Results tagged ‘ Vinnie Chulk ’

April 27: Pirates (7-12) @ Brewers (9-10)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

I often get asked what it is like to cover a team that (since I’ve been in Pittsburgh) loses more games than it wins. Is it harder? Does it wear you down? Do you wish you could cover a team that wins more?

My answers are always the same. My job is to report on the Pirates, good and bad, during winning streaks and losing ones. The wins and losses don’t affect my ability to write. I don’t root for the Pirates to win — if I did, I’d be working a different job and buying tickets to come to the ballpark as a fan. If I root for anything, it’s good stories, good people and (especially on getaway days) quick games. There are intriguing stories to be found in losses, too, and actually, sometimes that’s where the best stories are.

It’s no secret that this past week has been excrutiatingly trying for the 25 players and members of the Pirates coaching staff. This group has endured the worst lost in franchise history, continued starting pitching woes and having a pitcher knocked out by a line drive.

From a news perspective, there has been plenty to write about. But going into a clubhouse the way it was after a 17-3 loss last night is never easy. Reporters don’t want to ask the pointed questions — but we have to. Players don’t want to answer them — but they try to. You just do your job, get out and let the players be on their own, where emotions can die down.

I won’t lie. It is more pleasant to go to a clubhouse after a win when players want to talk and everyone is in a good mood. But win or lose, everyone has a job to do. So in that spirit, we truck along with the blog…

  • With the way Monday’s game developed, Ryan Doumit’s failure to block the plate while taking a relay throw home seemed fairly inconsequential in the outcome. However, it was noteworthy, and since it didn’t make it into the gamestory last night (I opted to instead look big picture), it’s worth mentioning here. The play happened in the second when Doumit took a throw from the outfield that beat baserunner Gregg Zaun to the plate. Only, Doumit set up on the outside of the plate and never aggressively went for the tag. Zaun was ruled safe. Doumit argued, as did manager John Russell, though replays show the call was correct. On Tuesday, Russell noted that the call was the right one: “He was safe. Ryan didn’t get in the front of the plate and just lost track of where he was. My argument was that he just slid into the catcher and it was to protect the catcher last night.”
  • Jeff Karstens becomes the eighth different pitcher to start for the Pirates, and this is only game 20. You have to go back to 1953 for the last time the Pirates used eight different starters within the first 20 games of the season. Who were they? Murry Dickson, Johnny Lindell, Howie Pollet, Bob Friend, Paul LaPalme, Bob Hall, Bill MacDonald and Paul Pettit.
  • On this day one year ago, Karstens pitched here at Miller Park against the Brewers. And you should remember what happened. The righty drilled Ryan Braun in the back after Braun took him deep earlier in the game. Both benches were warned, and Braun made it quite clear afterward that he took exception to the pitch. Milwaukee retaliated and plunked Karstens last July.
  • Everyone is available in the Pirates’ bullpen tonight, though Russell would obviously love to limit the number of phone calls made.
  • Though Karstens has only made one start in Triple-A this year, Russell said the right-hander is not on a particular pitch count. He was stretched out even through relief appearances. How long could he go? “Hopefully nine innings,” Russell said.
  • The big news here in Milwaukee involves long-time broadcaster Bob Uecker, who announced today that he will be undergoing open heart surgery on Friday. He hopes to be back in the booth in 10-12 weeks. Wisconsinites Jason Jaramillo and Jack Taschner shared their memories of Uecker, and you’ll be able to find those on the pirates.com site later.
  • Brian Bass and Brian Burres remain starting options for Thursday. Whether they’re needed in the next two days will determine the club’s final decision.
  • Right-hander Vinnie Chulk (right shoulder) has been activated off the Triple-A DL.
  • Speaking of Triple-A, heck of a night Indianapolis had on Monday. Jose Tabata hit a game-winning home run in the 15th inning against Louisville. With the team running out of pitchers, catcher Erik Kratz came in to pitch the final inning for Indianapolis. Pitcher Jeremy Powell was summoned to play in the outfield.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  8. Jeff Karstens (RHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS)

Brewers lineup:

  1. Rickie Weeks (2B)
  2. Craig Counsell (SS)
  3. Ryan Braun (LF)
  4. Prince Fielder (1B)
  5. Casey McGehee (3B)
  6. Jim Edmonds (CF)
  7. Corey Hart (RF)
  8. GeorgeKottaras (C)
  9. Randy Wolf (LHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

April 20: Brewers (5-7) @ Pirates (7-5)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The All-Star Game is just a little less than three months away, but ballots were revealed on Tuesday. That’s the green light to start voting away. In-stadium balloting at PNC Park will run from May 4 – June 17, but you can get a head start now online. This link will take you to the ballot, which you can fill out up to 25 times.

Today’s news and notes….

  • Andy LaRoche (back spasms) said that he was going to try and convince manager John Russell to let him into the lineup on Tuesday, though that doesn’t appear to have happened. Right now Bobby Crosby is in there at third. However, Russell did say that LaRoche would likely be available to pinch hit and enter during the game, if needed. Regardless, he should be back in there on Wednesday.
  • Bobby Crosby was initially slated to play third, but he was scratched after BP due to left shoulder stiffness. Delwyn Young is now your third baseman du jour.
  • Ross Ohlendorf (back spasms) threw off flat ground again on Tuesday. He still has not pitched off a mound and if the Pirates know when that’s going to happen, Russell didn’t divulge it. The plan is still to have Ohlendorf make a Minor League rehab start before coming off the DL. He is eligible to come back April 27.
  • Right-hander Vinnie Chulk has been placed on the Triple-A disabled list with what farm director Kyle Stark described as arm soreness. Stark said it was the same injury that forced Chulk to miss some time in Spring Training.
  • First-round pick Tony Sanchez has been hampered by some shoulder soreness the last few days, which has forced him to DH and not catch. Stark said Sanchez should be returning behind the plate soon.
  • Remember when it seemed like the Pirates NEVER beat the Brewers. Well, that’s kinda still the case at Miller Park. But you might have forgotten that the Pirates actually went 5-3 against Milwaukee here at home last year. We’ll get to that Miller Park thing next week.
  • Tuesday’s game will not be televised on FSN as the schedule has it. FSN Pittsburgh has picked up this hockey game that I guess is being played tonight. There appears to be some interest in it around here.
  • Jeff Clement (hitless in his last 18 ABs) is back in the lineup. I focused my off-day story on him yesterday, and Russell reiterated again that the team still sees him as the regular first baseman. Said Russell: “Nobody’s giving up on him. He’s going to be fine. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back. It also allows us to get some other guys in the game, though we don’t always want to do it at Jeff’s expense. We look for him to be a big part of the team. If that means breaking him in a little slower until he gets his feet on the ground then that’s OK. I think he’s going to respond very, very well. We’ll keep giving him the opportunity.”
  • The Pirates still haven’t named a starter for Saturday’s game against the Astros, though they’ll need someone. GM Neal Huntington named four possibilities on Sunday — Brian Burres (already with the team), Brad Lincoln, Kevin Hart, Chris Jakubauskas. Saturday is Lincoln’s day to pitch in Triple-A, though that might not necessarily mean anything.
  • I’ll put in another call for Inbox questions for anyone wanting to submit one. You can email me at Jenifer.Langosch@MLB.com with your question, first name, last initial and hometown listed. If you could put Inbox in the subject line, that would be fantastic.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  4. Garrett Jones (RF)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Bobby Crosby (3B) Delwyn Young
  8. Charlie Morton (RHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS)

Brewers lineup:

  1. Rickie (2B)
  2. Jim Edmonds (CF)
  3. Ryan Braun (LF)
  4. Prince Fielder (1B)
  5. Casey McGehee (3B)
  6. Corey Hart (RF)
  7. Gregg Zaun (C)
  8. Alcides Escobar (SS)
  9. Dave Bush (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 39: Pirates @ Twins; Bucs cut seven

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Arrived at the McKechnie Field clubhouse at 7:45 this morning only to find out the Pirates were reassigning seven players to the Minors. That list includes: RHP Brian Bass, RHP Jeff Karstens, RHP Jeremy Powell, RHP Steven Jackson, RHP Anthony Claggett, RHP Vinnie Chulk and C Luke Carlin.

Now that I’ve got the nearly two hour drive to Fort Myers out of the way, it’s time to note the significance of all this…

  • With the roster moves, the Pirates now have 30 players remaining in camp. Of those 30, two — Joel Hanrahan and Jose Ascanio – are expected to start the year on the DL.
  • Both relievers Jack Taschner and D.J. Carrasco are sitting pretty with less than a week until Opening Day. Barring a trade or waiver claim, they’ll both be in the bullpen. Keep in mind that the two have to be added to the 40-man roster, so the Pirates do have roster moves to make later this week.
  • If the Pirates go with a six-man bullpen, Taschner and Carrasco would fill it out. If they stick with a traditional seven-man one, Hayden Penn could step in as that last guy. Penn arrived at the McKechnie Field clubhouse this morning and is pitching in a Minor League game at Pirate City this afternoon. GM Neal Huntington will be there to watch.
  • Cutting Carlin means that the back-up catcher’s job will go to Jason Jaramillo or Erik Kratz. I still get the impression that management is leaning toward starting Jaramillo in the Minors where he can play every day, but that has not been definitively determined.
  • The club still has three position players — John Raynor, Steve Pearce and Ramon Vazquez – left to fill one (or maybe two) bench spots. Don’t expect this decision to be made until the weekend. The Pirates would still like to be able to trade Vazquez, who is owed $2 million this season, before potentially releasing him.

And in other news…

  • Part of the wave of Pirates Opening Day content hit pirates.com this morning. In case you missed today’s items there is a mainbar highlighting what to look forward to in 2010 (answer: Pedro Alvarez), a list of 10 prospects to keep an eye on, and an organizational review.
  • Ryan Church (fractured left middle finger) returns to the lineup on Tuesday. He’s hitting in the cleanup spot and playing center.
  • Ronny Cedeno (lower back tightness) is still out, though he’s a day-to-day situation.
  • Hanrahan is scheduled to throw two innings (40 pitches) in a Minor League game at Pirate City. Hanrahan will continue to throw in Minor League games so the team can backdate him onto the DL.
  • Young outfielder Robbie Grossman gets a start today in centerfield. This is what happens when you have fewer and fewer players in camp.
  • Zach Duke will make his final start of the spring on Wednesday and will be limited to 60 pitches to keep him fresh for his Opening Day start Monday. He’s scheduled to be followed by Brendan Donnelly, Evan Meek and Taschner

Pirates lineup:

  1. John Raynor (RF)
  2. Ramon Vazquez (3B)
  3. Bobby Crosby (SS)
  4. Ryan Church (CF)
  5. Steve Pearce (1B)
  6. Delwyn Young (2B)
  7. Robbie Grossman (LF)
  8. Jason Jaramillo (C)
  9. Charlie Morton (RHP)

Pitchers: Morton, Javier Lopez

Twins lineup:

  1. Denard Span (CF)
  2. Orlando Hudson (2B)
  3. Joe Mauer (C)
  4. Justin Morneau (1B)
  5. Michael Cuddyer (RF)
  6. Jim Thome (DH)
  7. Jason Kubel (LF)
  8. J.J. Hardy (SS)
  9. Nick Punto (3B)

Pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Clay Condrey

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB 

Sifting through the options…

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

So, the goodbye to Brandon Moss cleared up one question the Pirates had remaining this spring, but it sure seems to have clarified little else. In fact, I’m actually finding more questions than before at this point.

Let’s roll through some of them really quickly, keeping in mind that the club has until 3 pm ET on Sunday to solidify its Opening Day roster…

  • Where does RHP Hayden Penn fit?

General manager Neal Huntington made it clear on Monday that Penn, who the team claimed off waivers, will have every chance to make the club. He’s likely to only get two to three appearances at most this week before the decision has to be made, so his chance at making the Opening Day roster will largely lie on how he fares. His numbers this spring haven’t been exceptional; in fact, in his last two outings, Penn has allowed nine earned runs in a combined 4 2/3 innings. 

One thing that muddies Penn’s future is the fact that he is out of options. That means that if the Pirates start him on the 25-man roster and decide to move him out (either because of ineffectiveness or to make room for Joel Hanrahan), the club would risk losing him on waivers. You would think that the Pirates didn’t make this waiver claim without planning on it being beneficial for more than a week or so.

  • What does this mean for the Jack Taschner?

Yesterday, I was pretty certain that Jack Taschner was going to be the sixth man in the Pirates’ bullpen to begin the season. Knowing that Hanrahan will be available beginning the second week of the season, this sixth spot was effectively the last long-term one to fill. With Penn in the mix now, this all changes.

Sure, there’s always the option of keeping both Taschner and Penn, though Hanrahan would squeeze someone out of a spot a week later. The problem is that Taschner and Penn are both out of options. So if you start one in the Majors and then want to send him down, you’re dealing with waivers again. And with the way Taschner has pitched this spring, I don’t see him getting through unclaimed.

The likely scenario is that one of these two starts in the Minors so you don’t have to worry about the lack of an option right away. Or could the Pirates have something else in mind — say, sending someone like Evan Meek down when Hanrahan returns since he does have an option remaining.

Oh, so many scenarios…

  • How about the rest of the relief candidates?

Clearly, the acquisition of Penn is not good news for the other non-roster relievers trying to make this club. Guys like Jeff Karstens, Vinnie Chulk and Brian Bass were seen as legitimate candidates to be a placeholder for Hanrahan. It would seem that their chances of being on the Opening  Day roster, though, just took a hit.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean they won’t be up at some point. Relievers always come and go throughout the season, and the Pirates need the depth.

  • Is this good news for John Raynor?

With Moss out of the outfielder mix, this would seem to suggest that the Pirates are leaning toward making Raynor their fifth bench player. With Raynor, you have a player that is still raw in a lot of areas, but the Pirates obviously see long-term potential if they’ve kept him around this long.

The Pirates’ bench right now has Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, Delwyn Young and a backup catcher on it. That would seem to leave one spot open for Raynor, Ramon Vazquez and Steve Pearce. Because Pearce has an option left, my guess is he’ll be squeezed out of consideration and will start in Triple-A. Vazquez is owed $2 million, but he won’t be around past this year anyways, so Raynor is the better investment for the long term.

It would sure seem that things are looking good for the Rule 5 pick to at least start the season on the Major League roster.

  • Will the Pirates open with six or seven relievers?

Good question, and it’s one the Pirates are still asking themselves. How Penn does this week could play a role in this. Where Hanrahan is in his rehab could affect it as well. It would seem, though, that if the Pirates start with just six relievers (and, in turn, a six-man bench), it would only be until Hanrahan is ready to return. Then in order to make room for Hanrahan, the Pirates could eliminate one of the extra bench guys or Daniel McCutchen.

My guess is that it would be McCutchen, simply because the Pirates don’t need him to start the second and third times through the order. He could get his first start in, go back to Triple-A and start regularly there and then be ready for a call up once the Pirates need a fifth starter again. At that time, the club could go with McCutchen or Kevin Hart, but we won’t get into that discussion just yet.

If you do this, you’d be able to keep the six-man bench and have seven relievers.

There could be a benefit to a six-man bench. It could give the Pirates an additional few weeks to try and trade Vazquez, instead of releasing him and eating his $2 million salary. It could also give the organization additional time to evaluate Raynor and decide if he can stick all year.

Obviously, I asked plenty more questions than I answered. But I just wanted to think outloud here for a few minutes to try and get you thinking about what decisions management is left pondering. There are so many different ways things can go, and keep in mind that the team could make a trade or waiver claim tomorrow that changes the dyanmics of everything.

If nothing else, this all gives you something to follow during this final week of spring.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Rays 8, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

If it feels like the Pirates haven’t won all that much this spring, you’re right. With one loss and one cancellation on Sunday, the team is now 6-16-1 this month. No, it doesn’t mean much — you might remember the Pirates had very good spring results last year and finished the season with only 62 wins. But now that starting pitchers are scheduled to go about six innings and regular position players are playing almost every day and deeper into games, this is the time where you would like to see a few more W’s.

Anyways, some stuff from the Pirates’ loss to the Rays…

***

Ross Ohlendorf did not have a good day. He allowed eight runs (all earned) on 10 hits in four innings. Ohlendorf walked three, had no strikeouts and served up two home runs. In fact, half of the hits against him were of the extra-base variety.

Here is what Ohlendorf had to say about it:

“Obviously, I didn’t pitch well. My slider wasn’t very good and I kept getting behind in the count with it. Also, I was got behind a lot with my fastball, too. Getting in bad counts and my slider not being good were two of my main things. I threw my changeup fairly well.

“I felt good warming up. Usually, warm up doesn’t mean that much. I don’t put too much into it. But my arm felt really strong in warm ups, so that’s usually (a better indicator) of how your arm feels than how you’ll throw. I certainly was expecting to do much better.”

The question is, should we be concerned? Ohlendorf hasn’t shown great command all spring and though I wasn’t able to see him on Sunday, it sure doesn’t sound like this last start was any better.

We’re at the point in spring where pitches should be clicking and pitchers should be finding a rhythm. Ohlendorf could really use a strong final spring start (that will come in Philly on Friday) before making his 2010 debut in Pittsburgh on April 7.

“I’ve been treating the last three like regular games,” Ohlendorf said. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to pitch like this in the regular season. It just means that I need to start pitching better.

“My slider needs to improve, both the action and the location. With my fastball, it’s mainly just command. I feel good. I’m encouraged it will come around. I just hope it comes around in my next two starts. My changeup’s been good. My slider has kind of been following its normal path. It’s usually good the first one or two games, then it’s bad for a little while.”

***

Octavio Dotel made his second Grapefruit League appearance and the command and efficiency in this one was better than the first. The Pirates’ closer needed just 10 pitches (seven strikes) to get through the fifth. He struck out one and allowed a single.

“I just tried to get some work and take care of business,” he said. “I felt good today. I just got to keep going, keep trying and keep it the way it was today.”
 
Dotel is scheduled to pitch again on Monday, which will be his first back-to-back test this spring.

***

Some other random notes:

  • Vinnie Chulk pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his first appearance back from bicep soreness.
  • Brandon Moss made the start in left and went 1-for-4. The hit was his third of the spring, but it was an infield hit to the pitcher’s mound.
  • Jeff Clement connected for his second home run (this one an opposite field homer) of the spring. He finished the day 1-for-3.
  • After Saturday’s dismal fielding day, I’m happy to report there were no errors on Sunday.

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Day 37: Pirates (ss) @ Phillies; Pirates (ss) @ Rays

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

It’s two for the price of one today, though I have yet to figure out how to be in both Port Charlotte and Clearwater at the same time to take both in. I joined half of the Pirates’ team in Clearwater for today’s contest against the Phillies. The other half is taking on the Rays about two hours south of here.

The four Pittsburgh writers covering Spring Training are split-squading it, too, so we’ll share information throughout the afternoon so I can update you on the game I can’t see.

In the meantime….

  • Ryan Church (fractured left finger tip) is making his return to the lineup here against the Phillies. Church hasn’t played since last Saturday, but he is not expected to be hindered at all this final week. Last I heard, the Pirates were going to have him play in a couple Minor League games this week so he could get extra at-bats.
  • Vinnie Chulk (bicep soreness) is also back. He’ll pitch an inning against the Rays after not having made a Grapefruit League appearance since March 19. You’d have to think the layoff hurts his chances of breaking camp with the club. Too, Chulk has allowed five runs in his last three appearances (3 1/3 innings).
  • Octavio Dotel will make his second Grapefruit League appearance of the spring in Port Charlotte. He’s thrown in three Minor League games, and I heard he looked very good in his outing on Friday. It would be nice if he showed a bit more control today than he did in his appearance Wednesday.
  • Sunday’s start against the Phillies will be D.J. Carrasco’s first start of the spring. The right-hander has made it no secret that he would love to get an opportunity to start again, though the Pirates don’t have that long-term need right now. With the way the bullpen is looking, Carrasco is the likely long-relief option.

Pirates lineup @ Phillies:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  4. Ryan Church (RF)
  5. Steve Pearce (1B)
  6. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  7. Erik Kratz (C)
  8. John Raynor (CF)
  9. D.J. Carrasco (RHP)

Pitchers: Carrasco (3 innings, 50 pitches), Brian Bass, Anthony Claggett, Steven Jackson, Javier Lopez, Evan Meek, Jeremy Powell, Jack Taschner

Phillies lineup:

  1. Jimmy Rollins (SS)
  2. Placido Polanco (3B)
  3. Chase Utley (2B)
  4. Ryan Howard (1B)
  5. Jayson Werth (RF)
  6. Shane Victorino (CF)
  7. Ben Francisco (LF)
  8. Carlos Ruiz (C)
  9. Joe Blanton (RHP)

Pitchers: Blanton, David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo, Ryan Madson

***

Pirates lineup @ Rays:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Delwyn Young (2B)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Bobby Crosby (SS)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Brandon Moss (LF)
  8. Ramon Vazquez (3B)
  9. Ross Ohlendorf (RHP)

Pitchers: Ohlendorf, Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, Chulk, Karstens

Rays lineup:

  1. Jason Bartlett (SS)
  2. Carl Crawford (LF)
  3. Ben Zobrist (2B)
  4. Carlos Pena (1B)
  5. Pat Burrell (DH)
  6. Hank Blalock (3B)
  7. Gabe Kaplar (RF)
  8. Sean Rodriguez (CF)
  9. Alvin Colina (C)

Pitchers: Matt Garza

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Day 36: Blue Jays @ Pirates

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

It’s the last weekend in Florida for all of us, and this is the time of spring that everyone is getting antsy. More than anything, everyone is ready to go home, see families and stop living in a rented condo or hotel room. But for a lot of players, this week is also judgement week.

There’s always a bit of tension as the final week of Spring Training approaches. Players on the bubble of making the 25-man roster know that their fate will be sealed within the next few days. Some will make their first Opening Day roster. Others will find themselves headed to Indianapolis to begin the Triple-A season. Whether it’s asking media members what they know or asking teammates what they think, a good number of players are trying to get a gauge on their own personal situation.

And one thing is certain — the last week of spring is always filled with emotions.

Your news and notes…

  • No roster decisions were made on Saturday, so we’ve still got 37 players officially in Major League camp. As I mentioned yesterday, I’d expect it to stay that way until Monday.
  • First baseman Jeff Clement will be the focus of one of my stories on pirates.com later, but I thought it was worth mentioning that while everyone is inside the clubhouse waking up right now, he and Steve Pearce are on the field taking extra grounders at first. Regardless of your opinion on Clement’s ability to play first, the kid has worked extremely hard.
  • Joel Hanrahan is pitching one inning in a Minor League game today (pitch count: 20). I’ll try to get the results of that later and pass that along to you.
  • Ryan Church (fractured left finger tip) is scheduled to take batting practice again today and will make his return to the lineup on Sunday against the Phillies.
  • Vinnie Chulk (bicep soreness) will also make his return on Sunday. He’s scheduled to pitch against the Rays. Also scheduled for that game are: Ross Ohlendorf (90 pitches), Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly and Jeff Karstens.
  • Available to pitch in the split-squad game against the Phillies on Sunday, you have: D.J. Carrasco (3 innings, 50 pitches), Brian Bass, Anthony Claggett, Steven Jackson, Javier Lopez, Evan Meek, Jeremy Powell and Jack Taschner.
  • A good number of relievers are making their first back-to-back outings of the spring over the next few days. This is always something that happens toward the end of spring.
  • The Pirates will hold their annual PirateFest this morning outside McKechnie Field before the 1:05 pm game. The street will be closed for carnival-type games and player autograph sessions.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
  2. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Ryan Doumit (C)
  5. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  6. Jeff Clement (1B)
  7. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  8. Daniel McCutchen (RHP)
  9. Ronny Cedeno (SS)

Pitchers: Daniel McCutchen (5, 6 innings/85 pitches), Meek, Donnelly, Karstens, Claggett, Jackson

Blue Jays lineup:

  1. Jose Bautista (3B)
  2. Aaron Hill (2B)
  3. Jeremy Reed (RF)
  4. Kyle Phillips (1B)
  5. Edwin Encarnacion (DH)
  6. Chris Lubanski (LF)
  7. Alex Gonzalez (SS)
  8. Jose Molina (C)
  9. Joey Gathright (CF)

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

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

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

Day 27: Pirates @ Twins

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Ross Ohlendorf is ready to make the start on Thursday in conditions much better than his last one. You’ll remember that it was Ohlendorf who had to take the mound in that messy, rainy contest in Orlando last Friday. Ohlendorf is scheduled to go four innings (60 pitches) here in Fort Myers against the Twins.

Other items of interest…

  • Octavio Dotel is throwing one inning in a Minor League game today back at Pirate City. Once we get word on how that went, I’ll let you all know.
  • Shortstop Ronny Cedeno is back in the lineup today. He missed two games because of a laceration in his right hand that he suffered Sunday but is having no issues now.
  • Joel Hanrahan and Wil Ledezma continue to work their way back from arm surgeries with side session work. No date has been given yet as to when we can expect either in a game.
  • Brandon Moss is your designated hitter today, which likely means he’ll stay in the game for all nine innings. That should get Moss four at-bats or so to try and get a hit. He’s 0-for-19 this spring.
  • There’s still enough time to get your bracket into the blog NCAA tourney challenge if you wish. Go here to submit your picks. Thanks to those who have already entered, and good luck!
  • Tomorrow’s pitching lineup: Paul Maholm (4 innings/60 pitches), Brendan Donnelly, Vinnie Chulk, Evan Meek, Brian Burres.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  2. Delwyn Young (2B)
  3. Garrett Jones (RF)
  4. Jeff Clement (1B)
  5. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  6. Brandon Moss (DH)
  7. Pedro Alvarez (3B)
  8. John Raynor (CF)
  9. Jason Jaramillo (C)

Pitchers: Ohlendorf, Brian Bass, Chris Jakubauskas, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, Jack Taschner

Twins lineup:

  1. Ben Revere (CF)
  2. Orlando Hudson (2B)
  3. Joe Mauer (C)
  4. Justin Morneau (1B)
  5. Jim Thome (DH)
  6. Michael Cuddyer (RF)
  7. Jacque Jones (LF)
  8. Brendan Harris (3B)
  9. Matt Tolbert (SS)

Pitchers: Carl Pavano, Jose Mijares, Clay Condrey, Anthony Swarzak, Kyle Waldrop

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

Tigers 6, Pirates 3

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

We’ll keep things fairly short on here because the main story of the day — obviously — is Kevin Hart. And I wrote up a whole analysis piece that covers this outing (another dismal one), his spring as a whole and the Pirates’ fifth-starter situation for the main site. No need to rehash everything you can read there here.

You can find the full story here. Below are some highlights…

  • Hart was supposed to go three innings today. He lasted 1 2/3 and needed 53 pitches (34 balls, 19 strikes) to go that deep. There were six walks and one hit batter and he was plenty wild. This wasn’t a case of being just off the strikezone. For the third start in a row, Hart looked lost with his mechanics and unable to control where the ball was going.
  • He has now walked 13 hitters in 4 2/3 spring innings.
  • Manager John Russell would not budge when asked if Daniel McCutchen has moved ahead of Hart in the battle for that fifth spot in the rotation. For whatever reason, I still get the feeling the Pirates want Hart to take that spot (I don’t have a good answer as to why), and so he’s going to continue to get chances. Hart’s struggles coupled with McCutchen’s solid performances are probably a worst-case-scenario for the club. Why? Because it’s going to be really hard to justify putting a pitcher who has so far shown no consistency with his mechanics on the Opening Day roster.
  • Don’t assume that Hart can’t still make this team. In fact, the possibility of the Pirates using a four-man rotation for most of the first few weeks of the season is looking more and more likely. The club could get by with using a fifth starter once and skipping him twice during the first two and a half weeks because of three early off days. That could give Hart time to work with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan before he would be placed in the rotation to pitch consistently.
  • McCutchen is going to make his next appearance in a Grapefruit League game, Russell confirmed. Remember, McCutchen pitched in an intrasquad game his last time out. However, it still doesn’t look like the right-hander is scheduled to make a start. He’s slated to piggyback Zach Duke on Sunday.
  • All sorts of quotes from Hart will be in the main story on pirates.com

***

Some other items of potential interest:

  • Brandon Moss is now 0-for-19 after going hitless in two at-bats on Wednesday. He did make good contact in his final at-bat of the afternoon, but lined out to center.
  • Vinnie Chulk had three more strikeouts on Wednesday to give him 11 in seven innings this spring. He did allow one run on two hits and two walks.
  • Both D.J. Carrasco and Brendan Donnelly gave up their first runs of spring. Carrasco had made four scoreless apperances and Donnelly had made three before today.
  • Third baseman Pedro Alvarez continues to swing a hot bat. He went 1-for-2 with a double and has now hit safelt in six of his last seven games.
  • Take away his March 11 outing against the Rays and reliever Jeff Karstens has looked really good. He faced the minimum in getting through 1 1/3 innings on Wednesday and has now allowed just one hit (no walks) in the 5 1/3 innings (not including that March 11 game).
  • Bobby Crosby made another start at first base and looked pretty sharp defensively. It sure is looking like the Pirates, who have a left-handed dominant lineup, are looking to get his right-handed bat in there as much as possible during the year. If he hits once the season gets underway, a platoon at first with Jeff Clement is certainly a possibility.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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