Supplemental pick Black signs

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Right-handed pitcher Victor Black, a supplemental pick with the 49th overall selection in the recent draft, has signed with the Pirates.

Black, 21, posted a 6-4 record in 15 starts as a junior at Dallas Baptist University this season, striking out 99 batters in 88.2 innings pitched.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is scheduled to begin his professional career with the short-season Single-A State College Spikes, Pittsburgh’s short season entry in the New York-Penn League. The Pirates have now signed 12 of their 51 selections from the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

— John Grupp

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Bad mojo

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DENVER — The Pirates’ clubhouse was not a fun place to be the past couple of nights, for obvious and slightly different reasons.

Friday, there was stunned reaction to the news that veteran outfielder Craig Monroe had been designated for assignment. Nobody has anything against Steve Pearce, who was called up from Triple-A, but the move was viewed by many players as another hoisting of the white flag on the 2009 season.

Near the end of spring training, one player told me he was happy the Pirates signed Monroe, saying he was the kind of veteran bat the team needed to find success. Friday. when I told that same player Monroe had been cut, he shook his head and frowned. “What are we doing?” the player said.

Last night, the mood was soured by the devastating walkoff loss against the Rockies. It was the Pirates’ ninth loss in the final at-bat this season. The bullpen allowed seven runs — all of them coming on home runs. Just as frustrating, the Pirates had a chance to put the game away in the eighth — runners on first and second, none out — but failed to do anything. Jack Wilson hit a comebacker, Jason Jaramillo was picked off second base and Eric Hinske struck out. Pfffffffft! That’s the danger of relying on a small-ball approach. The Rockies showed how power can be a late-game saving grace.

Don’t expect the Pirates to turn into a slugging team anytime soon, though. Speed, defense and station-to-station scoring is the future of this club … but if I said any more, I’d be giving away my story in Tuesday’s Trib.

• Right-hander Brad Lincoln was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. Lincoln was a hard-luck 1-5 with Double-A Altoona, but had a 2.18 ERA and a dandy 1.08 WHIP. He’ll move into Indy’s rotation and seems to be on track for an April 2010 ETA in Pittsburgh.

• Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Delwyn Young lf, 4. Eric Hinske rf, 5. Andy LaRoche 3b, 6. Steve Pearce 1b, 7. Robinzon Diaz c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Paul Maholm (4-3, 4.23) lhp

ROCKIES — 1. Dexter Fowler cf, 2. Clint Barmes 2b, 3. Ryan Spilborghs lf, 4. Brad Hawpe rf, 5. Troy Tulowitzky ss, 6. Garrett Atkins 1b, 7. Ian Stewart 3b, 8. Paul Phillips c, 9. Jorge De La Rosa (2-7, 5.81) lhp

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Greatness in dreadlocks

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DENVER — Moments after Andrew McCutchen ripped a three-run triple Saturday night against the Rockies, I received this Tweet from the folks at the Raise the Jolly Roger blog: “Greatness in dreadlocks.”

That about sums it up, huh?

In 44 games this season before he was traded, Nate McLouth (remember him?) had 17 extra-base hits and 34 RBI.

In the first 16 games of his career, McCutchen has eight extra-base hits and 13 RBI. He already has FOUR triples. As a team, the Pirates had 21 last season.

So, the offense category is more or less a wash (McLouth had more homers, McCutchen gets the edge on speed and style points). But there is one area where McCutchen already has a clear advantage.

Defense.

In the fifth inning, the Rockies had a runner on second base with two outs. The game was tied, 2-2. Todd Helton mashed a fly ball high over McCutchen’s head to straightaway center field. A go-ahead double, most likely. Maybe a triple.

Nope.

McCutchen turned and revved into a full sprint and made a sweet over-the-shoulder catch for the final out.

“I knew I’d gotten a good jump on it, right when he made contact,” McCutchen said. “I knew probably when it was midway in the air that I had a good chance (to catch) it. I was able to get back and make a good catch. That’s what they have me here for, to cover a lot of ground.”

If McLouth is in center field, he’s probably still chasing that ball.

• Left fielder Nyjer Morgan made a fantastic catch in the third inning last night on Dexter Fowler’s pop-up in foul territory. Morgan came in at a full sprint, hopped up, spun around and snagged the ball. Morgan bounced off the back of a fan and ended up sitting on the low wall that separates the stands from the field. The fan wound up acting as a cushion and kept Morgan safe from what could been a nasty tumble.

• First-round draft pick Tony Sanchez capped his pro debut last night by driving in the game-winning run in the ninth inning for Class A State College. Sanchez entered the game at catcher in the sixth inning. In the ninth, Sanchez’s single scored Jose Hernandez, another member of this year’s draft class, to give State College a 4-3 victory.

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Where will Pearce play?

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DENVER — Did the Pirates really bring up Steve Pearce to play right field? He hopes not. It Pearce had his druthers, he’d be a full-time first baseman.

“(First base) is a position I’m comfortable with,” Pearce said. “It’s where I’ve always played. When I go to the outfield … I’m trying so hard to learn it. It takes something out of me when I’m at the plate. If I made an error in the outfield, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got to do twice as much now with my hitting.’ It doesn’t feel natural. Knowing I’m at first base, it’s an easier transition into the game. In the outfield, there’s so much more preparation.”

Pearce, who was called up late last night, has played 59 games in the majors and batted .266 with four homers and 21 RBI. Of the 45 times he’s played in the field, 43 of them were in the outfield.

If the Pirates are serious about getting a look at what Pearce can do, he’ll have to get significant playing time at first base. With Jose Tabata and Gorkys Hernandez in the system, there’s no space for Pearce to have a future in the outfield, anyway.

So, what happens next? Adam LaRoche could be traded — the Mets likely would be interested. Or, perhaps this is a showcase period for Pearce in order to deal him elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Andy LaRoche 3b, 6. Brandon Moss rf, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Charlie Morton (0-0, 0.00) rhp

ROCKIES — 1. Dexter Fowler cf, 2. Clint Barmes 2b, 3. Todd Helton 1b, 4. Brad Hawpe rf, 5. Troy Tulowitzky ss, 6. Ian Stewart 3b, 7. Carlos Gonzalez lf, 8. Chris Iannette c, 9. Jason Hammell (4-3, 4.10) rhp

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Tony Sanchez will debut with State College

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DENVER — Catcher Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ top draft pick this year, will make his pro debut Saturday with short-season low-A State College. The Spikes open their season with one game at Williamsport, then play at home Sunday.

Sanchez will remain with State College through its three-game road series June 22-24 against Mahoning Valley. He then will be assigned low-A West Virginia.

Sanchez will be the second Pirates’ first-round draft choice to play for State College. In August 2007, pitcher Daniel Moskos was promoted to State College from rookie-level Bradenton. Moskos made 11 relief appearances and earned one save.

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Pirates ink No. 2 pick Pounders

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Pirates this afternoon came to terms with right-hander Brooks Pounders, their second-round draft pick. Pounders, 18, turned down a scholarship to Southern Cal to sign his pro contract.

Pounders went 9-2 with a 1.96 ERA this season for Temecula (Calif.) High School. He is the seventh 2009 draft pick to sign, and will be assigned to the Gulf Coast League team in Bradenton, Fla.

• At the June 30 game against the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates will mark the 100th anniversary of the first game at Forbes Field. A limited number of tickets will be sold for $4, which was the price of a box seat at Forbes Field during its final season in 1970.

Several Pirates alumni who played at Forbe Field will be on hand, including Bill Mazeroski, Chuck Tanner, El Roy Face, Manny Sanguillen and Bob Friend.

Fans can vote for their favorite Forbes Field moment at pirates.com. Anyone who votes will automatically be entered in a sweepstakes for two Lexus Club seats for the June 30 game, when the top Forbes Field event will be announced.

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Props for Grabow

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MINNEAPOLIS — Left-handed reliever John Grabow’s heroic effort last night got lost amid all the hoopla of the LaRoche brothers both going deep and Andrew McCutchen smacking his first career homer.

So, here’s some props, Grabes:

Seventh inning, Pirates up 4-2. Grabow relieves Ian Snell and gets an easy grounder to start the frame. Brendan Harris rips a ball into the left field corner. Harris stops rounding first base, then is able to jog into second when left fielder Nyjer Morgan throws the ball to third base. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez is visibly agitated, because the Pirates had a chance to nail Harris at second.

Joe Mauer walks. Justin Morneau walks. Sensing a turning point, the crowd of 30,057 rises to its feet and takes advantage of the Metrodome’s acoustics.

One, two, three pitches and Jason Kubel is a strikeout victim.

Up came Joe Crede, who blasted a two-run double in the third. Crede is a .268 hitter against lefties, about 60 points better than he is against right-handers. Tapper toward the mound. Grabow scoops the ball on the run and flips to first baseman Adam LaRoche. As the ball nestled into LaRoche’s mitt, about 5,000 fans turned and headed for the parking lots.

Inning over. Lead preserved. Game effectively won.

“It was huge,” manager John Russell said. “That’s kind of John. He does that sometimes. He gets into a jam and finds a way out of it. I thought he showed a lot of guts to get through that inning. It could have been a totally different game.”

After the final out, Grabow stood beside the clubhouse door and fist-bumped every player and coach. Only then did he go inside and have ice packs strapped on his left shoulder, elbow and hip.

• Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Eric Hinske dh, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Andy LaRoche 3b, 6. Brandon Moss rf, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Ramon Vazquez 2b, 9. Jack Wilson ss. Zach Duke (7-4, 3.10) lhp

TWINS — TBA. Nick Blackburn (5-2, 3.31) rhp

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Pirates draftee tosses perfect game

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MINNEAPOLIS — High school pitcher Matt Dermody, a Pirates draft pick, struck out all 18 batters he faced Monday in throwing a six-inning perfect game.

Dermody, 18, a senior at Norwalk High in Des Moines, Iowa, also hit a pair of home runs in the 10-0 victory against South Tama High. Iowa high schools play in the summer and use a 10-run mercy rule.

According to the Iowa High School Athletic Association, Dermody is the first Iowa pitcher to strike out every batter he faced in a complete game.

The Pirates last week drafted Dermody in the 26th round. He has not yet signed with the team, and also is considering a scholarship offer from the University of Iowa.

• Analyst Kevin Goldstein, writing this week for Baseball Prospectus, labeled Pedro Alvarez “a model of inconsistency.” Here’s what Goldstein had to say after the 2008 first-round draft pick went 2 for 4 (including his 13th and 14th home runs) with 6 RBI on Tuesday for Class A Lynchburg:

“Alvarez’s .233 batting average is a profound disappointment, but every so often he suddenly looks like the league’s best hitter. Tuesday represents his second two-home run game in the last five games, but in the three contests between the outbursts, he went 0 for 11. He’s walked 35 times and more than half of his hits have gone for extra bases, and most believe that at some point the average is going to come around.”

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More about the changeup

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MINNEAPOLIS — The changeup is highly valued by Pirates management, a point of emphasis from the front office at PNC Park to the lowest level of the minors. People in the industry also recognized how important the pitch is to a pitcher’s development and success.

But, let’s face it, the change isn’t the sexiest weapon in baseball. Chicks dig the fastball. The change often is overlooked by most folks sitting in the stands.

“It got lost somewhere,” manager John Russell said. “When I played, it was one of the pitches that we really liked to go to. I don’t know when it started, but years ago, velocity started being a big thing — guys who threw hard. But as far as pitching coaches, managers and catchers, the changeup’s always been a very big weapon. I just don’t think it was talked about as much. But it’s always been a big pitch in the game.”

• GM Neal Huntington said Little League pitchers should throw the changeup before they even think about throwing the curveball or slider. “It doesn’t put stress on the elbow and younger hitters can’t recognize it,” Huntington said.

Zach Duke doesn’t dispute the health aspect of throwing the change. But he doesn’t believe it’s a super-effective pitch for kids. “In high school and when you’re younger, if you throw a little harder the changeup is not really a pitch that you need. It matches the hitters’ bat speed at that age,” Duke said. “But as hitters get a little older and stronger with faster bats, the changeup becomes a very important pitch. It’s the pitch that looks like the fastball the longest and allows for that soft contact.”

• Reliever Tyler Yates (elbow) is at the Pirates’ facility in Bradenton, Fla., but he’s shut down for a couple more weeks, according to Russell.

• Last night, Andrew McCutchen doubled and singled, notching his fifth multi-hit game. It was his 12th game since being called up from Triple-A.

• Want more useless stats? The Pirates are 66-107 in interleague play. The Twins improved to 126-91 against NL clubs. … The Pirates are 1-28 when being out-hit. They are 6-14 when their starter doesn’t go at least six innings.

• Right fielder Jose Tabata, who missed four games due to leg cramps, last night went 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored for Double-A Altoona. Center fielder Gorkys Hernandez went 2 for 5, including a double, with one RBI and two runs. According to Huntington, Hernandez will get the bulk of the playing time in center, though Tabata will play there as well. Left fielder Jonel Pacheco leads Altoona with six homers, 30 RBI and 57 hits.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Delwyn Young rf, 6. Eric Hinske dh, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Robinzon Diaz c, 9. Jack Wilson ss. Ian Snell (1-7, 5.25) rhp

TWINS — 1. Brendan Harris ss, 2. Joe Mauer c, 3. Justin Morneau 1b, 4. Jason Kubel dh, 5. Joe Crede 3b, 6. Michael Cuddyer rf, 7. Delmon Young lf, 8. Carlos Gomez cf, 9. Nick Punto 2b. Francisco Liriano (2-7, 5.99) lhp

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Five down, 46 to go …

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Pirates have signed five more draft picks: right-handers Marc Baca (42nd round) and Jason Erickson (24th round), infielder Ty Summerlin (30th round), and outfielders Jose Hernandez (23rd round) and Pat Irvine (33rd round). All five were college players.

That brings the number of draft picks who’ve agreed to contracts with the Pirates to five. Top pick Tony Sanchez, a catcher out of Boston College, came to terms within 72 hours of the draft. He is one of four first-rounders who have signed so far.

• Short-season Class A State College today began its three-day mini-camp. Among the 28 players in camp is righty Quinton Miller, the 20th-round pick last year who got a hefty $900,000 signing bonus. Miller has not pitched since the end of his high school career in May 2008.

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