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McLouth in doubt

CINCINNATI — As I drove down here Sunday, I listed to the Rays-Pirates game on the trusty XM radio. When Nate McLouth was taken out of the game in the seventh inning, I wondered if the Pirates would have to deal with yet another disabling injury to a key player.

The initial news was that McLouth had merely banged a few foul balls off his left knee and would be fine. A few hours before today’s game, McLouth’s name was atop the lineup card; but just to be safe, I asked manager John Russell about him. Again, we were told it was no big deal. Bruised, sore, but nothing that would keep him on the bench.

Apparently, however, it was.

McLouth was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before the first pitch was thrown tonight.

McLouth was in the clubhouse before the game, and was not walking with a noticeable limp. But when I wandered over toward him to ask about his knee, McLouth disappeared into the “players only” part of the clubhouse.

So, we’ll have to wait until at least after tonight’s game before getting more answers about McLouth’s status.

If the injury is worse than originally thought, it would be a blow to the Pirates’ offense. If it’s something that would put him on the disabled list, it would be a fatal blow to McLouth’s chances of making the All-Star team.

McLouth was the only Pirates player within shouting distance of the top vote-getters for the All-Star Game. I expect he’d be chosen as a backup and the lone Pirates’ rep. But if he cannot play, then look for Xavier Nady or Jason Bay to get the nod.

All-Star bids will be announced at 2 p.m. Sunday.

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