July 7: Pirates (37-46) @ Astros (40-41); Sanchez swings

Spoke to GM Neal Huntington on a number of topics earlier today, one of which was Ryan Doumit. I’ve heard from many of you who want Doumit to return sooner (this weekend) rather than later (after the All-Star break), but all indications are that it’s still going to be July 17.

Huntington called it “a long shot” that Doumit would be back with the Pirates during their series in Philadelphia, which begins on Friday. Health-wise, Doumit is just fine. Actually, he has had not a single setback at all during this recovery process. It’s more the concerns about swinging the bat — getting the bat speed back, getting his timing down, etc. — that is the reason for the hold up.

So far, Doumit is 0-for-12 in four rehab games (two with the GCL Pirates and two with Indianapolis).

As for your other news, notes and randomness, with a lot of medical updates to share….

  • Freddy Sanchez spent some time doing long toss earlier on Tuesday and also took his first swings since Friday. Sanchez, who has been sidelined with back spasms, also hit off the tee and off coaches flips on Tuesday. He is shooting for a return to the field on Friday.
  • Huntington said to expect to see Brian Bixler to continue to play some center field with Triple-A Indy. Before Monday night, Bixler had never played anywhere but in the infield. While Huntington emphasized that the organization has not given up on Bixler potentially becoming an everyday Major League shortstop down the road, there is now the belief that he may be better suited as a utility player. He can already play across the infield and by getting Bixler repetitions at center, he’ll be a more versatile option long term. With how things have gone for Bixler in his two Major League stints thus far, that very well may be his best shot.
  • Huntington also confirmed that Donnie Veal will rejoin the team in Philadelphia on Friday. Veal made his final rehab stint for Indianapolis on Monday night and struggled. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on two hits and four walks. In all, Veal walked 16 and struck out 13 in 14 rehab innings.
  • With Veal on his way back, the Pirates will have to send out a reliever to make space for him on the roster. The decision on who that will be has not yet been determined. Evan Meek, Jesse Chavez, Joel Hanrahan, Steven Jackson and Jeff Karstens all have options remaining and could be sent out.
  • Third baseman Neil Walker (sprained PCL ligament in left knee) has begun his rehab assignment with the GCL Pirates. Walker went 1-for-3 with a double and strike out for the GCL club in his first game on Tuesday. He is progressing back as expected.
  • Tyler Yates (right elbow inflammation) continues to throw down in Bradenton, Fla., and Huntington reported that Yates has been pain-free since resuming the throwing program.
  • Phil Dumatrait (left shoulder injury) is scheduled to throw three more simulated games by the end of next week, after which he will join one of the Pirates’ Minor League affiliates for his rehab assignment. He, too, has had no setbacks since returning to the mound.
  • Craig Hansen (neck/back spasms) has still not been cleared to throw. Huntington said that Hansen is “progressing” and can resume light exercises, but that he’s still not completely healthy. While doctors have yet to be able to nail down the cause of Hansen’s ailment, the consensus is that it is something viral.
  • With Triple-A Indianapolis having lost a number of its outfielders over the past month, could Jose Tabata be on his way up there soon? “No”, Huntington said. “There’s still time left.” In Double-A, that is. Tabata has hit .262 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 39 games with Double-A Altoona so far this year. Remember, he did miss extensive time while nursing a hamstring injury.
  • The Pirates lead the Majors with 25 outfield assists. That total is five higher than Cincinnati, which has a second-best 20.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Jack Wilson (SS)
  3. Brandon Moss (RF)
  4. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  5. Garrett Jones (LF)
  6. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  7. Ramon Vazquez (2B)
  8. Jason Jaramillo (C)
  9. Paul Maholm (LHP)

Astros lineup:

  1. Michael Bourn (CF)
  2. Miguel Tejada (SS)
  3. Lance Berkman (1B)
  4. Carlos Lee (LF)
  5. Hunter Pence (RF)
  6. Ivan Rodriguez (C)
  7. Kazuo Matsui (2B)
  8. Jeff Keppinger (3B)
  9. Brian Moehler (RHP) 


Why in the world would the Pirates be spending any more time on Brian Bixler, now making him a centerfielder, utility player, pst, it’s his hitting that sucks, he can’t hit major league pitching
Neal. what is this lover affair with Brian Bixler? He is not and never will be a major league player for anyone besides the Pirates, everyone else has seen enough, why are we always the last to know? This is the biggest bone headed move ever. Release him and give someone else a chance. it’s getting sickening or bring this god up and we can all have another laugh at nh’s expense, JR is dumb enough to play him.

A Marietta boy myself, congrats on the great success of getting to be a beat writer! Tough draw with the Pirates, but I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about the Pirates plans for Milledge and the outfield in general. McCutchen is certainly the CFer, but where do they project Milledge? He’s demonstrated basically an ineptitude in the outfield to this point though he does have plus offensive skills. Is Brandon Moss really considered a viable corner option? How would you rate that Bay trade now nearly a year out? Seems like Hansen’s a lost cause, Moss is a platoon guy at best, and Andy Laroche continues to fight to be in plans for the future. You have a different take?

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