Progress by Lincoln, Moskos

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MILWAUKEE — Brad Lincoln and Daniel Moskos combined to pitch eight strong innings Thursday for Class A Lynchburg. Lincoln started and allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven in six innings. Moskos gave up two hits and whiffed three in two innings.

Lincoln, the first-round draft pick in 2006, continues to rebound well from Tommy John surgery, which he had in April 2007.

“He’s healthy, the stuff continues to come back, and he’s making strides in attacking hitters,” farm director Kyle Stark said.

Moskos, the fourth overall pick in 2008, began the year as a starter, but struggled and was moved back into the bullpen. Moskos’ fastball has lost some velocity, but Stark refuted reports Moskos is overweight and out of shape.

“Moskos is grinding through his first full season,” Stark said. “He’s down 4 pounds from the start of the season (so no truth to those pudgy rumors). His velocity has been pretty consistent for about a month and a half now, and has been impacted some by his first full season. He is working on being more athletic in his delivery.”

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Beam sent to Indy

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MILWAUKEE — Optioning reliever Romulo Sanchez cleared a roster spot for Matt Capps. Today, the Pirates made room to stick Tom Gorzelanny back into their starting rotation by sending T.J Beam back to Triple-A Indianapolis. Jason Davis will move back into the bullpen for the rest of the season.

Ryan Doumit is feeling much better today and is available to pinch hit. Manager John Russell said dehydration likely was the reason for the queasiness that forced Doumit out of last night’s game in the seventh inning.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — Morgan CF, Wilson SS, Moss LF, Adam LaRoche 1B, Mientkiewicz RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, F. Sanchez 2B, Chavez C, Gorzelanny (6-7, 6.57) LHP

BREWERS — Weeks 2B, Hardy SS, Braun LF, Fielder 1B, Hart RF, Cameron CF, Hall 3B, Kendall C, Suppan (8-7, 4.62) RHP

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Romulo Sanchez sent down; Doumit out

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MILWAUKEE — The Pirates made just one roster move after tonight’s 10-4 loss against the Brewers. Right-handed reliever Romulo Sanchez was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis.

There was a long, closed-door meeting in manager John Russell’s office after tonight’s game. When the door opened, director of baseball operations Bryan Minniti — who acts as GM Neal Huntington’s eyes and ears on the road — emerged.

Saturday afternoon, the team will make three move moves. Two of them — activating Tom Gorzelanny, who will start the game against the Brewers, and closer Matt Capps — are easy calls. The third … not so much.

Someone must go. It could be Nyjer Morgan, especially considering Nate McLouth (stomach virus) told doctors tonight that he felt much better after sitting out three straight games. It could be Craig Hansen, who has a 5.19 ERA and has not been particularly effective (4 for 7) against the first batter he faces in an inning. It could be Jason Davis, who was rocked in his last start by the Cardinals and may again be bullpen-bound.

Whoever ends up leaving won’t be away too long. Their return trips will kicks in Sept. 1, when rosters expand.

The news about McLouth — “Nate might have turned the corner,” Russell said — is encouraging. There’s a good chance test results will be back Saturday and he could be cleared to play that night.

However, Ryan Doumit’s status is up in the air. Doumit left tonight’s game after six innings, complaining of flu-like symptoms. Doumit is a tank, so he must have been feeling super-queasy if he agreed to leave the game.

Did Doumit pick up whatever is bugging McLouth? “Hope not,” Russell said.

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Pearce demoted … for now

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MILWAUKEE – Outfielder Steve Pearce was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis this afternoon to clear roster space for Doug Mientkiewicz. Pearce will return Sept. 1, when rosters are permitted to expand.

Nyjer Morgan could have been a candidate to go back to Indy, but Nate McLouth still is out with a nasty stomach ailment. Morgan will start in center tonight for the third game in a row.

Matt Capps and Tom Gorzelanny will be activated tomorrow, which means two more players will get tickets back to Indy.

Lineups for tonight’s game against New York:

PIRATES — Morgan CF, F. Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Michaels RF, Moss LF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Wilson SS, Duke (4-11, 5.26) LHP

BREWERS — Weeks 2B, Hardy SS, Braun LF, Fielder 1B, Hart RF, Cameron CF, Hall 3B, Kendall C, Bush (7-9, 4.26) RHP

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Lots of roster moves today

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MILWAUKEE – When I arrived at the airport gate this morning in Pittsburgh, I was not surprised to see Doug Mientkiewicz and Matt Capps sitting there waiting for the same flight.

Both will rejoin the Pirates for a three-game series against the Brewers. Mientkiewicz has been on the bereavement list to be with his wife, Jodi, who is recovering from heart surgery. He is eligible to be activated today.

“She’s not out of the woods yet,” Mientkiewicz said of his wife, “but she’s getting there.”

Capps has been on the disabled list since July 2 with bursitis in his throwing shoulder. The right-hander will be activated in time for tomorrow’s game.

Also today, the Pirates recalled left-hander Tom Gorzelanny from Triple-A Indianapolis. Contrary to speculation from some outlets that Gorzelanny would pitch tonight and replace lefty Zach Duke in the rotation, Gorzo will start Saturday against the Brewers. That will push Jeff Karstens and the rest of the rotation back one day.

The Pirates will have to make three corresponding roster moves when Capps and Mientkiewicz return. I’d expect Nyjer Morgan and Romulo Sanchez to be sent back to Indy. Right-hander Jason Davis also may be sent back to Indy to clear a spot in the rotation.

Whoever gets sent out today will surely be recalled Sept. 1, when rosters are allowed to expand.
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Moss back in lineup for Bucs

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Pirates (57-69) vs. Cardinals (70-58)

Left fielder Brandon Moss is back in the lineup against the Cardinals tonight after sustaining a sprained ankle in Sunday’s loss to the New York Mets. The Pirates try to sweep the two-game series when Jason Davis (1-2, 1.80 ERA) takes the mound against Todd Wellemeyer (10-4, 3.79) at 8:15 p.m. at Busch Stadium. Nate McLouth (illness) will miss his second consecutive start.

Pirates — Nyjer Morgan, CF; Freddy Sanchez, 2B; Ryan Doumit, C; Adam LaRoche, 1B; Jason Michaels, RF; Brandon Moss, LF; Andy LaRoche, 3B; Jack Wilson, SS, Jason Davis, RHP.

Cardinals — Skip Schumaker, CF; Ryan Ludwick, RF; Albert Pujols, 1B; Rick Ankiel, LF; Troy Glaus, 3B; Felipe Lopez, SS; Yadier Molina, C; Todd Wellemeyer, RHP; Adam Kennedy, 2B

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More about Tabata

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ALTOONA — Jose Tabata wound up going 2 for 4 with a run scored last night for Double-A Altoona. Judging by the one-game snapshot, he appears to have a nice batting stroke and good speed.

“I don’t think his swing is perfect right now,” Curve manager Tim Leiper said. “But he’s able to take inside pitches and hit them to right field. He’s able to take the bat head to the baseball, regardless of where it is.”

Saturday, Tabata led off the game against New Hampshire with a solo home run. It was a two-strike count and the pitch was kind of middle-in, but Tabata quickly pulled in his hands and whacked the ball over the wall in dead center.

“Guys on the team took notice of that,” said Leiper, with raised eyebrows.

The one thing I did not get to see last night was Tabata chase down a tricky fly ball in center. Tabata played on the corners while he was in the Yankees’ system, because Austin Jackson was in center. But Tabata already has impressed Leiper with his defense.

“The plays he’s making, the range he’s showing and the arm strength has really been impressive,” Leiper said. “He’s a complete player.

“The first couple days, he was playing shallow. Brandon (Moore), our hitting coach, said to me, ‘That’s kind of shallow.’ I said, let’s see. Well, nothing’s gotten over his head. Once, he was shading a guy to left-center and he ran and caught the ball in right-center at the wall. His jumps are great. He doesn’t panic to get the ball.”

It’s only been 10 games, but so far nothing there’s been but positive signs from Tabata in Altoona. If — and it’s still a huge if — he pans out, the Nady trade could be rated a success.
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Snell tosses gem

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ST. LOUIS — Pirates starter Ian Snell used some advance scouting to devise a strategy against the Cardinals on Tuesday.

Snell said he observed Brewers ace C.C. Sabathia against the Houston Astros on Monday night. Every pitch. Even in a cab, where he followed the game on his hand-held.

“I watched the whole game,” he said. “Watching C.C. made me realize a whole bunch of things.”

The first revelation was to live by the fastball. Snell said he threw more fastballs in his 4-1 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday night than in any of his previous 24 starts this season.

He allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings. He struck out eight and walked one, while improving to 5-10.

“It’s slowly getting healthy and slowly getting back to myself,” Snell said. “It feels good to have my velocity back. I challenged all of their hitters tonight. No matter who it was.”

Manager John Russell said it was Snell’s best game of the season — Snell disputed that, choosing the 10-strikeout, no-walk gem in the second week of the season against the Marlins — and said he expected as much.

Snell, who won for only the third time in his past 22 starts, has put together three quality starts in a row after a disastrous three-month span.

“He’s been building toward this and, hopefully, he can maintain something,” Russell said. “He put it all together tonight.”

After giving up a leadoff single to Skip Schumaker in the first, Snell retired 13 of the next 14 batters before Yadier Molina hit a one-out double in the bottom of the fifth.

Along the way, Snell struck out six different Cardinal batters in the opening four innings, including fanning the side in the fourth, when he set down Albert Pujols, Troy Glaus and Ryan Ludwick.

He whiffed Pujols, batting .348, on three pitches, capped by a nasty slider. In the sixth, Pujols hit a two-out single, but Snell struck out Glaus on a 96-mph fastball.

“I felt good, but it was a total team effort,” Snell said. “It wasn’t just me. It was an awesome game all-around for us.”

— John Grupp

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Tabata’s debuts in Altoona

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ALTOONA — I’m getting a couple of “off” days — that is, working but not covering the Pirates, per se — so Johnny Grupp will put aside his thoroughbred notes and work the two-game set in St. Louis.

Tonight, I’m at Blair County Ballpark, watching the home debut of Jose Tabata with Double-A Altoona.

Tabata is wearing uniform No. 26 and batting second in the lineup. He singled in his first at-bat, but was erased when Jim Negrych, the former Pitt standout, grounded into an inning-ending double play.

It’s only been 3 1/2 weeks since the trade that swapped Tabata and three other guys for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. Tonight marks Tabata’s 10th game with Altoona — he spent two weeks in Bradenton, Fla., rehabbing a sore hammy.

“I felt very welcome from the day I showed up,” Tabata said. “I can’t believe how I was joking around with guys on the second day. I didn’t expect that.”

Although he is a newcomer in the Pirates’ farm system, Tabata already has played at PNC Park. As a 17-year-old in 2006, Tabata was the youngest player in the Futures Game in Pittsburgh.

“I feel a little weird, knowing I’m going to be back at that ballpark, but playing for the home team,” Tabata said, smiling. “One thing that feels so good about playing for the Pirates is, my favorite player is Roberto Clemente. I feel so good to be with the Pirates.”

For more details on Tabata, check out Wednesday’s Trib.

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McLouth sits with illness

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Center fielder Nate McLouth (illness) is out of the starting lineup for the Pirates tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals at 8:15 p.m. at Busch Stadium. Nyjer Morgan, recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis today, will get the start in center field. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez and left fielder Brandon Moss (ankle) also will not start as the Pirates try to beat the Cards for the seventh time in 13 meetings this year.

Ian Snell (4-10, 5.91 ERA) shoots for his third win in his past 22 starts, while the Cardinals will counter with Braden Looper (11-9, 4.07 ERA) Infielder Doug Mientkiewicz remains back in Pittsburgh on the bereavement list, one day after his wife, Jodi, underwent heart surgery. She has returned home and, according to manager John Russell, is doing well.

Starting lineups Pirates – Nyjer Morgan, CF; Jack Wilson, SS; Ryan Doumit, C; Adam LaRoche, 1B; Jason Michaels, LF: Andy LaRoche, 3B; Steve Pearce, RF; Luis Rivas, 2B; Ian Snell, RHP

Cardinals – Skip Schumaker, CF; Rick Ankiel, LF; Albert Pujols, 1B; Troy Glaus, 3B; Ryan Ludwick, RF; Felipe Lopez, 2B; Yadier Molina, C; Bradon Looper, RHP; Cesar Izturis, SS.

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