Giles, trades still rolling along

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Brian Giles’ departure from Pittsburgh wound up putting both Jason Bay (directly) and Xavier Nady (indirectly) onto the Pirates’ roster.

In late August 2003, Giles was shipped to the San Diego Padres for Bay, Oliver Perez and Cory Stewart. On deadline day in 2006, Perez was dealt to the New York Mets for Nady.

“It seems like it’s been a while,” Giles said, grinning. “We’re going on five, six years now, so it has been a while. Maybe it seems like a while because I’m getting older.”

Giles is still with the Padres, and this season is having a bit of a renaissance after a couple of down years. He went into tonight’s game against the Pirates at PNC Park batting .301 with five homers.

Giles is still rollin’ along. And the Pirates are still rollin’ players out the door. Today, it was Nady and reliever Damaso Marte.

Giles went through it back when Dave Littlefield was the general manager. It’s not unusual that first-year GM Neal Huntington is using the trade route to clean up the mess.

“The general manager has to do what he thinks is best for his team,” Giles said. “Neal’s just taken over; this is the first time he’s gotten to see the talent, evaluate it and see what he has to do.

“You know, this city wants a winner. I thought with X, Bay and McLouth out there, that’s a pretty good outfield and a good lineup. Sometimes, when all the pieces don’t fall in place and you’re in a competitive division like they are, you have to do what’s best for the organization.”
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Pearce starts in RF

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Steve Pearce gets first crack at the right field job.

Pearce, called up from Triple-A Indianapolis this afternoon, is in the lineup batting sixth for tonight’s game against the San Diego Padres. Pearce was not stunned by his recall. He had heard the trade rumors, which came to fruition Friday when the Pirates sent Xavier Nady to the New York Yankees.

“You hear the talk and what’s going on, but you’ve got to stay focused down there in Triple-A,” Pearce said. “That’ what I tried to do.”

Pearce made a rapid rise through the minors in 2007, starting the season in Single-A and ending it in the majors. This could be his time to bid for a full-time job with the Pirates.

“That’s my goal,” he said.

Pearce spent one week with the Pirates earlier this month. He went 1 for 3 as a pinch-hitter and played two innings in right field July 4 against Milwaukee.

Pearce knows people will expect him to be Nady.

“I don’t worry about that,” Pearce said. “I just have to play my game and show people what I can do. We’re going to miss X, but he’s with another team now. I’m going to try to do all I can for the Pirates.” Today’s lineups:

Padres: Gerut CF, E. Gonzalez 2B, Giles RF, A. Gonzalez, Kouzmanoff 3B, Headley LF, Greene SS, Hundley C, Banks RHP

Pirates: McLouth CF, Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Bay LF, LaRoche 1B, Pearce RF, Mientkiewicz 3B, Van Benschoten P, Wilson SS.
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Nady, Marte traded

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Today is my day off, and I was playing “Rock Band” on the Wii with my wife and daughter when my cell phone rang. I did not hear it, because we were jamming to “Rockaway Beach” by the Ramones.

But when my land line began ringing, along with every other phone in the house, I quickly figured what was up.

Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, perhaps the best outfielder and lefty reliever, respectively, on the market, are about to become New York Yankees. In return, several sources tell me, the Pirates receive four minor league prospects — outfielder Jose Tabata and pitchers Ross Ohlendorf, Phil Coke and George Kontos.

It all will officially go down once everybody passes their physicals. The Yanks want to ensure Nady’s hamstring and shoulder are OK. The Pirates are taking a close look at Tabata’s hammy (he’s been on the DL since early this month, and could be done for the season). Tabata also missed time last year because of a hand injury (the hamate bone, the same thing that felled first-round draft pick Pedro Alvarez this year).

Tabata — a 19-year-old playing in Double-A ball — has a huge upside. If he makes good on it, then this trade could be worthwhile. Tabata has not flashed much power so far in his career, but Baseball America ranked him the Yanks’ third-best prospect.

In May, Tabata was suspended for three games after he struck out and angrily bolted from the stadium … during a game. He later apologized to his teammates, saying he was frustrated by his sluggish start to the season.

A couple of weeks later, Tabata got into a shouting match with a teammate. He was removed from the game, but not suspended. So, there appear to be maturity issues here, which must be dealt with by the Pirates.

Coke is 26 years old. Ohlendorf is 25. Kontos is 23. So, there’s the young pitching depth, which is so desperately needed in the Pirates’ farm system.

Yet, none of these guys projects to a No. 1 or 2 starter, or a late-inning hammer in the bullpen. Ohlendorf has been just so-so in two stints in the majors. Coke needed six years to make it to Double-A. Kontos was 3-9 this year for Double-A Trenton.

I trust general manager Neal Huntington waited for the best possible deal for Nady and Marte. I do not believe he jumped on the first offer that came along or jumped too soon.

At least at first glance, the Pirates seem to have given up more talent than they’ve received. But young talent has never been more prized, even by teams such as the Yanks, than it is now. This deal is what it is.

Steve Pearce is on his way from Triple-A Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, and will take Nady’s spot in right field. Ohlendorf probably will wind in the rotation. Coke, Kontos and Tabata will be assigned to the minors, and we’ll see them in a year or two or five.

I’m back on duty tomorrow, and we’ll begin to see how this all unfolds.
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Starting lineups

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One day after the Pirates got home runs from each of their starting outfielders in the same game for only the second time in the past five years, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady take their swings against Padres right-hander Cha Seung Baek (2-4, 4.66). Zach Duke (4-7, 4.92), winless in his past seven starts, take the mound for the Pirates in the 7:05 p.m. game at PNC Park.

starting lineups

Padres: Scott Hairston CF, Edgar Gonzalez 2B, Brian Giles RF, Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B, Adrian Gonzalez 1B, Chase Headley LF, Josh Bard C, Luis Rodriguez SS, Cha Seung Beck P.

Pirates: Nate McLouth CF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Ryan Doumit C, Jason Bay LF, Xavier Nady RF, Adam LaRoche 1B, Doug Mientkiewicz 3B, Zach Duke P, Jack Wilson SS.

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Wilson gets day off

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Shortstop Jack Wilson was given the day off for tonight’s opener against the Padres at 7:05 p.m. at PNC Park. Luis Rivas will start in Wilson’s place and bat ninth. It is Rivas’ first start at shortstop since June 1.

Starting lineups

Padres: Jody Gerut CF, Edgar Gonzalez 2B, Brian Giles RF, Adrian Gonzalez 1B, Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B, Chase Headley LF, Khalil Greene SS, Nick Hundley C, Clay Hensley P.

Pirates: Nate McLouth CF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Ryan Doumit C, Jason Bay LF, Xavier Nady RF, Adam LaRoche 1B, Doug Mientkiewicz 3B, Yoslan Herrera P, Luis Rivas SS.

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Target practice

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HOUSTON — Left-hander Paul Maholm is fine, despite taking two hard line drives off his body during last night’s game against the Astros. “I got one in the leg and one in the arm,” Maholm said. “We were playing target practice.”

During his pregame warmup in the bullpen, Maholm’s pitches had plenty of life … but a little too much for his liking.

“It was in the vicinity (of the strike zone), I guess,” Maholm said. “But my last few pitches were good. The first few hitters, I could see the ball was moving a lot. So I just needed to keep the ball down and not give in at any point. There were a couple times when it was 3-1 (count) and I tried to just throw a sinker right down the middle and let them hit it on the ground.”

It worked. Maholm tossed eight outstanding innings, allowing a run on five hits. He walked one and stuck out five. No doubt, he is the Pirates’ ace this season.

Lineups for this afternoons series finale against Houston:

Pirates: McLouth CF, Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Bay LF, Nady RF, LaRoche 1B, Mientkiewicz 3B, Snell P, Wilson SS.

Astros: Matsui 2B, Bourn CF, Berkman 1B, Lee LF, Loretta SS, Pence RF, Wigginton 3B, Ausmus C, Moehler P
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Comeback kids

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HOUSTON — For just the second time in the past eight games, the Pirates are going with the same lineup on consecutive days.

Pirates: McLouth CF, Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Bay LF, Nady RF, LaRoche 1B, J. Bautista 3B, Maholm P, Wilson SS.

Astros: Matsui 2B, Bourn CF, Berkman 1B, Lee LF, Tejada SS, Pence RF, Wigginton 3B, Quintero C, Cassell P

Last night, the Pirates scored seven runs in the ninth inning to beat the Astros, 9-3. According to the folks at Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Pirates scored than many runs when trailing going into the ninth inning was July 28, 2001 in the first game of a doubleheader against … (wait for it) … the Astros.

“It seems like every time we play the Astros, we have good games and battles,” said Freddy Sanchez, who hit a three-run, inside-the-park homer last night. “It’s nice to come out on the winning end.”
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Sanchez’s knee good to go

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HOUSTON — According to manager John Russell, minor knee pain kept Freddy Sanchez out of the lineup yesterday. Sanchez’s knee feels fine today, and he is back in there for tonight’s game against the Houston Astros:

Pirates — McLouth CF, Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Bay LF, Nady RF, LaRoche 1B, J. Bautista 3B, Van Benschoten RHP, Wilson SS

Astros — Matsui 2B, Bourn CF, Berkman 1B, Lee LF, Tejada SS, Pence RF, Wigginton 3B, Ausmus C, Hernandez RHP

Reliever Marino Salas was sent back to the minors to clear roster space for John Van Benschoten. That gives the Pirates seven relievers and five starters — and things will stay that way for a while, as the team doesn’t have another off day until July 31.

Phil Dumatrait is eligible to come off the disabled list today, but is two or three weeks away from returning. The lefty’s shoulder bursitis still has not quieted down, and he has not thrown a pitch yet during his rehab time in Bradenton, Fla. Once he gets back on the mound, Dumatrait will need to make at least two — probably three — rehab starts.

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Minor shakeup atop the order

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DENVER — With the offense mired in a three-game funk, Pirates manager John Russell shook up the top of the lineup for today’s game against the Rockies:

Pirates — Rivas 2B, Mientkiewicz 3B, McLouth CF, Bay LF, Nady RF, LaRoche 1B, Chavez C, Duke LHP, Wilson SS

Rockies — Taveras CF, Baker 2B, Holliday LF, Atkins 1B, Iannetta C, Hawpe RF, Barmes SS, Stewart 3B, Cook RHP

Freddy Sanchez got the day off, despite going 3 for 4 last night. Luis Rivas is batting leadoff for just the fourth time in his 24 starts this season. This will be Doug Mientkiewicz’s third game in the two hole. Nate McLouth is batting .259 in the No. 3 spot, compared to .290 at leadoff and .250 from the second spot.

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Olympic dreams, major league realities

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DENVER — I asked Doug Mientkiewicz this afternoon if he had a few minutes to chat about his Sydney experience.

“Who’s Sydney? What do you mean?” replied Mientkiewicz, his eyes wide.

No need for alarm, Doug. I was referring to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. That year, Mientkiewicz won a gold medal with the U.S. baseball team.

Mientkiewicz has plenty of fascinating tales about that team, the pride he had in playing for his country, and his experiences at the Games. But those are topics for a future story in the Trib …

One Mientkiewicz story I will relate today concerns CC Sabathia, who pitched that year for Team USA. Sabathia won one exhibition game as a starter, but the American coaches opted to use him as a reliever for the Olympic tournament games.

When the Cleveland Indians found out Sabathia was bullpen-bound, they asked if he could be sent back to the United States. That way, the Indians could call up Sabathia to the majors.

So, Sabathia went back — and wound up not throwing one pitch in the majors that season. Plus, he missed out on winning a gold medal.

“I feel sorry for Sabathia,” Mientkiewicz said.

That got me thinking …

Sabathia was on the initial 28-man Olympic roster, but was held off the 24-man squad so he Indians could use him if necessary.

Pirates top prospect Andrew McCutchen was among the finalists for the Olympic roster this year. It was a bit of a surprise, however, when McCutchen did not make the cut.

The Pirates say they did not exert any pressure to keep McCutchen at home. The Pirates also are mulling trade offers for Xavier Nady and Jason Bay, which would create a vacancy in the outfield. Hmmm …

Curious, no?

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