Nady’s back, but not in lineup

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DENVER — Lineups for Saturday’s Pirates-Rockies game at Coors Field: Pirates: McLouth CF, Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Bay LF, LaRoche 1B, Michaels RF, Bautista 3B, Herrera P, Wilson SS

Rockies: Posednick CF, Baker 2B, Holliday LF, Atkins 1B, Hawpe RF, Torrealba 2B, Stewart 3B, Quintanilla SS, de la Rosa P

No, Xavier Nady was not traded today.

Nady rejoined the Pirates this afternoon after spending the past few days in Pittsburgh with his wife and newborn son. Manager John Russell said Nady’s available to pinch-hit, but wanted to give him an extra day to get back into the swing of things before putting him in the lineup.

Nady continues to be the subject of trade speculation; the Mets, Braves, Rays and Cardinals reportedly are interested. Nady is weary of the rumors and said the birth of his first child was a welcome distraction.

“It’s the nature of the business,” Nady said. “I’m used to it now. I’ve been through it a few times. (Rumors) are going to happen. I’m happy to be here and, hopefully, I can help us win here.”

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Finally, a plan

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DENVER — If you followed the personnel moves made by the Pirates’ front office over the past seven or so years and wondered if there was any sort of plan, you weren’t alone.

Dump Chris Young, who was on the verge of a breakout. Trade for Matt Morris, who, as it turned out, was ready for retirement. Hand over Aramis Ramirez and get … well, nothing, really. Sign Randall Simon, Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Raul Mondesi. Make draft picks seemingly by throwing darts.

Each year at the trading deadline, Pirates fans have been conditioned to expect the team to sell off anyone with value for second- or third-tier prospects.

Jason Schmidt netted Ryan Vogelsong. Damaso Marte (in 2002) brought in Edwin Yan. The Pirates had two chances to trade closer Mike Williams and got Tony McKnight (2001) and Frank Brooks (2003).

Jason Kendall was worth Arthur Rhodes and Mark Redman. A few months later, Redman was flipped for Jonah Bayliss. Rhodes was dealt for Matt Lawton, who soon after was traded for Jody Gerut, who wound up being cut during spring training 2007.

That’s a lot of movement. What did it yield? More links in a chain of losing seasons. A farm system devoid of impact players or even major league average-quality depth.

That’s what Neal Huntington is staring at as he heads toward his first trading deadline as the Pirates’ GM.

The difference now is, there seems to be a sense of unity of purpose among ownership, management and the fellas Huntington oversees in the baseball operations department. In other words, there finally seems to be a plan — and it involves more than merely dumping salary and getting warm bodies in return.

“In baseball operations, we know where we want to go and we know how we want to go there,” Huntington said. “It’s just a matter of, is it going to match up, timing-wise, right now?”

The farm system must be restocked — especially with pitchers. Trades will be made, sooner or later.

“If we get the appropriate value, we’ll move forward,” Huntington said. “If not, we’ll hold onto these guys and let it play out. Determining the appropriate value is our biggest challenge.”

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Bucs-Rox Game 1

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DENVER — Lineups for Thursday’s Pirates-Rockies game, one of four in the majors today, as the “second half” of the season gets under way:

Pirates

CF McLouth

2B Sanchez — Back in lineup after two-game absence

C Doumit

LF Bay

RF Mientkiewicz — Replaces Nady, who will rejoin team Saturday

3B J. Bautista

P Maholm — Going for fifth straight victory, which would be a career-best

SS Wilson

Rockies CF Tavares

1B Baker

LF Holliday

3B Atkins

C Iannetta

RF Hawpe

SS Barmes

2B Nix

P Jimenez
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Cards v. Pirates lineup, 7/13/08

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The following is the lineup from today’s Pirates-Cardinals game, the finale of the three-game set. The Pirates hope to win the series after a dramatic, extra-inning comeback on Saturday night.

CF Skip Schumaker

LF Ryan Ludwick

1B Albert Pujols

3B Troy Pujols

RF Chris Duncan

C Yadier Molina

2B Aaron Miles

RHP Joel Pineiro

SS cesar Izturis

Pirates

CF Nate McLouth

2B Chris Gomez

C Ryan Doumit

LF Jason Bay

RF Xavier Nady

1B Doug Mientkiewicz

3B Jose Bautista

RHP Ian Snell

SS Jack Wilson
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Management sends a message

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MILWAUKEE — Neal Huntington doesn’t mess around.

Last season, the battery of Tom Gorzelanny and catcher Ronny Paulino produced 14 victories for the Pirates. They were touted as building blocks for the future of the franchise. Today, both players find themselves back in the minors.

Need any more proof the new front office team wasn’t kidding last offseason when it talked about accountability?

The mood in the clubhouse this afternoon, just minutes after Gorzelanny packed his gear and left Miller Park, was quiet — a little edgy, a little angry. Make no mistake, Huntington’s message had been received loud and clear.

Gorzelanny clearly was angry with himself during his wipeout Friday against the Brewers. In the fifth inning, he walked four batters, threw a wild pitch and gave up four hits. He looked like a guy whose confidence is shot.

It’ll probably be a few weeks — months? — before Gorzelanny gets himself straightened out at Indianapolis. In the meantime …

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you John Van Benschoten.

I know, I know. You’ve seen this act before, and it wasn’t much fun. JVB will lug a career record of 2-12 with a 9.04 ERA onto the mound at PNC Park when he starts Wednesday against Houston.

The fact the Pirates were willing to put Van Benschoten back into the rotation shows 1. just how far off track Gorzelanny has fallen and 2. the lack of bona fide pitching prospects in the Pirates’ farm system.

“John Van Benschoten’s career track record has not been good,” Huntington said. “His last start certainly wasn’t something that gave you comfort and confidence. But he has the ability to be aggressive, attack the bottom of the strike zone. He has major league stuff; he just needs to apply it.”

If he doesn’t do it — and soon — JVB will be cast aside, just like former No. 1 Bryan Bullington was Thursday.

Gee, the legacy of ex-GM Dave Littlefield continues to crumble, doesn’t it?

Huntington and manager John Russell both said they’d like to see Ty Taubenheim get another shot. And Yoslan Herrera, who already has a major league contract and a spot on the 40-man roster, is turning it on at Double-A Altoona. In any event, I would not be surprised if Herrera is with the Pirates by September.
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Will Marte stay with Capps away?

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CINCINNATI — Losing closer Matt Capps for more or less the rest of the season probably has general manager Neal Huntington mulling whether trading lefty reliever Damaso Marte would be a good idea.

Capps has bursitis and an internal rotation deficit in his right shoulder. No surgery is needed, but Capps is not expected back until the first week of September at the earliest.

Marte is coveted by several clubs and could bring a decent prospect or two in a trade before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. The Pirates are not going to pick up Marte’s $6 million team option for 2009, so management isn’t including him in its long-term plans, anyway.

However, Marte has experience as a closer and is holding opponents to a .227 batting average. That’s hard to replace. Certainly, there is no one at Triple-A Indianapolis who seems able to fill that kind of a role.

Huntington could opt to keep Marte the rest of the season, then pay the $250,000 contract buyout. If Marte signs elsewhere as a free agent, the Pirates likely would get Type A compensation — two picks in the 2009 draft. If a prospect or two is all the Pirates would get in a trade, then keeping Marte for the rest of the year could be a prudent move.
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Pivotal start for JVB

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CINCINNATI — This, potentially, is a big start tonight for right-hander John Van Benschoten.

It’s JVB’s first time on the mound in his hometown. It’s a chance for him to show he deserves management’s confidence. It could be an audition to remain with the Pirates, in some capacity, after this season.

For a while, general manager Neal Huntington has referred to JVB as the Pirates’ “first option” if a starter goes down. It’s clear Bryan Bullington no longer figures in the team’s plans. Jimmy Barthmaier flunked his test last week. Ty Taubenheim looked good, but must still show more. Yoslan Herrera is signed through 2009, but, at 27 years old, continues to plod along at Double-A.

Van Benschoten has flamed out before in the majors. If he flops again, he could find himself back at his old Kentucky home (he lives across the river from Great American Ball Park, in Ludlow, Ky.) for longer than just the offseason.

Manager John Russell liked what he saw Saturday, when JVB tossed a scoreless 13th inning against Tampa Bay and wound up with his second career win.

“I’d like him to throw like he did out of the bullpen a little bit more,” Russell said. “It looked like he was a little bit more aggressive (in the ‘pen). We want him to be aggressive to contact, aggressive to the zone.

“We don’t want him to pick at the zone and not always look like it’s a 2-0 or 3-1 count. We want him to get ahead and stay ahead.” It can be a mental thing for a pitcher, attacking the zone better as a reliever than as a starter.

“Sometimes when you start games, you feel like, ‘I’ve got to pitch x-number of innings, x-number of pitches, so there’s a pace I have to have,’ ” Russell said. “We’ve been telling them, from the first inning on you should see how hard you can go for as long as you can go.

“It’s not raring back and overthrowing. It’s getting after it from the first pitch on, and we’ll see where we’re at from there. Nolan Ryan used to say he threw harder as the game went on. Well, he stayed strong the whole game and I think that’s the key.”

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