August 15: Pirates (46-69) @ Cubs (59-55); Bixler recalled, Bautista selected, Salazar DFAed, Ascanio to DL

Well, we have quite the checklist to go through on this early morning in Chicago… Since Friday’s 17-2 trouncing by the Cubs, the Pirates have made four roster moves. Right-hander Denny Bautista and shortstop-turned-utilityman Brian Bixler walked into the clubhouse at about 9:30 CT this morning, fresh off a flight from Columbus, Ohio, where the Triple-A Indians are playing a series.

Bautista takes a spot in the bullpen that was freed up by having to place righty Jose Ascanio on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. Manager John Russell said that Ascanio first start feeling some soreness during his Aug. 11 appearance in Colorado and continued to feel the tightness while throwing lightly on Friday.

The Pirates have had all sorts of issues keeping their bullpen arms healthy this year. Craig Hansen hasn’t pitched since April and is out for the year. Tyler Yates is out for the season after having to undergo Tommy John surgery in July. Evan Meek suffered a left oblique strain already on this road trip. Donnie Veal is just returning to throwing after being sidelined with a sprained left index finger. And Phil Dumatrait is finishing up a rehab assignment in Triple-A, though he is expected to join the Pirates’ bullpen next Friday.

Bautista had a 4.88 ERA in 36 appearances with Indianapolis this season. In 48 innings, Bautista struck out 58 and walked 34. It’s that control that plagued Bautista during his time with the Major League club last season.

With Bautista needing to get on the 40-man roster and that roster full, the Pirates were forced to designated outfielder Jeff Salazar for assignment. The Pirates now have 10 days to trade, release or outright Salazar to the Minors if he passes through waivers. Salazar went 1-for-26 with the Pirates, playing primarily as a pinch hitter.

Salazar’s exit led to Bixler’s entrance, as the Pirates needed to call up a position player already on the team’s 40-man roster. Bixler has recently been converted to a utility player, splitting time at short, second and in center field since the beginning of July. In all, Bixler has started 60 games at short, 24 at second and 11 in center since the start of the season.

Bixler is not expected to get substantial playing time, though Russell said he hopes that Bixler’s recent offensive success in Triple-A will be sustained off the bench here. Bixler had a 15-game hitting streak with Indianapolis at the time of the call up and had hit .335 since July 1. He was recently named Indianapolis’ July Player of the Month.

Phew… got all that?

As for today’s other news, notes and randomness…

  • Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and Charlie Morton, who gave up 10 runs in his one-inning start here on Friday, had a lengthy discussion early this morning out on the bullpen mound. They also talked at length Friday afternoon after Morton met with the media postgame.
  • Veal threw his second side session on Saturday, with Russell watching. Veal is still expected to be reexamined in Pittsburgh on Monday. 
  • Catcher Ryan Doumit is back in the lineup after a two-game hiatus. Doumit’s right wrist is said to be just fine.
  • Luis Cruz is getting a start at second and Ramon Vazquez is getting the start at third this afternoon. Just a day off for Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young, so nothing more there.
  • This isn’t a pretty stat: The Pirates are just 4-52 when trailing after six innings. That doesn’t say much for late-inning comeback chances.
  • Saturday is Zach Duke’s fourth go at 10 wins, though had he had some bullpen and offensive help, he’d be well past that mark already. He’s had some success at Wrigley Field, though not recently. In his first five starts here, Duke went 3-1 with a 1.43. In his last two, he’s 0-2 wiht a 6.33 ERA. His last win at Wrigley: May 2, 2006.
  • Double-A third baseman Pedro Alvarez went 3-for-3 with a home run for Altoona on Friday night. The homer was his 23rd of the season. Alvarez has hit .468 in August.
  • Lefty Daniel Moskos pitched eight strong innings in that Double-A game. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out eight. The start was the longest of his career.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Steve Pearce (1B)
  6. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  7. Ramon Vazquez (3B)
  8. Luis Cruz (2B)
  9. Zach Duke (LHP)

Cubs lineup:

  1. Ryan Theriot (SS)
  2. Milton Bradley (RF)
  3. Derrek Lee (1B)
  4. Jake Fox (3B)
  5. Jeff Baker (2B)
  6. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
  7. Geovany Soto (C)
  8. Sam Fuld (CF)
  9. Tom Gorzelanny (LHP) 

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB 

3 Comments

Jennifer, can you check this out. Is it possible that Jeff Salazar had the worst batting average for a non-pitcher for a season in ML history? Glad to see Brian come up as has played everywhere they have asked him and has excelled in all positions as well as has hit well even with power. Think he has hit more homeruns this year than any previous year. And, too bad that Zack losing another game, as pitched well and even had 2 great bunts that could have set up his hitters? (use that team loosly) to score. I am sorry but Pirates need to send Milledge somewhere as cannot hit and cannot field, what else is there?

One bright spot in today’s game besides Zack was Stever Pearce. He is becoming, don’t you think, an outstanding first sacker?! If can hit, and had 2 today, maybe he is the Buc’s answer at first.

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