Good news for Capps

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CHICAGO — X-rays taken early this morning on Matt Capps’ right elbow were negative, and the Pirates’ closer will be re-evaluated before tonight’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

In the ninth inning Monday, Capps was struck on the elbow by a line drive off the bat of Geovany Soto. Capps immediately left the field with the Pirates’ athletic trainer and was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The numbness and tingling in Capps’ arm began to subside after a few minutes, and manager John Russell said Capps had “pretty good” range of motion.

Today, Capps will be re-examined at Wrigley Field by Cubs orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stephen Gryzlo.

Earlier this month, Capps spent 15 days on the disabled list with irritation in his right elbow.

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Freddy’s big night; Capps goes for X-rays

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CHICAGO — Frustrated by a run of strikeouts and pop-ups, Freddy Sanchez shortened his swing two days ago. The tweak paid off tonight, as he became the first Pirate in 19 years to get six hits in a game.

Sanchez’s 6-for-6 night accounted for three RBI. It included a two-run homer in the fourth inning off Ryan Dempster.

Wait a minute … a shorter swing AND a home run? How is that possible?

“That, I don’t know,” Sanchez said, grinning. “It’s one of those days, I guess. Hopefully, I can keep it going. It was a nasty pitch, and I just threw my bat out at it.”

With a double, single and homer by the fourth inning, Sanchez had three at-bats to triple and hit for the cycle. “I never really got the opportunity and that was the last thing on my mind,” Sanchez said. “You can’t be picky.”

Sanchez said he felt “a little stiff” yesterday, when he went 2 for 5 with the revamped swing against the White Sox. The Pirates needed every hit he could muster tonight against the Cubs; even with a season-high 18 hits, the Pirates had to hold on for a bumpy, 10-8 victory.

“It wouldn’t have been the same if we hadn’t pulled out the win,” Sanchez said.

• As of midnight CT, there was no update on the condition of closer Matt Capps, who left the game after being struck on the right elbow by Geovany Soto’s line drive. Capps was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for X-rays.

“It hit pretty much right on (the elbow), a little toward the tricep,” manager John Russell said. “There was a lot of numbness. It hit pretty much right on (the elbow), a little toward the tricep. He was evaluated (in the clubhouse) by the doctor. The numbness and tingling subsided, range of motion is pretty good.”

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Cubs scratch Lee

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CHICAGO — Derrek Lee is ill and was scratched from the Cubs’ lineup tonight. Here’s the new-look batting order:

PIRATES — 1.Nyjer Morgan lf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Nate McLouth cf, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Brandon Moss lf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss. 9. Paul Maholm (3-1, 3.30) lhp.

CUBS — 1. Alfonso Soriano lf, 2. Ryan Theriot ss, 3. Milton Bradley rf, 4. Reed Johnson cf, 5. Geovany Soto c, 6. Micah Hoffpauir 1b, 7. Ryan Freel 3b, 8. Aaron Miles ss, 9. Ryan Dempster (3-3, 4.40) rhp

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Bucs await word on Hansen

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CHICAGO — Craig Hansen underwent tests on his neck, shoulder and upper back today in Pittsburgh, but the results were not immediately available.

“It could be tomorrow,” general manager Neal Huntington said via e-mail.

Hansen went on the disabled list with spasms in his neck. Last week, he had a setback while rehabbing at the Pirates’ facility in Bradenton, Fla.

• To be a bit more timely with the daily lineups, I’m going to try to post them via Twitter in addition to this blog. Search for “RobBiertempfel” to follow my tweets about all things Buccos (and other random stuff, too).

• Lineups for today’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Nyjer Morgan lf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Nate McLouth cf, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Brandon Moss lf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss. 9. Paul Maholm (3-1, 3.30) lhp.

CUBS — 1. Alfonso Soriano lf, 2. Ryan Freel 3b, 3. Milton Bradley rf, 4. Derrek Lee 1b, 5. Reed Johnson cf, 6. Geovany Soto c, 7. Bobby Scales 2b, 8. Aaron Miles ss, 9. Ryan Dempster (3-3, 4.40) rhp

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Lineup changes

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CHICAGO — Nobody’s hitting, it’s Sunday and the Pirates have lost three in a row and have been shut out for 20 straight innings. Why not shake up the lineup? Nate McLouth and Adam LaRoche both get the day off. Robinzon Diaz will get his first start since Wednesday.

• The White Sox have won six straight interleague games and eight in a row overall at U.S. Cellular Field.

Lineups for today’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Nyjer Morgan cf, 2. Delwyn Young rf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Craig Monroe dh, 5. Eric Hinske 1b, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Brandon Moss lf, 8. Robinzon Diaz c, 8. Jack Wilson ss. RHP Jeff Karstens (1-2, 5.21) will pitch.

WHITE SOX — 1. Scott Podsednik lf, 2. Alexei Ramirez ss, 3. Jim Thome dh, 4. Paul Konerko 1b, 5. A.J. Pierzynski c, 6. Carlos Quentin dh, 7. Brian Anderson rf, 8. Chris Getz 2b, 9. Josh Fields 3b. LHP Mark Buehrle (6-1, 2.77) will pitch.

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Pirates re-up with Altoona

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CHICAGO — The Pirates today extended their agreement with Double-A Altoona by four years, through the 2014 season.

The Curve have been a Pirates affiliate since the club’s formation in 1999. Of the 25 players on the active roster, 11 played in Altoona. The Curve have sent 75 players to the majors.

• After last night’s two-hit performance against Gavin Floyd, which came on the heels of an offensive slumber against Nats rookie Craig Stammen, the Pirates held an extra hitter’s meeting this afternoon in the clubhouse.

• Ex-Bucco Update: Lefty Dave Davidson was designated for assignment, just days after the Marlins called him up to the majors. He pitched one inning, allowing four hits and four walks. The Marlins claimed Davidson in April after the Pirates DFA’ed him to clear roster space for Delwyn Young.

• Lineups for today’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Nyjer Morgan lf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Nate McLouth cf, 4. Craig Monroe dh, 5. Adam LaRoche 1b, 6. Delwyn Young rf, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss. Ross Ohlendorf (5-3, 4.31) will pitch.

WHITE SOX — 1. Scott Podsednik lf, 2. Alexei Ramirez ss, 3. Jermaine Dye rf, 4. Jim Thome dh, 5. Paul Konerko 1b, 6. Carlos Quentin dh, 7. A.J. Pierzynski c, 8. Josh Fields 3b, 9. Chris Getz 2b. Clayton Richard (0-4, 4.33) will pitch.

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LaRoche OK; Hansen shut down

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CHICAGO — Andy LaRoche is fine; today is just a breather. Manager John Russell planned on giving Ramon Vazquez a game at third base during this series and, with lefties pitching Saturday and Sunday, tonight was the best time to do it.

• Reliever Craig Hansen, on the disabled list due to neck spasms, was shut down in extended spring training after throwing just one side session. Hansen will return to Pittsburgh and undergo medical tests on his neck and shoulders.

• Reliever Tyler Yates (right elbow inflammation) did some light throwing today for the first time since going on the DL.

• Tomorrow and Sunday, bench coach Joey Cora will fill in as the White Sox’s temporary manager. Ozzie Guillen will leave the team to attend to a family matter.

• Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus today ran a mock draft and has the Pirates selecting Mizzou right-hander Kyle Gibson. The top three picks: righty Stephen Strasburg to the Nats, outfielder Dustin Ackley to the Mariners and outfielder Donovan Tate to the Padres. Goldstein also predicts the Orioles will snatch right-hander Tanner Scheppers (the Pirates’ second-round choice last year) with the fifth overall pick.

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Andy LaRoche not in lineup; Hinske at DH

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CHICAGO — Andy LaRoche is not in the lineup today against the White Sox. In the ninth inning last night against the Nationals, Ramon Vazquez pinch-hit for LaRoche (who was 1 for 3 with an RBI). So far, there is no indication that anything’s wrong physically with LaRoche; might be just a day off. I’ll update after the clubhouse opens in a half hour.

• Eric Hinske is the Pirates’ designated hitter today. Expect Craig Monroe to handle that duty tomorrow and Sunday.

• Right-hander Eric Krebs today was sent to the Dodgers as the player to be named in the Delwyn Young trade. Krebs was 2-4 with a 4.86 ERA in 10 outings for Double-A Altoona. He was the Pirates’ 16th-round pick in 2005.

• Last night, Brad Lincoln picked up his first victory for Double-A Altoona. The right-hander made sure to lock it down — he tossed the Curve’s first complete game of the season, a two-hit shutout against Bowie. He is 1-3 with a 2.31 ERA. Lincoln, the Pirates’ top draft pick in 2006, had Tommy John surgery in April ’07.

• Remember how it often seemed Jason Bay was king of the low-impact home run when he played for the Pirates? Of his 139 career homers, 85 are solo shots. Bay hit 79 one-run homers while wearing black and gold.

That’s changed since he was traded to Boston. Bay’s homer yesterday was his 11th in a row with at least one runner on base, a Red Sox record. Thirteen of his past 14 homers have scored more than one run.

Is Bay more of a clutch hitter with the Sox? Perhaps. More likely, it’s just that he’s finally playing for a team that puts plenty of runners on base ahead of him.

• According to DallasNews.com, TBS, taking a cue from Fox, is in talks with MLB about setting earlier start times for playoff games.

• Lineups for today’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Nyjer Morgan lf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Nate McLouth cf, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Eric Hinske dh, 6. Brandon Moss rf, 7. Ramon Vazquez 3b, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss. Zach Duke will pitch.

WHITE SOX — 1. Scott Podsednik lf, 2. Lance Nix 2b, 3. Jermaine Dye rf, 4. Paul Konerko 1b, 5. A.J. Pierzynski c, 6. Carlos Quentin dh, 7. Alexi Ramirez ss, 8. Brian Anderson cf, 9. Josh Fields 3b. Gavin Floyd will pitch.

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Wilson staying put … for now

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WASHINGTON — Talk about the possibility of Jack Wilson being traded to the Mariners has died down.

I never sensed great enthusiasm for the deal — a straight-up swap of Wilson for Yuniesky Betancourt — among the Pirates’ end. Geoff Baker, the Seattle Times beat writer who first blogged about the proposed trade, today wrote the Pirates backed away because Betancourt’s price tag (a total of $9 million from now until 2011 with a $6 million option/$2 million buyout in 2012) is too high.

Baker seemed stunned the Pirates would hesitate to invest $11 million to $15 million for a 27-year-old shortstop with an OK bat and limited defensive skills. The sour national economy is one reason not to pull the trigger on that trade. Another is the very real possibility that something better will come along.

• The Nats will run out another rookie pitcher tonight against the Pirates. Craig Stammen will be the fourth newbie to start a game for Washington this season (joining Shairon Martis, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler). The “veteran” of the Nats’ staff is John Lannan, who’s made 46 career starts. The only other team with so much inexperience on the hill this season is Toronto.

• Stammen is the fifth member of Washington’s 2005 draft class to reach the majors. The Pirates have had one ’05 pick (Steve Pearce, eighth round) play in the bigs. Andrew McCutchen (first round) and Jeff Sues (fifth round) are close.

• Lineups for today’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Nyjer Morgan lf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Nate McLouth cf, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Brandon Moss rf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Ian Snell (1-5, 4.93) rhp

NATIONALS — 1. Cristian Guzman ss, 2. Nick Johnson 1b, Ryan Zimmerman 3b, 4. Adam Dunn lf, 5. Josh Willingham lf, 6. Willie Harris cf, 7. Josh Bard c, 8. Anderson Hernandez 2b, 9. Craig Stammen (major league debut) rhp

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No night off for Capps, Grabow

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WASHINGTON — So much for getting a night off. Matt Capps and John Grabow both pitched Wednesday night against the Nats, as manager John Russell’s hand was forced by a tight game in the late innings.

Grabow faced two batters and needed just eight pitches to get out of the eighth inning and notch the win. Capps survived a scare — Josh Willingham’s fly ball to deeeeeep center field — to save the 2-1 victory.

That was fine with Capps, who practically has to be tied to the bullpen bench to be kept out of a game. The last thing he wanted was a night off.

“I really don’t like it,” Capps said. “Especially the way our bullpen’s been worked lately. I missed a week with (a sore) elbow and now having (Tyler Yates) down, I don’t like it at all.”

Capps and Grabow have struggled over the past couple of weeks, and have been trying to make mechanical tweaks before games. But it’s difficult for relievers to do much side work, because they often pitch on consecutive days and warm up frequently even in games in which they don’t pitch. Extra work can lead to extra soreness and injuries.

However, Capps said the adjustments he’s made with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan are paying off. “It felt good. I felt like I was letting the ball go good. Even the changeup that (Willie) Harris hit for a single was a pretty good pitch.”

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