Strength in numbers


HOUSTON – The first day of September can’t arrive quick enough for the Pirates.

That’s when rosters are allowed to expand beyond the usual 25-man limit, and teams may call up anyone from the minors who is on the 40-man roster. The Pirates could use a few extra healthy bodies in the clubhouse.

Xavier Nady’s hamstring has been a recurring problem. He needs a month or two of rest to get back near 100 percent. Jack Wilson’s right leg was made a swollen, bloody mess by a collision with Ty Wigginton at second base Saturday night. It will be a few days before Wilson is up to full speed again.

Elsewhere, there is the usual late-season assortment of aches and pains. John Grabow’s tender elbow will require offseason surgery to clean up bone chips. Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche routinely ice down limbs after games. Even Matt Kata was wearing an ice pack today, and he didn’t even play.

Wouldn’t it be nice having, say, Andrew McCutchen around, even if it’s just as a pinch-runner after a Nady single? Or Bryan Bullington and John Van Benschoten adding some depth to the bullpen? Or Steven Pearce coming up as a late-inning homer threat?

The Pirates would have to add McCutchen and Pearce to the 40-man before giving them call-ups. But there are ways to clear space — goodbye, Brad Eldred and Juan Perez — for them.

When the Houston Astros decide to retire a player’s uniform number, they go all out and do it right.

Today, Jeff Bagwell’s No. 5 was taken out of commission. The team staged a half-hour, on-field ceremony. Everyone in the ballpark received a pin in the shape of Bagwell’s jersey. Team employees wore specially designed T-shirts with Bagwell’s name and number on the back and the date on the front with a retirement day logo. Media members were issued special credentials bearing Bagwell’s image and received leather-bound notepads with a Bagwell logo.

Bagwell retired after the 2005 season with 2,314 hits and 449 home runs. Twenty-two months later — long before Bagwell even is eligible for the Hall of Fame — the Astros retired his number.

Earlier this summer, the Pirates retired Paul Waner’s No. 11. The gesture came 67 years after Waner played his last game in Pittsburgh, and 55 years after “Big Poison” was inducted into the Hall of Fame.