillo, who has languished on the bench most of the season, will take Bautista's place at third base.

"This is his opportunity," manager Jim Tracy said. "This is what he's here for."

Tracy apparently gave no consideration to switching his infield as it was last season, with Castillo at second base and Freddy Sanchez at third.

"There's no question he can play the position," Tracy said of Castillo. "He's shown us that more than once this year."

Castillo made one throwing error yesterday that led to an Atlanta run, but he also turned in a superb diving stop on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia bouncer down the line.

Torres a 'good soldier'

Torres, who recently demanded a trade and accused general manager Dave Littlefield of deceiving him in contract talks, sounded eager to set all that aside upon rejoining the team yesterday.

"I'm going to be a good soldier right now," Torres said. "If they treat me fairly, I'm going to do the same with them. Let's see how it goes."

Torres spoke by phone with Littlefield during his rehabilitation time in Bradenton, Fla., and that apparently was enough for now.

"I just want to focus on being here, having my arm feel great and helping my team," he said. "I was going crazy on that rehab, and I'm so happy to be back. I'm not here to start controversy."

Torres was placed on the disabled list June 9 because of severe inflammation in a right elbow ligament. Management mapped out a rehabilitation plan that could have taken until the end of July, but he made three exemplary minor-league appearances, and a fourth that was scheduled with Indianapolis yesterday was scrapped.

He pitched for the first time since June 8 yesterday, giving up a run in the seventh inning. He retired his first two batters, but two walks and a Jeff Francouer single followed. Only nine of his 21 pitches were strikes.

Buyer or seller?

Littlefield put the onus on the players, as he invariably does, in determining whether he will be a buyer or seller at the July 31 trade deadline.

"We've got to have the current players achieve more," he said. "I think that's really what's going to drive us, for those players to show us what direction we're going. We've played much better the past couple of weeks, but we've got to do more to get closer to the playoff hunt. I think that will give us the direction we'll go."

Buried treasure

The Pirates have 10 days to trade, waive or release Wasdin. He had a 5.95 ERA in 12 appearances, and opponents were batting .381 against him.

Kelly, back for a second stint, was removed from the 40-man roster June 12 before being demoted to Indianapolis. He batted .218 -- 12 for 55 -- in 18 games there, but he was summoned for his defense and versatility.

The 40-man roster remained full.

07-17-2007, 09:58 PM

Pirates Notebook: McLouth capitalizes on chances

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
By Paul Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

One upside to center fielder Chris Duffy being on the disabled list is that Nate McLouth is getting more playing time.

"He's getting an opportunity to lock himself in [at the plate] a little bit," manager Jim Tracy said.

And it seems McLouth is capitalizing on this.

Entering the game last night, McLouth had a .300 batting average in 14 games hitting in the leadoff spot.

"When he does get on first base, things happen for the middle of our order," Tracy said. "He's not afraid to steal a base."

McLouth also has been the Pirates' most-used pinch-hitter. In that role, he's 6 for 37 with a home run and two RBIs.

That's a tough job for a relatively young player who's in just his second full major-league season.

"I don't care if you're a young player or an old player, it's a difficult role," McLouth said. "The mentality's totally different [than starting]. If you're starting, it's a lot easier to be more comfortable because if you don't get it done your first at-bat, you have three or four more after that to get it done."

The key to pinch-hitting successfully is to not necessarily think about getting a hit.

"But to try to get a good pitch to hit," McLouth said. "You're not going to get a hit every time. You're not even going to get a hit most of the time. The biggest thing I've learned is to not go up there with the mentality that I have to get a hit because this is my only chance.

"With more experience comes a better comfort level."

Duffy in Florida

Duffy, on the disabled list because of a sprained left ankle, continues to rehab in Bradenton, Fla. He's doing some throwing but no running. It appears he won't return until at least early August.

"It's going to take a while," Tracy said.

Fogg's foursome

Josh Fogg, scheduled to start for Colorado tonight, doesn't have impressive stats -- 4-6 record, 5.36 earned run average. But he has picked up his four victories against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and New York Mets (twice).

Morgan to speak at PNC Park

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan will be the guest speaker at the Pirates' African American Heritage Day luncheon Aug. 3. The event, held in the Lexus Club at PNC Park, begins at 11:30 a.m.

No fear

The Rockies have no fear of Friday the 13th. They won in Milwaukee Friday night to stretch their winning streak on Friday the 13ths to six consecutive games.

Uneven Keel

Jared Keel, the Pirates' 31st-round pick in the 2006 draft, has been on a tear with Class A Hickory.

In the past 10 games, Keel has hit .351 with four home runs and nine RBIs. That raised his season marks to .293, 14 and 45.

"He was intriguing in spring training," said Tony Beasley, the Pirates' minor-league infielder coordinator. "He swung the bat well in spring training. He needs some work defensively. There's no doubt about that. He's got some bad habits that he's kind of grown into. Those are things through repetition we can break."

Keel, who played third base last season, has been used at first base, in the outfield and as a designated hitter this season. He has 17 errors.

"I think now that he's swinging the bat well, he'll be more open to defensive stuff," Beasley said. "Now he feels that, 'I'm somebody. I'm swinging the bat. If I can get the other side right, then I might have a chance to really do something in the organization."'

Taking a seat

Highly regarded shortstop Angel Gonzalez, who began this season with Hickory, was promoted to high Class A Lynchburg in early June, but he hasn't played much for the Hillcats.

Gonzalez has a sore shoulder and has played in only one game since June 16.

Need for speed

Lynchburg outfielder Pedro Powell continues to lead the Carolina League in stolen bases with 42 (in 53 attempts). Powell led the league with 63 stolen bases last season and is trying to become just the second player in league history to lead the league in back-to-back seasons. Jack Mitchell led the league in 1952-53.

07-20-2007, 11:07 PM

Pirates Notebook: Snell calls Rockies to apologize

Saturday, July 21, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ian Snell, with no apparent push from the Pirates, phoned Colorado manager Clint Hurdle to apologize for publicly threatening retaliation against the Rockies for stealing signs Wednesday at PNC Park.

But that might not be enough.

Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president responsible for discipline, has recommended a punishment -- a suspension or fine -- for Snell. That could be announced this weekend.

"The whole thing got out of hand," Snell said yesterday. "And that's what I told Hurdle. Someone told me something after the game, and I reacted. I wanted him to tell his whole team that I'm sorry. ... It's good. It's over with."

After that 5-3 loss, Snell accused one of the Rockies -- he never gave a name -- of stealing signs before one of their two home runs. He mentioned Brad Hawpe's home run that day, but it turns out the one in question was hit later by Todd Helton with Kazuo Matsui on second base.

Among Snell's comments after that game: "Hopefully, I won't pitch in Colorado because I know who it is, and I will get them."

That was a reference to the Pirates' Aug. 20-23 series in Denver.

Snell also said, referring to the player he was accusing, that he would "kill that dude."

Snell heard from his father the next day about the matter, and it was then that he arranged a call to Hurdle at the Rockies' hotel in Washington.

Of Snell's apology, Hurdle told reporters in Washington, "I thought it was very appropriate."

Van Benschoten skipped

Manager Jim Tracy announced that John Van Benschoten will skip his next scheduled start, Sunday, and get pushed back to Friday in Philadelphia. Shane Youman will be bumped forward a day to pitch Sunday.

That move, Tracy said, will afford Van Benschoten three side sessions under pitching coach Jim Colborn to address a mechanical flaw in the movement of his hips that has contributed to his erratic command, as well as an 0-4 record and 8.17 ERA.

"I've been leaning too far forward," Van Benschoten said.

Buried treasure

Pitcher John Wasdin, designated for assignment Sunday, cleared waivers and started for Class AAA Indianapolis last night.

The ceremony to retire Paul Waner's No. 11 will begin at 7 p.m., and participants will include two others to have their numbers retired by the Pirates: Ralph Kiner and Bill Mazeroski. It will be the first number retired since 1987, the 10th overall.

Matt Kata's start at third base was his first at any position since the Pirates purchased his contract from Class AAA Indianapolis June 30.

07-23-2007, 10:29 PM

Pirates Notebook: Inquiry about Glaus spurned

Monday, July 23, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Talk about aiming high.

The Pirates, in preliminary talks with Toronto regarding shortstop Jack Wilson, inquired about the Blue Jays' power-hitting third baseman, Troy Glaus, according to two sources intimately familiar with the matter.

Yes, the same Troy Glaus who is due $12.75 million next year -- plus an $11.25 million player option for 2009 -- and has a universal no-trade clause that was included in his contract largely because of his long-standing wish to play on the West Coast.

The Pirates' inquiry was rejected, one of those sources said.

Toronto remains in playoff contention and, as previously revealed, its management is interested in Wilson as an offseason acquisition rather than in the short period leading up to Major League Baseball's July 31 trading deadline.

The Blue Jays are entertaining offers for Glaus, but only with the approach that they would have to be upgraded immediately.

Glaus, 30, has 272 home runs, including 15 this season in 74 games. He is batting .284 with 47 RBIs and a .382 on-base percentage.

Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said yesterday that any trade he might make before the deadline likely would be akin to the Adam LaRoche-Mike Gonzalez deal, with neither a buyer nor seller component to it.

"It would be more like an offseason trade, where it's needs fitting needs," Littlefield said.

Asked what he saw as being his team's needs, he replied, "We need to score more runs, and we need better quality from the starting pitching. Now, we have internal candidates for the starting pitching, but we need better performance."

Torres' suitors shop Pena

The Boston Red Sox, the team seen as most interested in reliever Salomon Torres, is actively shopping enigmatic outfielder Wily Mo Pena.

Pena has exceptional power, with 66 career home runs at age 25, but is batting .202 and has struck out 12 times in his past 17 at-bats. He is making $1.8 million.

Mets unlikely for Castillo

Even though the New York Mets have lost second baseman Jose Valentin to a major injury, and even though the Pirates apparently have little use for Jose Castillo, the teams do not appear to be lining up for a trade.

Omar Minaya, New York's general manager, said his team will stick with youngster Ruben Gotay for now.

"I'm pretty sure teams are going to call me. I'm going to listen," Minaya told reporters in Los Angeles. "But we're comfortable with Gotay."

Kata over Castillo again

Castillo remained on the Pirates' bench in favor of Matt Kata at third base for a third consecutive game.

Manager Jim Tracy said Kata had earned the playing time after going 3 for 9 with two doubles and an RBI Friday and Saturday. He was 2 for 4 yesterday.

"Based on what he's done the past couple of days, he seems like a pretty good guy to put over there," Tracy said. "He's got a very professional air to him, carries himself like a big-league player."

Castillo was 4 for 18 after taking injured Jose Bautista's place at third in the past week.

Buried treasure

Cesar Izturis finally made his Pirates debut, spelling Wilson at shortstop and going 1 for 3 with a sixth-inning fielding gem in which he ranged to the right side of the infield for a putout. Tracy said Wilson will be back at shortstop tomorrow in New York.

Littlefield clarified that the player to be named later in the Izturis trade cannot be on the current 25-man roster or disabled list. The reason, he explained, is that such a player cannot have accrued any major-league service time from the time of the trade until that season ends. Being on the disabled list counts as service time.

Houston center fielder Hunter Pence, a favorite for National League rookie of the year with a .330 average, left the game after batting in the fourth inning because of a sprained right wrist.

07-23-2007, 10:35 PM
I'm liking Kata in relief of Bautista during his DL spell.

I'd like to see some more moves before the deadline, but I doubt we can get the starter relief we are looking for for Castillo...

07-23-2007, 11:00 PM
I'm liking Kata in relief of Bautista during his DL spell.

I'd like to see some more moves before the deadline, but I doubt we can get the starter relief we are looking for for Castillo...

At least until the off-season.

07-25-2007, 09:34 AM

Pirates Notebook: Perez 'sure' he would have succeeded in Pittsburgh

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEW YORK -- Oliver Perez, who will face his old team tomorrow for the first time since the Pirates peddled him away, has heard the three-step theory:

1. Poorly performing player leaves Pittsburgh.

2. Player finds enlightenment.

3. Player becomes good.

But he does not buy it, at least in his case.

Asked yesterday in the New York clubhouse if he would be pitching as well for the Pirates as he is for the first-place Mets this season -- 9-6 record, 3.00 ERA, 99 strikeouts in 108 innings -- he replied quickly and emphatically, "Yes, for sure. I'm sure of that. You see a lot of players in the majors who have a bad year, then a good one."

He then pointed back to his career year with the Pirates: "I pitched well in 2004, and I was in Pittsburgh. I could do it again."

So, what was it that transformed him? At this time a year ago, the Pirates demoted him to Class AAA Indianapolis after he went 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA. On July 31, he and reliever Roberto Hernandez were dealt to the Mets for outfielder Xavier Nady.

"I was just thinking too much those last two years in Pittsburgh," Perez replied. "I was putting too much pressure on myself. Then, they sent me down ... and traded me. It was not easy."

He paused.

"But I came here, and there were a lot of guys with experience, guys who have been in my situation. They just told me to believe in myself. Just play baseball. Enjoy it. And that's what I did. I feel now how I did in 2004."

Right. But, again, he was asked, how did his pitching improve? Some have credited New York's highly reputed pitching coach, Rick Peterson, for harnessing Perez's mechanics and creating a fresh level of consistency.

Perez shrugged that off, too.

"It's not something he told me about mechanics. He just told me to believe in myself, to believe in every pitch, and everything would be OK."

And the velocity that has made a lively comeback?

"I just feel more comfortable, so I'm throwing harder. But it's still not about that. It's about the pitches that I'm making. I'm locating the fastball and changing speeds. I feel like a pitcher right now. I'm not just throwing."

This much is clear as can be: Perez is eager for tomorrow.

"It's great to see my old teammates, and it will be fun to pitch against them."

Jays deny Wilson interest

Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi told the Canadian Press the Blue Jays are not trying to trade for Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson.

"We have absolutely no interest in Jack Wilson," Ricciardi said. "None."

What Ricciardi did not make clear was if that meant the Blue Jays are not pushing for Wilson now or, as previously divulged, that they plan to pursue him in the offseason.

Ricciardi reiterated that his plan is to keep intact his current group, which remains in the American League playoff hunt. That group includes shortstop Royce Clayton, 37, who Ricciardi might not want to have distracted for the rest of the season by hearing about Wilson.

"I like our team," Ricciardi said. "I feel strongly about it."

Tracy: Kata earned it

Matt Kata was at third base for a fourth consecutive game last night, this after Pirates manager Jim Tracy had said early last week that, in Jose Bautista's absence, Jose Castillo would fill that void.

"It's not about any type of punishment, and it doesn't have anything to do with Jose Castillo," Tracy said before the game. "We put Matt Kata out there on Friday, and he had a hit, then he had a couple more and a couple more ... when you're desperately searching for offense, how can you justify not playing him?"

Buried treasure

Injured starter Zach Duke, who began long-tossing Monday in Bradenton, Fla., will stay with that program for about two weeks.

Center fielder Chris Duffy, rehabilitating a sprained ankle, has begun light, straight-ahead running, but he still is not feeling strength or stability in it.

Bautista will have the stitches removed from his cut left today, but there is no timetable for him to begin swinging a bat.

Utilityman Don Kelly cleared waivers and will join Indianapolis today.

07-26-2007, 08:33 AM

Pirates Notebook: Snell's remarks cause little stir

Thursday, July 26, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEW YORK -- "Baby Sheff."

That is Pirates reliever Shawn Chacon's new nickname for starter Ian Snell after Snell's recent string of controversial comments about the team and its losing ways.

"He's like Gary Sheffield," Chacon said, referring to the Detroit Tigers' slugger. "He just says whatever comes to mind, and he wears his emotions on his sleeve. But he's also young and inexperienced."

Yes, Snell knows about the nickname.

"Told him last week," Chacon said, grinning.

OK, so Chacon, Snell's best friend on the roster, can deal with it by joking.

How about the other players?

After the 8-4 loss Tuesday to the New York Mets, Snell publicly criticized the defense behind him in a four-run inning and openly questioned whether or not he was the only player troubled by the Pirates' dismal play since the All-Star break.

How did that get received?

"Ian's a great kid, and he means well," reliever Salomon Torres said. "But he does let his emotions get in the way a little bit, and some people might misunderstand what he's saying. But I don't think there's any ill feeling in any direction. He might regret something, and he'll come in and apologize the next day. He understands that he might have gone too far."

"Every team's got one of those outspoken guys, and you've got to kind of take things for what they're worth," left fielder Jason Bay said. "Usually, if he says something that's controversial or offends somebody, he'll apologize the next day. I love how competitive he is. We all do. It's better to have that than a guy who doesn't care. But he's probably going to have to learn to channel it a little better."

Often, Chacon said, he or other players among the team's leadership will talk to Snell, urging him to make sure -- as almost all sports teams do -- that internal matters remain internal.

This latest occasion, apparently, will be no exception.

"We've talked about it, and there's no doubt that you don't throw your teammates under the bus," Chacon said. "I knew he was mad about the defense during the game, but that's not something you say to the newspaper. I'll let him know about that."

Dodgers taking a look

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been scouting the Pirates' games in the past week. Though there is no specific information as to their pursuit, the Dodgers are seeking bullpen help, and the Pirates are offering as much as anyone: Damaso Marte, Torres and possibly Chacon if no contract is signed soon.

Los Angeles has a wealth of young players it is open to discussing, among them third baseman Andy LaRoche, brother of the Pirates' Adam LaRoche.

Armas rebounding

Tony Armas had perhaps the most forgettable first half of any pitcher in Major League Baseball, but he quietly has put together a fine July.

In five relief appearances this month, which includes one last night, he has a 0.00 ERA and has given up two hits and a walk in 10 1/3 innings. Most impressive for a guy who seldom got a swing and a miss in the first half: He has nine strikeouts.

"His command is better and his delivery, too," manager Jim Tracy said. "You see more life to the ball in the hitting area and, suddenly, we're seeing swings and misses."

Pitching coach Jim Colborn and bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar worked extensively with Armas in June, and Armas gave them credit.

"But it still comes down to confidence," Armas said. "I'm feeling really good now, and that makes the difference."

Buried treasure

Jose Castillo was back at third base after Matt Kata started four games there.

Tracy, on Oliver Perez's resurgence with the Mets: "When he's throwing strikes, he's tough. We saw that a few times last season when he was with us. He's capable, no doubt about it."

07-27-2007, 07:09 PM

Pirates Notebook: Torres' grievance could affect trade

Friday, July 27, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEW YORK -- A trade of reliever Salomon Torres might be a messy proposition.

The grievance he filed against the Pirates in March, one in which he complained that the team deceived him when negotiating his contract in the spring of 2006, calls for that contract to be voided if he wins his case. If that happens, of course, Torres would be a free agent.

That means any team acquiring Torres, in theory, could lose him whenever the grievance is settled.

One way around such an issue could be for the Pirates to pay Torres the $1.5 million he feels he is owed, thus canceling the grievance. But there have been no talks toward a settlement since the team, according to Torres offered him additional bonus incentives several months ago.

Torres has maintained that Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield led him to believe the team would lease one of his two baseball academies in the Dominican Republic and, as a result, he signed a two-year, $6.5 million extension that he feels was $1.5 million below market value.

Littlefield has declined comment on the grievance, other than to say he engaged in the talks in a "professional" manner.

Gorzelanny status quo

Starter Tom Gorzelanny's stiff left shoulder felt no different than it usually does the day after a game, he said yesterday, offering another sign that he has no significant injury.

Gorzelanny was forced to exit in the third inning Tuesday because of the stiffness.

He will do some long-tossing this afternoon in Philadelphia, after which the Pirates will determine the next step. For now, he is expected to make his next start.

Still no Chacon talks

The Pirates had told reliever Shawn Chacon they would let him know by this week if they would agree to his request to negotiate a contract extension, but he still had not heard from them as of yesterday.

Given that apparent lack of urgency on the team's part, as well as the time necessary to discuss the multiyear contract that would be needed to keep Chacon from entering free agency after the season, it is increasingly likely that the Pirates will try to trade Chacon by Major League Baseball's Tuesday deadline.

Chacon is making $3.85 million, and it will take a raise on that salary to keep him.

Johnny V. Goode?

John Van Benschoten, skipped Sunday after going 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA in his first six starts, might be getting his final chance to stay in the rotation when he takes the mound tonight in Philadelphia.

He has had four side sessions with pitching coach Jim Colborn, which manager Jim Tracy tentatively described as productive.

"The reports are good," Tracy said. "We'll see how that translates to throwing strikes in the game."

The focus of Colborn's sessions was addressing a forward lean and inconsistencies in hip movement.

"I feel better," Van Benschoten said. "But it's a lot of work, taking that much in all at once."

Buried treasure

The Pirates' catchers have not caught a runner trying to steal since July 4. Opponents have stolen 14 bases since then, including one by Jose Reyes yesterday.

More indications that Jason Bay is out of his six-week slumber: His two-out RBI single yesterday gave him eight RBIs in the past five games, a span in which he has gone 6 for 17.

How impatient are the Pirates at the plate? Consider that they have walked only 12 times in the past 10 games, including one yesterday by, of all people, Jose Castillo.

Forgoing air travel for one trip, the Pirates bused to Philadelphia after the game.

07-29-2007, 06:15 PM

Pirates Notebook: Starting rotation changes in works

Sunday, July 29, 2007
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pirates yesterday made the following changes:

Removed pitcher John Van Benschoten from their rotation, sending him to Class AAA Indianapolis for more work.

Delayed Tom Gorzelanny, skipping his turn early this week and giving his stiff left shoulder a little precautionary rest until a scheduled Saturday start.

Inserted Tony Armas, if only temporarily, into Van Benschoten's vacated spot Wednesday.

And kept mum about who would replace Van Benschoten on the roster -- another pitcher from the minors, a trade/move in the works, or what?

"We'll have somebody here Sunday," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said before last night's game at Citizens Bank Park, waged with one player less than the 25-man limit. "I don't want to say too much about that right now."

Tracy, however, was willing to discuss the tinkering with a rotation part and parcel of the 2-11 skid they carried into last night.

Van Benschoten (0-5) seemingly cried out for a change, having lost three consecutive decisions in which he allowed five-plus runs and never escaped the third inning. He yielded 21 earned runs in six innings in his past three starts. After giving up seven earned runs in an 8-1, seven-inning loss Friday night, the Pirates' 2001 first-round selection frustratingly admitted that it was a career-low moment.

So yesterday, barely 16 hours later, Tracy, Van Benschoten and pitching coach Jim Colborn huddled together and mapped out the next few steps. The first involved Van Benschoten returning to Indianapolis, where he planned to drive today from Pittsburgh.

"Just results. Producing results. That's what we're all looking for," Van Benschoten said. He added, pointing toward the field of his Friday nightmare, "exactly the opposite of that."

Van Benschoten, 27, agreed with Tracy's solution that a major-league bullpen was no place for him to attempt to work out of his funk. Both talked about what Van Benschoten described as "that two-year hangover," the January 2005 shoulder surgery that limited him to a total of five games the past two seasons. "Hopefully, I'll get it back by the end of the year," he said.

"We feel, obviously, Johnny V needs regularity," Tracy said. "What he's got going on and what he needs to work out, and he needs the bullpen [sessions] between starts. ... He's shown us pitches that definitely can compete at this level. But the consistency of them is far and few between."

Gorzelanny, meantime, needed precaution and a shade more rest, Tracy said. The bullpen session that initially was to determine his fitness was pushed back a day, until today, and his turn in the rotation was skipped. He is scheduled to start again Saturday against Cincinnati at PNC Park. Gorzelanny exited early from his most recent start, mentioning that shoulder stiffness, and appeared Friday to be hesitant about throwing a bullpen session.

"Obviously, this is a pretty special arm we're talking about here," Tracy said. "It's in the best interest of everybody to [shuffle the rotation and move him back three days or so]." He added that Colborn and Gorzelanny will have a bullpen session today, "and see where he's at."

Armas started seven games early this season, resulting in an 0-3 mark and a bloated ERA. Working on the side with Colborn, then working from the bullpen to the point where he allowed just one run in 12 relief innings, Armas is far more confident in taking what Tracy described as a rotation test run against St. Louis.

07-30-2007, 11:59 AM

Pirates Notebook: Bayliss used demotion to concentrate on his focus

Monday, July 30, 2007
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PHILADELPHIA -- Upon returning to the Pirates yesterday from a monthlong Class AAA stint, Jonah Bayliss wore a small smile and a T-shirt that read "I hope you like animals, 'cause I'm a beast."

And he reported that the Indianapolis assignment did wonders for one particular piece of anatomy.

"My mind," Bayliss said. "That basically was my biggest problem, because I was beating myself up. To me, my struggles were never really mechanical. In my opinion, my struggles were based-- I don't want to say completely ... almost entirely on the mental aspect. Putting myself in a hole. Beating myself up about it. And not being able to get out."

"I think the big thing with Jonah is, he needs to trust his stuff," added Pirates manager Jim Tracy.

That's what happened last September, when Bayliss had a stretch of four consecutive scoreless outings.

"He was throwing strikes and challenging and going after the bat," Tracy said.

Bayliss rejoined the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park yesterday, the morning after John Van Benschoten was returned to Indianapolis to work out his pitching problems -- three losses in a row, all while allowing five or more runs and failing to last the third inning.

Tracy explained that Bayliss will slip into the bullpen role previously occupied by Tony Armas, who, for the time being, slips into the rotation spot previously occupied by Van Benschoten.

"It's an opportunity to ease him back in and see where he's at," Tracy said.

Bayliss opened this season with the Pirates, but was sent to Indianapolis June 24 after crafting a 4-3 record with a 7.53 ERA. Opponents were batting .315 against him.

In Class AAA, he went 3-2 with a 6.46 ERA and struck out 11 batters in 151/3 innings.

After spending 46 games and saving half of those last season in Indianapolis, he felt at ease in his return to the Indians, manager Trent Jewett and pitching coach Jeff Andrews.

"It was kind of refreshing to go back to an environment you were a lot more comfortable with," Bayliss said. "In a way, I just got back to the basics."

No word on Chacon

Potential free-agent pitcher Shawn Chacon and his agent still hadn't heard from the Pirates about a new contract, what with the trade deadline just hours away.

"I'm wondering ... obviously trade-wise what's going to happen," Chacon said after throwing two-thirds of a troublesome eighth inning, recording both outs by strikeout, allowing two earned runs and seeing his ERA rise to 3.72. "I haven't thought about it two much because I don't want it to be a distraction.

"But it's there."

The Gorzo report

In the continuing saga of starter Tom Gorzelanny and his once-stiff left shoulder, he didn't throw a bullpen session yesterday as tentatively scheduled. In fact, Gorzelanny -- whose next start was pushed back at least three days to Saturday -- merely did some long tossing yesterday.

He is prepared to do bullpen throwing today at PNC Park, on the team's off day, as well as Wednesday.

"Yeah, I'm feeling better," said Gorzelanny, whose latest outing ended early because of stiffness.

Bill Robinson dies

Former Pirate Bill Robinson, a McKeesport native who played for the team from 1975-82, died yesterday of unknown causes. He was 64. Robinson, an Elizabeth Forward High School graduate who was the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor-league hitting coordinator, played 16 years in the major leagues. See Obituary.

Buried treasure

Pirates relievers will be glad to return to the confines of PNC Park for this six-game homestand. The bullpen has collected a 0.98 ERA and yielded just four earned runs in its past 12 games (362/3 innings) at home. Opponents have batted .202 (26 for 129) without a home run in that span.

A stolen base by Shane Victorino marked the 15th consecutive successful steal against Pirates catchers, who last threw out a would-be stealer July 4.

Third baseman Jose Bautista, rehabilitating a cut hand, may start a rehab assignment by facing Gulf Coast League rookie pitching this week if his batting practices with the Bradenton staff progress, Tracy said.

08-03-2007, 11:30 AM

Pirates Notebook: Chacon still 'open' to staying

Wednesday, August 01, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Shawn Chacon, one of the Pirates' three relievers who surprisingly stayed put at the trading deadline yesterday, took it as a sign that he could be staying put for quite a while.

"I take it to mean that they want to try to work out an extension and keep me here," Chacon said shortly after the clubhouse clock passed the 4 p.m. deadline. "And I know I'd still like to stay."

Chacon informed the Pirates early last month that he would welcome a contract extension in lieu of pursuing free agency in the coming offseason. Management replied by telling him that he would have a response on that by last week, but he has yet to hear from anyone.

Still, he was adamant yesterday that there was no change in his stance, even with the trade deadline gone and free agency the next step in sight.

"I'm still open to anything," Chacon said. "Obviously, the later we go, the less the chance. But I'm still open."

General manager Dave Littlefield has declined comment on the possibility of extending Chacon.

Until yesterday, Chacon was the Pirates' top-paid pitcher at $3.85 million.

Bautista coming back

Third baseman Jose Bautista will rejoin the Pirates today, about a week or two sooner than expected, after his cut left hand -- from a July 14 sliding mishap -- responded well to one minor-league rehabilitation game, Monday with Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League.

A player will be removed from the 25-man roster, probably third baseman Matt Kata.

Gorzelanny upbeat

Starter Tom Gorzelanny, skipping a start because of his stiff left shoulder, should take his next turn in the coming weekend, manager Jim Tracy said.

He had a pain-free long-toss session Monday and could pitch off a mound as early as tomorrow.

"I feel great," Gorzelanny said. "I'm ready."

Buried treasure

Starter Ian Snell was fined $2,000 by Major League Baseball for his July 18 postgame remarks in which he threatened retaliation against the Colorado Rockies for purportedly stealing signs. Snell apologized to Colorado manager Clint Hurdle the next day.

The logical candidate to be bumped from the rotation is Tony Armas, the scheduled starter tonight, but that has not been determined.

The Pirates signed center fielder Peter Bergeron, who spent parts of 1999-2004 with the Montreal Expos, to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Class AA Altoona.

Outfielder Rajai Davis, on going to San Francisco in time to witness Barry Bonds' home run chase: "It's going to be just awesome. I can't wait to be part of history. But the bigger thing is that I'm getting a chance, and I'm really excited about that."

Cesar Izturis, playing third base last night for the first time since joining the Pirates, had another new wrinkle: He took outfielder Nate McLouth's No. 3, his usual number, and McLouth took Izturis' No. 13.

08-03-2007, 11:32 AM

Pirates Notebook: Jocketty could be candidate for CEO

Friday, August 03, 2007
By Paul Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pirates do not have a complete list of candidates for their soon-to-be vacant CEO position, but it's possible Walt Jocketty is or will be on it.

"I can't comment on that," Jocketty, the senior vice-president/general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, said yesterday. "It's the first I've heard of it."

Jocketty's name has surfaced with greater frequency than other names when industry sources are asked about potential Pirate CEO candidates.

The Pirates do not have a timetable for interviews of candidates to succeed Kevin McClatchy, who announced July 6 he would step down as CEO at the end of this season.

Morris arrives

Matt Morris, scheduled to make his Pirates debut tomorrow night against Cincinnati, joined the team yesterday morning after a flurry of "to-do list" things that had to be done.

"I'd never been traded before," said Morris, acquired Tuesday from San Francisco for outfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named. "I was kind of overwhelmed. My wife's seven months pregnant, and she has the doctor in San Francisco."

So a lot had to be done in a short time.

"But, in a couple of days, it will feel like I've been here a long time," Morris said.

Morris was a standout starter for the Cardinals before going to San Francisco as a free agent.

"With us, he learned from guys like Darryl Kile about how to be a leader on a pitching staff," Jocketty said. "He was always a guy we felt was good with young pitchers and led on the mound and off the mound. He was a guy who would provide whatever assistance and advice he could with young pitchers."

"I'm encouraged to see us have a guy like this," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "He has a track record not only between the lines but off the field, too. He has some things to offer these young guys that can enhance them and move them along. It's tough to get a guy like this."

Wilson deal still on table

A trade of Jack Wilson to Detroit continued to seem viable yesterday, even though the non-waiver trading deadline passed Tuesday. The deal could be made through waivers. It's almost a certainty the Tigers would claim the shortstop off waivers, then a deal could be worked out.

As of late yesterday afternoon, it did not appear Wilson had been put on waivers.

A report from Detroit indicated the Pirates and Tigers had completed a Wilson trade early this week in which the Tigers would have picked up all of Wilson's remaining contract money -- in excess of $14 million.

"We had a deal," a source said.

The Pirates would have received Dallas Trahern or Jair Jurrjens -- both 21-year-old right-handed pitchers -- and a mid-level position player prospect. That deal apparently collapsed when the Pirates asked for a major-league player, perhaps outfielder Craig Monroe.

A stunner

Seattle and St. Louis both tried to land Morris before the trade deadline Tuesday. That the Pirates swept in and took all of Morris' contract money stunned at least a few baseball people.

One front-office person told ESPN.com: "That move is so far out of left field [that] it's in the Monongahela."

Buried treasure

To make room on the 25-man roster for Morris, the Pirates designated infielder Matt Kata for assignment. He likely will wind up back at Class AAA Indianapolis.

Altoona outfielder Andrew McCutchen raised his batting average to .253 Wednesday. That's his high-water mark of the season. McCutchen through Wednesday night had hit .313 since July 1.


The African American Heritage Day Luncheon, beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the PNC Park Lexus Club. Joe Morgan, a 1990 Hall of Fame inductee and color analyst for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," will be the keynote speaker. Proceeds will benefit Pirates Charities and the Joe Morgan Youth Foundation. Tickets are available for $40 per person. Contact Winifred Torbert at (412) 325-4731.

Josh Gibson Replica Statue Giveaway at the game against the Cincinnati Reds. Gibson, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, played for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.


Roadway Express "Time of Greatness" Mobile Museum. The traveling museum features historic photos, video, uniforms and other memorabilia illustrating the rich history of Negro League baseball. Former Pirates Chuck Tanner and Bob Robertson will participate in an autograph session at the exhibit. The museum will be in Red Lot 6 on West General Robinson Street. The museum is open from 6-7:30 p.m.

GospelFest on Federal Street with church choirs and soloists performing from 3-6:30 p.m.
Homestead Grays Replica Jersey Giveaway. Fans will receive a No. 20 Homestead Grays jersey honoring Josh Gibson.

African American Community Service Awards presentation. In pregame ceremonies, the Pirates' Community Service Awards will be presented to 11 youth organizations.


Children 12 and under receive a Willie Stargell replica jersey in honor of the Pirates Hall of Famer.

08-04-2007, 08:56 AM
Wilson and Coborn bump heads again, along with Snell.......

As Snell exited the field, he and Colborn had a brief but animated exchange at the railing. Snell kept walking, and Colborn kept talking.

Then, in an ironic twist, it was shortstop Jack Wilson, the target of Colborn's dugout ire in that highly publicized incident July 16, who cooled the matter by raising his right forearm across Colborn's chest to keep him from pursuing Snell.

Wilson confirmed he was nothing more than a mediator.

Tracy and Snell each downplayed the matter.

"I don't know what was said," Tracy said when asked if he had concerns about Colborn going after his players in the dugout. "I don't think that he went after him. It looked very brief to me. It was just something said, then walking back in the other direction."

Tracy paused.

"Little things like that, you see that periodically in places besides just here. It's just something that happens. But I didn't see anything that was extended beyond a couple words, turn around and head the other way."

After the previous incident, general manager Dave Littlefield charged Tracy with creating order.

Snell clearly wanted no part of questions on the matter.

"It was nothing," he said.

Asked if everything was OK between him and Colborn, Snell replied, "Everything's fine. Why?"


This team is having a complete break down and Tracy is on planet Neptune. Good job.

I love how they are downplaying it. It looked like to me that it went "beyond a couple words".

That whole coaching staff from the top on down needs to go after this season. And no, I do not want Lloyd freakin' McClendon back. I already listened to a few of those intelligent phone calls on "TNSC".

Oh BTW, they lost 13-4.

08-04-2007, 12:19 PM
Wilson and Coborn bump heads again, along with Snell.......


This team is having a complete break down and Tracy is on planet Neptune. Good job.

I love how they are downplaying it. It looked like to me that it went "beyond a couple words".

That whole coaching staff from the top on down needs to go after this season. And no, I do not want Lloyd freakin' McClendon back. I already listened to a few of those intelligent phone calls on "TNSC".

Oh BTW, they lost 13-4.

Lloyd as an assistant I'm fine with, Manager, FAILURE!

Nuttings plans to get the pirates in the right direction should be these

1.)Fire Tracy-He's failed miserably.

2.)Fire Littlefield-(See Tracy)

3.)Fire himself-unfortunately he won't do it though.

08-05-2007, 10:50 PM

Pirates Notebook: Tracy covets clarity on Bonds

Sunday, August 05, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pirates manager Jim Tracy expressed hope that there someday will be resolution to the steroids controversy that has engulfed Barry Bonds, if only so that Bonds' status as one of the game's greats can be clearer.

"The one thing I'd like to see is for everything to come out," Tracy said yesterday. "To have to sit there and hear this conversation about whether or not there should be an asterisk, I'd like to see that go away. I've seen this player do some things that are uncanny. Absolutely uncanny."

Tracy went further in his praise for Bonds' ability.

"I haven't seen them all, obviously, but I've never seen a player have a greater impact on the lineup. As a manager, you're always aware of where he is, how many hitters there are until he comes up. And I've also never had a hitter where I thought to myself, every single time he comes up, 'He's going to hit a home run.' I don't know if I'll ever see another player like that."

He praised his defense, too, circa his days with the Pirates.

"People here in Pittsburgh will remember that this was a left fielder who played the position like a center fielder. He was amazing."

The Pirates have five games against Bonds and the Giants next week, a three-game weekend set in San Francisco and a doubleheader at PNC Park Aug. 13.

Bonds' view on Pirates

Bonds told the Associated Press the notion that his departure from the Pirates in 1992 has cursed the franchise is not true.

"Naw, I don't believe that at all," Bonds said. "They've got some good players who can do some things. They just never keep the players. That's been the downfall of Pittsburgh. We all wanted to stay. There just was no chance of us staying."

Osoria up, Bayliss down

The Pirates purchased the contract of right-handed reliever Franquelis Osoria from Class AAA Indianapolis and, to clear roster space, optioned reliever Jonah Bayliss back to Indianapolis.

Osoria, 26, was Indianapolis' closer most of the season, producing 11 saves, a 2.63 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 19 walks in 39 appearances. Tracy, who had Osoria in his bullpen while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, called him "a real sinker-baller."

That still leaves the Pirates with a 13-man pitching staff, one more than usual, and Tracy did not rule out that they could keep it that way for another week.

The bench is down to four players, and one of those, outfielder Xavier Nady, will not return to the starting lineup until Tuesday at the earliest because of a strained hamstring.

Wilson's focus

Shortstop Jack Wilson made clear yesterday that, although he has agreed to waive his limited no-trade clause if it meant getting dealt to the Detroit Tigers, his preference would be to remain in Pittsburgh if that does not happen.

"I love it here," he said. "I don't want anyone to think I don't."

Buried treasure

Wilson, 8 for 15 with a home run in the previous four games, was benched in favor of Cesar Izturis last night. Cincinnati started a left-hander, Bobby Livingston. "Just a day for Cesar," Tracy explained.

Jose Bautista played right field -- his first appearance at any position other than third base this season -- because Tracy wanted to get Jose Castillo into the lineup.

Tom Gorzelanny will make his first start today since July 25 in New York, where he developed shoulder stiffness. He pronounced the shoulder to be in excellent shape yesterday.

The Pirates assigned reliever Danny Moskos, their first-round draft pick in June, to short-season Class A State College. He had two scoreless outings with Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League.

Indianapolis catcher Humberto Cota, who opened the season with the Pirates, will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his long-ailing left shoulder.

08-06-2007, 01:44 PM

Pirates Notebook: How might Bonds affect young starters?

Monday, August 06, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Remember Al Downing?

Most baseball fans do, and it has nothing to do with his 17 seasons in Major League Baseball or his being a 20-game winner in 1971. Rather he is, now and forever, the guy who gave up Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run April 8, 1974, as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

By next weekend, the Pirates could have someone in a similar category.

With Barry Bonds still a home run shy of breaking Aaron's 755, he has four home games against the Washington Nationals beginning tonight, then five against his former team, very much opening the possibility that someone in that span will be the poor soul whose gopher ball gets shown on ESPN Classic for the next few decades or so.

Pirates manager Jim Tracy's rotation for the three games in San Francisco -- which he was forced to reset after the rainout yesterday at PNC Park against the Cincinnati Reds -- will be Matt Morris, Tony Armas and Tom Gorzelanny. The pitchers for the Aug. 13 doubleheader at PNC Park will be Paul Maholm and Shane Youman.

Morris and Armas are veterans who probably have been through enough to handle it.

But the others?

Gorzelanny and Maholm are 25, each still in the formative stage of his career. Youman is 27, but a rookie.

"Yeah, if you're the one, you'll have to see it for many years to come," Maholm said. "But, for me, he's one of the best hitters in the game, and I take that as a challenge all by itself. I'm going to challenge him. If I give it up, I give it up. It wouldn't be the first home run he's hit."

He quickly added with a smile: "But, hopefully, it will happen before we get there. I know it'll be a big deal."

Gorzelanny, too, acknowledged already giving it thought, but ...

"We're going out there to win three games, not to worry about one guy," he said. "There's a lot of hoopla. We watch it, we hear it, and I'm sure we're all interested. But we're more interested in winning games. When he comes up, we're just going to try to get him out like all their other hitters."

And does he, like Maholm, plan to approach Bonds aggressively?

"I don't see any reason to pitch around him. You're better off going at him than putting him on."

For the record, here is how Bonds has fared against the Pirates' five starters facing San Francisco: He is 2 for 14 with two doubles vs. Morris, 5 for 10 with two doubles and two home runs vs. Armas, 1 for 2 with a double vs. Gorzelanny, and he never has faced Maholm or Youman.

The Nationals' starters against the Giants will be John Lannan, Mike Bacsik, Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan.

Rain pushes game to Aug. 28

The Pirates and Reds, who never took the field yesterday once the rain began falling a half-hour before the scheduled first pitch, will make up the game as part of a doubleheader Aug. 28, beginning at 5:05 p.m.

Gorzelanny, who had been set to start for the first time since feeling shoulder stiffness July 25 in New York, will be pushed back to the Pirates' next game, tomorrow in Phoenix. Maholm and Armas will pitch the other two games of that series.

Tickets for the game yesterday can be used for any remaining home games other than the SkyBlast dates, Aug. 16-18.

Littlefield: Still active

General manager Dave Littlefield does not discuss potential personnel moves, so he is not about to shed light on the ongoing talks with the Detroit Tigers regarding shortstop Jack Wilson.

But he did acknowledge yesterday, in a general sense, that he has remained active in talks beyond the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

"We're trying to get better, and we're continuing to work to make that happen," he said.

Asked if that is more difficult now, given that players must clear waivers to be dealt, Littlefield replied: "It's more challenging, but it's doable. Teams make trades in August."

The best trade of Littlefield's career came in August, the one that netted Jason Bay and Oliver Perez from the San Diego Padres for Brian Giles on Aug. 26, 2003.

Buried treasure

Outfielder Xavier Nady did more running to test his strained left hamstring but reported negligible progress. It is far from certain that he will rejoin the lineup tomorrow.

Outfielder Chris Duffy, rehabilitating a sprained left ankle in Bradenton, Fla., has resumed baseball-related activity, Littlefield said. There remains no timetable for Zach Duke, also in Bradenton because of a sore left elbow, to throw off a mound.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig will not attend Bonds' games tonight through Wednesday, but there is a chance he will be in San Francisco after that, including the series with the Pirates.

08-08-2007, 07:51 AM

Pirates Notebook: Littlefield's price too high?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PHOENIX -- Dave Littlefield has a reputation for seeking sky-high prices in trades and, as a result, turning off those with whom he is trying to deal.

The Pirates' general manager often has rejected the charge, but two recent events lend it some credence, each involving a potential move for shortstop Jack Wilson ...

First, Toronto expressed interest in upgrading over Royce Clayton, even if that meant waiting until after the season. The Pirates and Blue Jays spoke in July and, as multiple sources confirmed, Littlefield asked for third baseman Troy Glaus, Toronto's premier power hitter, in return.

One of those sources yesterday revealed that J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays' general manager, was so taken aback by the proposal that he immediately tuned out regarding Wilson.

That might explain why Ricciardi, on July 23, took the unusual step of mentioning another team's player publicly when he told the Canadian Press, "We have absolutely no interest in Jack Wilson. None."

Clayton, by the way, was released yesterday.

Next came the Detroit Tigers, who, unlike Toronto, offered to take on all of Wilson's contract that has $14.25 million guaranteed beyond this season.

The deal on the table at the July 31 non-waiver deadline would have netted the Pirates one of two 21-year-old pitchers, Jair Jurrjens or Dallas Trahern, and another prospect in the Detroit system. Littlefield apparently asked for a major-league player on top of that -- outfielder Craig Monroe was mentioned -- and the Tigers pulled back.

Still, talks are not dead, as the teams are believed to have had contact yesterday morning.

Jurrjens, in the meantime, is fresh off his two finest outings of the season for Class AA Erie and yesterday was named Eastern League player of the week after striking out 10 in a complete-game shutout. Overall, he is 6-5 with a 3.32 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 30 walks in 106 innings.

Such production at that age is superior to any pitcher at any level of the Pirates' system.

Wilson has been hot, too: In the six games since the July 31 non-waiver deadline, he is 11 for 20 with two home runs and seven RBIs.


"You can look at it two ways," Wilson said yesterday. "If the Pirates are willing to trade me, then I'm going to go out there and show what I can do. If the Pirates aren't sure, I'm going to show why they should keep me."

Another national game?

The Pirates' Sept. 8 home game against the Chicago Cubs is being listed as a 3:55 p.m. nationally televised game for Fox on that network's Web site.

Officially, though, the first pitch remains set for 7:05 p.m., as no one has informed the Pirates of a switch.

Although Fox has the right to shift a limited number of games for its national broadcasts, the Pirates can be expected to resist this one because the University of Pittsburgh has a football game against Grambling at noon that day at Heinz Field. That could wreak havoc not only with traffic but also with staffing, as the two North Shore stadiums employ many of the same service workers.

Nady makes progress

Outfielder Xavier Nady finally showed progress with his strained left hamstring, but he still missed his fifth consecutive start.

He ran at Chase Field yesterday, and his sole limitation was some discomfort on the push-off. That, manager Jim Tracy said, was enough to keep him out because of the stadium's big gaps and fast turf that demands outfield speed.

"Over the next couple days, we could see him back in the lineup," Tracy said.

Chacon held out

Shawn Chacon did not appear as the eighth-inning setup man last night because of some minor stiffness in his neck. That problem flared early in the season, too, but it is not seen as serious.

Buried treasure

The Pirates still are going with an eight-man bullpen, though Tracy allowed that could change before the team gets to San Francisco for the weekend.

Funny how these things blossom: Two offseasons ago, the Pirates lost out to Arizona in free-agent bidding for outfielder Eric Byrnes, the Diamondbacks signing him to a one-year deal worth $2.2 million. Yesterday, with Byrnes having established himself as one of Arizona's top performers, he signed a three-year extension worth $30 million.

John Wasdin, a starter with Class AAA Indianapolis who had two stints with the Pirates this season, has been placed on the minor-league disabled list because of an unspecified injury.

Utilityman Matt Kata, designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and joined Indianapolis.

08-09-2007, 06:36 PM

Pirates Notebook: Snell carries chip into start

Thursday, August 09, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PHOENIX -- Ian Snell is irked, which usually is a good thing.

"I've got that chip," he said yesterday at his Chase Field stall. "And I know I'll have it with me."

He would not specify what had him foul in advance of his start tonight against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he strongly suggested it was some form of public criticism that has him irritated.

Whatever the case, Snell might need a boulder on his shoulder to reverse his recent fortunes: He was 7-5 with a 2.93 ERA before the All-Star break, but has lost all five starts since then and put up an 8.31 ERA.

Asked if he has worked on anything since his most recent start, Snell replied simply, "Nope. Just going to pitch."

That approach might suit manager Jim Tracy just fine.

"He just needs to pitch like the Ian Snell we saw in the first half," Tracy said. "It could be very similar to what we just saw with Tom Gorzelanny. He got back to pitching. He got ahead of people, pitched to both sides of the plate and had everything going. Ian Snell is no different. When he's on, he's just as difficult to hit."

Progress in Bradenton

The Pirates' two rehabilitating players in Bradenton, Fla., starter Zach Duke and center fielder Chris Duffy, are close to game action.

Duke threw a bullpen session Tuesday and will have another today, a "very encouraging" sign for his sore left elbow," Tracy said.

Duffy has been cleared to run the bases on his sprained left ankle, and he could play in a game by week's end.

He begs to differ

At least one of the Pirates could convincingly dispute that Barry Bonds is the new home run king.

"That's Mr. Oh," reliever Masumi Kuwata said. "No question."

Sadaharu Oh, a Japanese legend who retired in 1980, hit 868 home runs in Kuwata's homeland.

"But Bonds is a great player, too," Kuwata added.

Bonds was asked about Oh during his news conference Tuesday in San Francisco, and he replied that Josh Gibson, late of the Negro Leagues' Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, should be mentioned, too.

"None of you ever talks about Josh Gibson," Bonds said.

Gibson had 224 official home runs, but estimates of his full professional career have counted more than 800.

Buried treasure

Outfielder Xavier Nady, who missed a sixth start to a strained left hamstring, could return tonight.

Reliever Shawn Chacon's stiff neck was deemed not serious, and he could resume regular activity soon.

The Sept. 8 home game against the Chicago Cubs will not be shifted to the afternoon, despite it being listed as a 3:55 p.m. start by Fox on its Web site. It will remain at 7:05 p.m., thus avoiding a conflict with a Pitt football game that day at noon at Heinz Field.

Steve Pearce, the Pirates' top power-hitting prospect, was moved from first base to right field for Class AAA Indianapolis' game last night in Louisville, Ky.

08-10-2007, 08:35 PM

Pirates Notebook: Morris wary of Giants' ire

Friday, August 10, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PHOENIX -- Matt Morris allows to feeling some apprehension about his return to San Francisco, where he will pitch against the Giants tonight, just 10 days after being traded to the Pirates.

"I've got mixed feelings, you know?" he said at Chase Field. "This whole week has been a lot of new stuff. Now, to go back there and face the old teammates ... it'll be a lot mentally."

More than one might think.

Morris has been made aware of some Giants being unhappy with comments he made to the Pittsburgh media the day of the trade, in which he said he was looking forward to "getting some better defense" with the Pirates and playing with "some young guys who are looking to play hard."

He said he felt the matter was being exaggerated.

"There's been some controversy with me, apparently, and I never wanted that to happen," Morris said. "I don't even know what was said, and I think they really blew it up into something that it's not. Now, I've got guys over there mad at me."

Asked what he meant when he compared the Pirates to the Giants, he replied, "It was a hard situation for me to comment on Pittsburgh, a team I didn't really know anything about except seeing them. I just got caught in limbo there. I didn't mean to stir anything up. But, obviously, it's going to come back and ... we'll see who reads the paper over there."

Nady to DL?

Outfielder Xavier Nady missed a seventh start and will miss another tonight, and he could be bound for the 15-day disabled list after a discouraging set of running tests yesterday showed no improvement in his strained left hamstring.

Manager Jim Tracy would not rule out the disabled list, noting that Nady had not appeared in a game since a pinch-hit appearance Saturday. That means his placement on the 15-day disabled list could be backdated until then and he would miss only an additional week.

"It's just not any better," Tracy said of the hamstring. "It's still not up to even 90 percent."

Nady's running tests involved various types of movements to simulate baseball situations. He completed all of them, but he never appeared able to take it full tilt.

The Pirates now are playing with a three-man bench, essentially, so a roster move could be imminent. First baseman-outfielder Brad Eldred, the only healthy minor-league position player on the 40-man roster, hit two home runs for Class AAA Indianapolis Wednesday.

Bautista back in outfield

Jose Bautista, the Pirates' third baseman most of the season, was in the outfield for the second time in three starts, this time in center. But Tracy cautioned against reading anything into that, saying he simply wanted to stack a right-handed lineup against Arizona left-hander Doug Davis.

"The last thing I want to do is feel like I'm bouncing Jose all over the place," Tracy said. "This is an isolated case."

Buried treasure

The Pirates signed their 35th-round draft pick, pitcher Tom Boleska. They have 27 of their 50 picks under contract and until Wednesday to sign anyone else.

Five State College players were named to the Class A New York-Penn League All-Star Game, to be played Tuesday. That includes left-handed starter Anthony Watson, 6-1 with a 2.77 ERA. The rest are first baseman Justin Byler, outfielders Austin McClune and Keanon Simon and catcher Nick Stillwagon.

08-11-2007, 03:02 PM

Pirates Notebook: Bonds doubts he will play in Pittsburgh

Saturday, August 11, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds probably will not play in Pittsburgh next week.

Major League Baseball's new home run king declined to do formal interviews yesterday before facing the Pirates, but he did say he thought it was unlikely he will appear in either game of the San Francisco Giants' doubleheader Monday at PNC Park.

The reason: Bonds is not expected to start this afternoon, but he should play tomorrow. After that, the Giants must make the five-hour flight to Pittsburgh, and that travel might prompt a full day off for Bonds.

The doubleheader Monday, a makeup of two April rainouts, is being squeezed into what had been an off-day for San Francisco, which has a game Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Despite what Bonds said, there is a chance he could play one of the two games in Pittsburgh, as the Giants are down to a three-man bench.

Bonds' absence would be bad news for the Pirates, who had been selling tickets for the doubleheader at a brisk pace because of his pending arrival. The team also has planned a video tribute to Bonds, to be shown a few minutes before the second game, and that doubtless would proceed whether or not he is in attendance.

Maholm, Youman fly early

There is ample precedent for pitchers missing games to fly to the next city a day early, and that is what the Pirates will do for Paul Maholm and Shane Youman, their pitchers in the doubleheader Monday.

Youman, who had been considered a long reliever the past few days despite not being used, pitched a lengthy bullpen session yesterday that ruled him out of any action until the Monday start. He will have been idle 10 days.

Nady makes appearance

Outfielder Xavier Nady appeared in the game last night as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, effectively eliminating the chance the Pirates will place him on the 15-day disabled list because of his strained left hamstring.

He had been held out since a pinch-hit appearance last Saturday in an attempt to ensure he could be backdated to that point, if necessary.

Nady, still discouraged about the progress of the hamstring, expects to have it examined when the Pirates return to Pittsburgh next week.

Buried treasure

It seems far from certain that the Pirates will stay with Tony Armas in the rotation. With him pitching tonight and Youman Monday, those performances could loom large in deciding who is in or out.

The Pirates signed starter Victor Zambrano to a minor-league contract and had him pitch immediately for Class AAA Indianapolis last night. Zambrano, 33, went 0-2 with a 10.97 ERA in eight appearances with Toronto. The Blue Jays released him July 9.

Josh Phelps, a first baseman and catcher by trade, has been taking grounders at third base.

08-26-2007, 06:31 PM

Pirates Notebook: Struggling Moskos taken out of game action
Sunday, August 26, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HOUSTON -- The Pirates have taken reliever Danny Moskos, their first-round draft pick in June, out of game action in State College to address mechanical issues.

"It's not a big deal, and it's not a health issue at all," director of player development Brian Graham said. "He's rushing his delivery, and Wilson Alvarez wants to work on it with him, so he's just going to throw on the side for a few days."

Alvarez is the pitching coach at State College, the Pirates' short-season Class A affiliate.

Moskos has struggled in five relief appearances since being promoted to the Spikes from the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, posting a 5.68 ERA, with 11 hits and two walks in 61/3 innings. In his most recent outing Monday, he was replaced in mid-inning.

Torres back to disabled list

Reliever Salomon Torres was placed on the 15-day disabled list -- retroactive to Wednesday -- because of inflammation in the medial collateral ligament of his right elbow, the same injury that cost him a month in June and July.

He will see doctors tomorrow.

"I don't think it's as bad as before," Torres said.

To replace Torres, the Pirates promoted hard-throwing reliever Romulo Sanchez from Class AA Altoona for his first venture into Major League Baseball.

Sanchez, 23, had a 2.81 ERA in 40 appearances with the Curve, with 52 strikeouts and 17 walks.

Sanchez already was on the 40-man roster, but so were three other right-handed relievers at Class AAA Indianapolis -- Josh Sharpless, Jonah Bayliss and Brian Rogers -- all of whom were bypassed after performing poorly in Pittsburgh earlier this season.

Phelps trying outfield

Manager Jim Tracy, eager to get Josh Phelps' big bat into the lineup, has had him shagging flies in the outfield.

He considered using him there last night, as Jason Bay was being rested, but a talk between Tracy and Phelps revealed that "he once played a game in the outfield 11 years ago in Billings, Mont."

Still ...

"We want to get him involved, and we're working on it," Tracy said.

Phelps sounded cautiously excited about it after belting yet another home run last night.

"The one thing I understand is that I'm excelling in the role I'm in right now, and I can't lose sight of that," he said. "What I have to make sure is that, wherever they put me on the field, the pitcher on the mound has to have trust in me. That's only fair to the pitcher. I'll work very hard to do whatever they ask."

Buried treasure

Shane Youman's extended use Friday -- a 40-pitch side session and an unexpected two innings of relief -- cost him his start Tuesday in the doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds. Instead, the Pirates will use Paul Maholm in the second game and bump up the rest of the rotation the next two days. The pitcher Friday night in Milwaukee is "to be announced," Tracy said.

Outfielder Xavier Nady ran yesterday and felt "a little better," Tracy said, and might start one of the games Tuesday.
Although the Pirates are touting Sanchez as a product of their Latin American scouting and development system, he originally was signed out of Venezuela by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002 and spent two years at that team's Venezuelan academy before being released. The Pirates signed him later that year. The Pirates' most recent Latin American amateur signing to reach their major-league roster was Jose Castillo, signed in 1997.

08-26-2007, 06:31 PM
Nice move guys. He's already on the DL!!!!!