Mientkiewicz out, Morgan called up

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After today’s 5-2 victory against the Mets, the Pirates put utilityman Doug Mientkiewicz on the bereavement list and called up outfielder Nyjer Morgan from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Mientkiewicz, who is attending to a family matter, might rejoin the team this weekend in Milwaukee.

Outfielder Chris Duffy took Morgan’s spot on Indy’s roster.

In 26 games with the Pirates this season, Morgan hit .143 with two RBI and one stolen base. Friday, Morgan became the first Indianapolis player in 72 years to swipe five bases in one game.

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Pondering the pitching

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Discussions continue in manager John Russell’s office about when — not if — to bring up Tom Gorzelanny and Ross Ohlendorf from Triple-A. Russell and pitching coach Jeff Andrews are offering their input to GM Neal Huntington.

When those guys are called up, the Pirates will have to figure out how to get them into the starting rotation. One possibility would be to move struggling Zach Duke, who hasn’t won a game in what seems like a few years, into the bullpen.

“I don’t know,” Russell said this morning. “We’re kicking around different things. It’s too early to say.”

Lineups for today’s getaway day game against New York:

METS — J Reyes SS, Evans LF, Wright 3B, Beltran CF, Delgado 1B, Tatis RF, Easley SS, Castro C, Maine (10-7, 3.97) RHP

PIRATES — McLouth CF, F. Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Michaels LF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Pearce RF, Wilson SS, Maholm (8-7, 2.69) LHP
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Capps back Friday, Moss improves

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The Pirates’ crew of walking wounded converged in the clubhouse at PNC Park this morning.

Closer Matt Capps (shoulder bursitis) checked in, on his way to Double-A Altoona to continue his rehab assignment. Capps will pitch Wednesday and throw a bullpen session Thursday, then be activated off the disabled list Friday.

“I feel real good,” Capps said. “I’m still trying to find my delivery and things like that, which is to be expected after taking so much time off. But physically, I feel real good.”

Left fielder Brandon Moss (left ankle sprain) limped to his locker, but said he does not expect to go onto the DL. Moss injured his ankle while trying to run out of the batter’s box in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon.

“It feels a lot better than I thought it was going to,” Moss said. “It’s just sore and stiff. It it (improves) as much tomorrow as it did today from yesterday, then it will be all right.”

Left-hander Phil Dumatrait also is back in town after having arthroscopic surgery to clean up his rotator cuff and remove his bursa sac.

Dumatrait will be shut down for the next six to eight weeks, then begin a rehab program. He expects to be ready for the start of spring training.
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Moss out with sprained ankle

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Left fielder Brandon Moss left this afternoon’s game against the New York Mets in the bottom of the seventh inning with a badly sprained left ankle.

Moss caught his cleat as he tried to run out of the batter’s box after hitting a grounder. His ankle was bent at an odd angle as he tried to plant and push off, and he immediately collapsed.

“The initial pain … it hurt pretty bad,” Moss said. “I sat there for a minute and it didn’t go away, and I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ It really did scare me. I haven’t rolled my ankle since I was in high school, and it didn’t feel like that.”

Moss said the injured area was the lower part of his ankle. A high ankle sprain generally can be more severe. X-rays taken at PNC Park were negative, and Moss will be re-examined Monday.

His status is day to day.
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Scheppers’ agent (finally) responds

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According to GM Neal Huntington, the Pirates would have signed second-round pick Tanner Scheppers if the money would have been right.

Scheppers, a right-handed pitcher, sustained a shoulder injury last spring while pitching for Fresno State. Surgery was not necessary, but Scheppers was not at full strength — “75 to 80 percent,” in Huntington’s estimation — when he worked out last week at PNC Park. Scheppers threw about 30 pitches in the bullpen and could not manage a breaking ball.

The Pirates do not doubt Scheppers will return to full strength and can be an effective pitcher. But they refused to pay top-10 bonus money — Scheppers reportedly was asking for about $2 million-plus — for a guy with an iffy shoulder who was drafted 48th overall.

“He’s not hurt, but he’s not healthy,” Huntington said. “That made it impossible to come to a conclusion.”

Scheppers’ agent, Greg Genske, did not return repeated phone calls from the Tribune-Review over the past two months. This morning, however, he sent me this message via e-mail: “In the weeks leading up to the draft, Tanner Scheppers was the most highly evaluated pitcher in the draft — he was going to be the first pitcher selected. Due to an incredibly heavy work load, Tanner developed a shoulder injury. Fortunately, the esteemed Dr. Lewis Yocum determined that the injury did not require surgery and that Tanner would return to full strength with rest and rehabilitation.

“Tanner has responded extremely well to treatment and his shoulder is stronger than ever. He has been engaged in a throwing program for months and he is at full strength. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Tanner and he cooperated fully with all of their requests for information and examination. The Pirates never expressed a concern about Tanner’s health or his throwing program until the issue of money was addressed. “Tanner rejected the Pirates offers and therefore did not sign prior to the Aug. 15 deadline. Tanner is now looking forward to beginning his professional career elsewhere, confident that which organization eventually employs him will be getting one of the great young pitching prospects in the game.”

After the draft, Scheppers burned his bridges with Fresno State. It sounds like he’ll try to latch on with an independent league team and re-enter the draft in 2009.

Lineups for today’s game against the Mets:

PIRATES — McLouth CF, Wilson SS, F. Sanchez 2B, Adam LaRoche 1B, Andy LaRoche 3B, Moss LF, Michaels RF, Chavez C, Karstens (2-1, 1.23) RHP

METS — J Reyes SS, A Reyes 2B, Easley 3B, Delgado 1B, Beltran CF, Murphy LF, Tatis RF, Schneider C, Santana (10-7, 2.89) LHP
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Boras blinks

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Scott Boras blinked.

Yes, the Pirates had to go way above slot to sign first-round draft pick Pedro Alvarez. But they got the slugger for a $6 million bonus, but they got the deal done for the same money given to No. 3 Eric Hosmer and $200,000 less than what No. 5 Buster Posey got. And the Pirates did not have to give up a major league contract, which would have required them to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

I would have enjoyed watching Boras and Pirates president Frank Coonelly go at it during negotiations.

“This had nothing to do with me wanting to have a go-round with Scott Boras,” Coonelly said this afternoon. “We’ve had our dealings, certainly, in the past. This was all about us selecting the best player available. It happened to be a player who was represented by Scott. I was never concerned that the negotiation process would be affected by a perceived battle of titans, so to speak.”

But I couldn’t help but notice that Coonelly was grinning broadly as he spoke.

‘Nuf said.
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20th-round pick signs

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With less than eight hours to go before the deadline to sign draft picks, the Pirates this afternoon came to terms with right-hander Robert Miller, their 20th-round pick.

Miller, 18, got a $900,000 signing bonus — nearly as much as the combined bonuses for the Pirates’ third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks. It’s also almost $100,000 more than the slot amount for second-round pick Tanner Scheppers, who has not yet signed.

General manager Neal Huntington is sequestered at PNC Park, continuing his negotiations with the advisors for Scheppers and top pick Pedro Alvarez. It is unlikely anything will be announced until around the midnight deadline.

Lineups for today’s game against the Mets:

PIRATES — McLouth CF, Sanchez 2B, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Andy LaRoche 3B, Moss LF, Michaels RF, Wilson SS, Davis (1-1, 1.38) RHP

METS — J Reyes SS, A Reyes 2B, Wright 3B, Delgado 1B, Beltran CF, Murphy LF, Tatis RF, Schneider C, Pelfrey (10-8, 4.11) RHP
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Pirates to announce draft signing

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The Pirates will announce later this afternoon the signing of their sixth-round pick from 2008, outfielder Robbie Grossman of Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas.

Grossman, a prep All-American, is considered a high-end prospect who had a full scholarship to the University of Texas. Grossman, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound switch-hitter, batted .420 as a junior and led Cy-Fair to the Texas state championship.

The Pirates have signed 30 of their 50 draft picks, and continue to talk with first-rounder Pedro Alvarez and second-round Tanner Scheppers in advance of Friday’s midnight deadline.

The signing of Grossman, who is at PNC Park, comes one day after fifth-rounder Justin Wilson, a left-handed pitcher from Fresno State signed.

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LaRoche brothers teammates, at last

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The LaRoche brothers will play as teammates for the first time tonight when the Pirates play host to the Reds (53-68) at 7:05 p.m. at PNC Park. First baseman Adam LaRoche, activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, will bat clean-up. His younger brother of four years, third baseman Andy LaRoche, will bat fifth.

Shortstop Jack Wilson also is playing after missing the past six starts with tendinitis in his shoulder, while catcher Ryan Doumit was given the night off. Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto (7-11, 5.01 ERA) will meet Ian Snell (4-9, 6.06 ERA). Snell has two wins in his past 20 starts dating to mid-April.

Starting lineups:

Reds — Chris Dickerson, LF; Jeff Keppinger, SS; Jay Bruce, RF; Brandon Phillips, 2B; Javier Valentin, 1B; Edwin Encarnacion, 3B; Corey Patterson, CF; Paul Bako, C; Johnny Cueto, RHP.

Pirates — Freddy Sanchez, 2B; Jack Wilson, SS; Nate McLouth, CF; Adam LaRoche, 1B; Andy LaRoche, 3B; Brandon Moss, LF; Steve Pearce, RF; Raul Chavez, C; Ian Snell, RHP

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Sanchez back in lineup

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Freddy Sanchez returns to the lineup tonight after missing the past two games with discomfort in his right shoulder. The second baseman will bat leadoff as the Pirates meet former teammate Josh Fogg (2-4, 7.98 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. at PNC Park.

Paul Maholm (7-7, 3.76 ERA), who has pitched at least six innings in each of his past 17 starts, will take the mound for the Pirates. Shortstop Jack Wilson (shoulder) will miss his sixth consecutive start.

Lineups for today’s game against the Reds:

REDS — Jolbert Cabrera LF, Jeff Keppinger SS, Jay Bruce RF, Brandon Phillips 2B, Edwin Encarnacion 3B, Andy Phillips 1B, Corey Patterson CF, Ryan Hanigan C, Josh Fogg (2-4, 7.98)

PIRATES — Freddy Sanchez 2B, Doug Mientkiewicz 1B, Nate McLouth CF, Ryan Doumit C, Andy LaRoche 3B, Brandon Moss LF, Jason Michaels RF, Luis Rivas SS, Paul Maholm LHP (7-7. 3.76)

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