Church out with fractured finger tip; Chulk sidelined with bicep soreness

Jenifer Langosch/

Outfielder Ryan Church expects to return to the Pirates’ lineup by the end of the weekend after missing time this week because of a fractured tip of his left middle finger.

Though the club didn’t publically disclose the injury, it occurred in Pittsburgh’s game against the Orioles last Saturday. Church playfully went to catch a foul ball hit by center fielder Andrew McCutchen and the ball knocked his left middle finger back into a cement surface.

Thursday marked the first day since the injury that Church was able to take some swings and play catch. Afterward, he reported feeling just fine.

The team would like to have Church available by Sunday because of the two split-squad contests it has on the schedule that day. Church said that’s his target date, too, though there is a chance that he could play as early as Saturday.

“Let it heal,” Church said. “I’m not worried. If this is going to happen, now is a good time.”

Church, who remains an integral piece on the Pirates’ bench going into the season, has six hits, including three for extra bases, in 25 at-bats this spring. He has driven in four. Because he will lose a week of at-bats due to this injury, Church said he’ll likely play in some Minor League games next week in order to get some extra at-bats.

Also on the mend is reliever Vinnie Chulk, who has not appeared in a Grapefruit League game since March 19. The right-hander has been bothered by right bicep soreness, though he is expected to make his next appearance on Sunday in one of the team’s split-squad affairs.

Chulk remains in competition for the Pirates’ final bullpen spot. After a strong start to the spring, he has now allowed at least one run in each of his last three outings. Overall, in 7 1/3 innings, Chulk has allowed six earned runs on eight hits and six walks. He has struck out 11.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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