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Pitching plans, travel plans

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HOUSTON — Manager John Russell this afternoon said the Pirates may stick with a six-man starting rotation, even if Tom Gorzelanny is done for the season.

Gorzelanny left last night’s game in the third inning after his left middle finger “popped” after he threw a slider. Russell suggested there could be ligament damage, which would shut down Gorzelanny until the spring.

Rather than go back to a five-man staff, Russell and GM Neal Huntington are mulling pulling somebody out of the bullpen or calling up someone from the minors to make two starts down the stretch. “We have options,” Russell said.

Gorzelanny will be examined by team doctors Friday, when the team returns to Pittsburgh. He won’t be the only player getting medical attention. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez will see a specialist about the blurry vision in his right eye.

A road trip which began with three sunny days in Cincinnati and included a minor earthquake in San Francisco will end tonight, just hours before Hurricane Ike makes landfall.

On a personal note, I want to express thanks to the Pirates for allowing me to return to Pittsburgh on the team charter. My Houston-to Charlotte-to Pittsburgh flight was not scheduled until tomorrow morning, making for the possibility that I’d be stranded in the path of the storm

There was a time when it was not an uncommon sight for reporters to ride on the team plane. But for obvious reasons — potential conflict of interest issues, deadline issues — beat writers pay their own way on commercial flights. Given the unusual circumstances today, team president Frank Coonelly and Russell gave the OK for myself and two other beat writers to fly home tonight.

My game story tomorrow might not have a lot of in-depth post-game quotes or analysis, and that’s something no reporter is ever happy about. But I’ll be able to get my kids off the school bus tomorrow instead of scrounging for food in a FEMA shelter, and that’s cool with me.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — McLouth CF, Rivas 2B, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Mientkiewicz 3B, Pearce RF, Moss LF, Cruz SS, Duke (5-13, 4.87) LHP

ASTROS — Erstad LF, Loretta 2B, Tejada SS, Berkman 1B, Pence RF, Castillo 2B, Abercrombie CF, Ausmus C, Oswalt (14-9, 3.72) RHP

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