Dome, sweet dome

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Pirates are at the Metrodome for the first time since 2001 and for the last time — the Twins will move into a new, dome-less ballpark next season.

The last time the Pirates played on artificial turf was July 11, 2004, when they faced the Montreal Expos at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico. More about that in tomorrow’s Trib.

• Five weeks after signing as a minor-league free agent, catcher Adam Melhuse retired from Triple-A Indianapolis. Catcher Miguel Perez was promoted to Indy from Double-A Altoona.

• The first of four blood drives this year at PNC Park will be from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the news conference room. Anyone who donates blood will get a free Pirates promotional item and two tickets to the June 28 game against the Kansas City Royals. Kent Tekulve will be on hand from noon to 2 p.m. to sign autographs.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Craig Monroe dh, 6. Delwyn Young rf, 6.Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 9. Jack Wilson ss. Paul Maholm (4-2, 3.61) lhp

TWINS — 1. Brendan Harris ss, 2. Joe Mauer c, 3. Justin Morneau 1b, 4. Joe Crede 3b, 5. Jason Kubel dh, 6. Michael Cuddyer rf, 7. Delmon Young lf, 8. Carlos Gomez cf, 9. Nick Punto 2b. Glen Perkins (1-3, 5.36) lhp

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The Cup stops here

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Pirates staffers worked late in the night yesterday to set up this afternoon’s visit by 15 Penguins players and head coach Dan Bylsma to PNC Park. The Pens brought along a gleaming silver prize — the Stanley Cup.

Sidney Crosby, wearing flip-flops and a Pirates jersey, toted the Cup onto the field. Bill Guerin threw out the first pitch, which wobbled a bit and kicked up some dirt as outfielder Nyjer Morgan made the catch.

“Don’t you know a split-finger fastball is supposed to drop like that?” Guerin said, trying to contain a smile. “I was imagining a left-handed batter, brush him back a little bit, you know?”

The sun-splashed crowd of 27,565 — which included about 5,700 walk-ups, who likely were lured to the ballpark by the Cup’s visit — would have roared just as loudly if Guerin had chucked the ball out onto Mazeroski Way. The Pirates gathered along the third base line and cheered as Crosby lugged the Cup out of the home team’s dugout.

A few minutes earlier, the Penguins took the Cup into the Pirates’ clubhouse.

“Guys were all over it,” Guerin said. “Everybody was getting pictures and stuff like that. It was really neat. They’re all real good guys and appreciative we brought it in. Our kids were getting bats, balls, everything. It was nice.”

Jordan Staal and Max Talbot emerged from the clubhouse, each wearing one of Matt Capps’ batting practice jerseys. Was there a swap involved, perhaps a few autographed pucks and sticks? “Nah,” Capps said. “I just gave ‘em to them.” Stall also was waving one of the Pirates’ bats as he strode off the field.

Later, Guerin brought the Cup into the press box and radio broadcast booth. Pirates employees queued up to pose for pictures with the Cup.

“It’s been an amazing couple of days,” Guerin said. “This city is just crazy about it right now. It’s awesome. Pittsburgh’s such a huge sports town. The fans … incredible. It’s been wild.”

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Doumit making progress; Stanley Cup in the house today

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The mood in the clubhouse this morning was very buoyant, which is fitting because of all the good news — Ryan Doumit is on his way back (though it will be a bit yet), Sid and the Cup will be in the house today, and the offense finally woke up last night.

• Re: Doumit: He’s been cleared to resume baseball activities, which means throwing and swinging a bat. Yesterday was the first time he threw soft toss from 45 feet and also took some dry swings. He did it again this morning. “It’s a progression and I’m going to ease into it,” Doumit said, who’s beginning a two-week throwing/batting program. “I’ll do that for a couple of weeks and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Doumit eventually will throw from 60 feet and 150 feet. After dry swings, he’ll move up to hitting off a tee, hitting flip tosses and finally live batting practice. Once he reaches both goals, it will be time to think about a minor league rehab assignment. “The great thing is, he’s working to get back instead of waiting to work to get back,” manager John Russell said.

• Re: the Cup: A group of Penguins players — Sidney Crosby is likely, but not yet confirmed — will bring the Stanley Cup to PNC Park this afternoon. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan, a one-time mucker in the Canadian junior league, is pumped to hug the Cup. “Absolutely!” Morgan said, beaming.

• Right-hander Charlie Morton (hamstring) will have his next start pushed back to Saturday. The other starters will be moved up a day and with the off day everyone will stay on their normal rotations.

• Morton’s status was on the agenda during a very long, closed-door meeting this morning in Russell’s office. Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and GM Neal Huntington were among those at the confab. The meeting caught the attention of everyone in the clubhouse, including at least one player who confided he feels a trade is in the works.

• Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

TIGERS — 1. Don Kelly lf, 2. Ramon Santiago 2b, 3. Josh Anderson rf, 4. Miguel Cabrera 1b, 5. Curtis Granderson cf, 6. Brandon Inge 3b, 7. Gerald Laird c, 8. Adam Everett ss, 9. Dontrelle Willis (1-3, 6.60) lhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Andy LaRoche 3b, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Craig Monroe lf, 5. Delwyn Young rf, 6. Eric Hinske 1b, 7. Robinzon Diaz c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (5-5, 4.82) rhp

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Slumping Moss benched

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Right fielder Brandon Moss, stuck in an 0-for-15 slump, is getting a three-day breather. He’s out of the lineup tonight and will sit again tomorrow. The Pirates are off Monday, then begin a three-game set Tuesday in Minneapolis against the Twins.

Moss hit his lone home run May 12. He batted .203 in April, .305 in May and is off to a .143 start in June.

“He’s struggling,” manager John Russell said. “I think he’s getting pitches to hit (but) he’s fighting himself a little bit. He needs to relax a little bit.”

• Test results came back clean for reliever Tyler Yates (right elbow inflammation), but there still is no timetable for when he’ll try to throw again. “We’re taking it slow,” Russell said. Yates has been out since May 16 and had a setback Tuesday when he tried to throw a simulated game.

• Right-hander Charlie Morton (hamstring) threw soft toss and jogged this afternoon and is 50-50 for his next scheduled start Tuesday. If he cannot pitch, the off day will allow the Pirates to keep the rotation on its usual schedule.

• The New York Yankees reportedly are jumping into the bidding for Dominican phenom Miguel Angel Sano. ESPN the Magazine indicated the Yanks are willing to offer $3 million for the 16-year-old. The Pirates are undoubtedly interested, but apparently will have to cough up $4 million or more — or, in other words, nearly half as much as they have budgeted for the entire 2009 first-year player draft.

• Lynchburg closer R.J. Rodriguez was added to the Class A Carolina League mid-season all-star team. Lynchburg outfielder Miles Durham and catcher Kris Watts also are on the team, which will play the California League all-stars June 23 in Lake Elsinore, Calif.

Rodriguez, a 24-year-old right-hander, is 4-1 with 11 saves and a 3.27 ERA. This is his first year with Lynchburg after spending the past three seasons in the San Diego Padres system.

• Righty Rafael De Los Santos was added to Lynchburg’s roster and lefty Tyler Cox was sent to short-season A State College.

• The Pirates signed right-hander Tyler Herron and assigned him to Double-A Altoona. Herron was the St. Louis Cardinals’ first-round draft pick (46th overall) in 2005. To clear roster space, righty Moises Robles was reassigned to Class A Lynchburg.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

TIGERS — 1. Ryan Rayburn cf, 2. Placido Polanco 2b, 3. Marcus Thames lf, 4. Miguel Cabrera 1b, 5. Magglio Ordonez rf, 6. Brandon Inge 3b, 7. Gerald Laird c, 8. Adam Everett ss, 9. Armando Galarraga (3-6, 5.19) rhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Delwyn Young rf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Zach Duke (6-4, 3.07) lhp

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Sanchez signs, gets $2.5M bonus

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The Pirates this afternoon signed their first-round draft pick, catcher Tony Sanchez. Sanchez will receive a bonus of about $2.5 million, which is the slot amount for the fourth overall pick.

“We are very pleased to add a player with the tools, skills and intangibles of Tony Sanchez to our organization,” Pirates scouting director Greg Smith said in a prepared statement. “Tony was the best catcher available in the draft and we are excited that he will be able to begin his professional career this summer.”

The Pirates have scheduled a 5:30 p.m. press conference to introduce Sanchez.

Sanchez, 21, led Boston College this season in batting average (.346), slugging percentage (.614), on-base percentage (.443), home runs (tied with 14). He scored 63 runs, a single-season school record. He threw out 19 would-be base stealers, tops in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

• Manager John Russell said he plans to start Charlie Morton on Tuesday in Minnesota against the Twins. Morton’s debut was cut short by a sore hamstring. Then again, Russell earlier this week publicly denied Morton was being called up to start Wednesday, even though the decision already had been made to do that exact thing. So perhaps we won’t know for sure if Morton will throw Tuesday until that first pitch hits the catcher’s mitt.

• Tyler Yates had more tests today to determine if there is any nerve damage in his right elbow. The Pirates are awaiting the results.

• Welcome home, Donny Kelly. The Mt. Lebanon native went straight from Triple-A into the No. 3 spot in the Tigers’ batting order tonight.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

TIGERS — 1. Curtis Granderson cf, 2. Placido Polanco 2b, 3. Don Kelly, 4. Miguel Cabrera 1b, 5. Magglio Ordonez rf, 6. Brandon Inge 3b, 7. Gerald Laird c, 8. Ramon Santiago ss, 9. Rick Porcello (6-4, 3.98) rhp

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. Ian Snell (1-6, 5.54) rhp

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Pirates beat Braves in ninth-inning single

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ATLANTA – Andy LaRoche tapped a two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth inning and the Pirates beat the Braves, 3-1, on Thursday afternoon at Turner Field.

LaRoche’s full-count single up the middle off Braves reliever Rafael Soriano (1-1) scored Andrew McCutchen and Adam LaRoche as the Pirates’ split the four-game series.

The game-winner ended as a pitcher’s duel between Paul Maholm and Javier Vazquez, who combined to allow one earned run on six hits and struck out 20 before leaving.

Vazquez allowed one run – a Delwyn Young solo homer – on two hits. He struck out 12 to match his season high and didn’t walk a batter in eight innings.

Maholm was nearly as impressive, allowing one unearned run on four hits over seven innings. He struck out a season-high eight and walked three.

Steven Jackson (2-1) threw one inning of scoreless relief for the win and Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his 15th save, striking out pinch-hitter Brian McCann to end the game.

Vazquez dominated early. He struck out the side in the first inning on 11 pitches and fanned six of the first eight batters he faced. But with the Braves leading 1-0, Young hit a one-out homer to right field to tie the game at 1-all in the fifth.

The homer, Young’s first as a Pirate, snapped a drought of eight games and 323 plate appearances without a home run for the Pirates.
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Pirates-Braves lineup

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Here are the starting lineups for today’s 1:10 p.m. game at Turner Field. Georgia native Brandon Moss, who is 0 for 8 in the series and 4 for 23 (.174) this month, will get the day off.

The Braves placed first baseman Greg Norton on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right ankle. Barbaro Canizares, purchased from Triple-A Gwinnett, will make his major-league debut, starting at first and batting clean-up.

PIRATES – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Andy LaRoche 3b, 6. Delwyn Young rf, 7. Robinzon Diaz c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. lhp Paul Maholm (4-2. 3.94)

BRAVES – 1. Nate McLouth cf, 2. Yunel Escobar ss, 3. Chipper Jones 3b, 4. Barbaro Canizares 1b, 5. Matt Diaz lf, 6. Jeff Francoeur rf, 7. David Ross c, 8. Kerry Johnson 2b, 9. rhp Javier Vazquez (4-5. 3.54)

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Pirates nip Braves

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ATLANTA – Talk about anticlimactic.

Pirates newly acquired right-hander Charlie Morton’s debut against his former team lasted one inning Wednesday night.

Morton, one of three prospects received from the Braves in the Nate McLouth trade, threw 13 pitches before leaving with tightness in his left hamstring.

The bullpen, led by deposed starter Jeff Karstens, did the rest.

The Pirates reached deep into their pitching staff and defeated the Braves, 3-2, at Turner Field.

Clean-up hitter Adam LaRoche went 1 for 3 and drove in two runs for his first multi-RBI game in 13 games. Freddy Sanchez and Nyjer Morgan each had two hits for the Pirates, who snapped a three-game losing streak and eased the sting of a back-to-back one-run losses.

The bullpen was the story, though. Karstens (3-4) and three relievers allowed two runs on five hits over eight innings, after Morton’s unexpected, early departure.

Matt Capps allowed a two-out solo homer to Garret Anderson in the ninth, but held on for his 14th save. John Grabow pitched two perfect innings.

Jair Jurrjens (5-4) allowed two earned runs on four hits in the loss. It was the Pirates’ second victory this year over Jurrjens, who entered the game ranked No. 8 in the NL in ERA (2.84).

– By John Grupp

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Pirates-Braves pre-game, Yates returns to Pittsburgh

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• Reliever Tyler Yates returned to Pittsburgh today for further tests on his bothersome right elbow that flared up during Tuesday’s simulated game. “I was super sore,” Yates said on Tuesday night. Manager John Russell said it may be as long as a week before they have a diagnosis.

“We thought he was making very good progress. You can’t mess around with a pitcher’s arm. We’ve got to make sure we find out what’s going on.”

• Right-hander Charlie Morton arrived on Tuesday night on a flight from Buffalo and seemed at ease in the clubhouse this afternoon leading up to his first major league start since being acquired from the Braves in the Nate McLouth deal.

Because he is the game-day pitcher, Morton was off-limits to reporters in the pre-game clubhouse. But he appeared very happy to be with the MLB club. … Talked to some Atlanta media who covered Morton during his years with the Braves and they spoke glowingly about the 25-year-old. Described him as laid-back guy who plays the guitar and is, in short, just a really good person. Should fit in nicely in the Pirates’ clubhouse.

• First-base coach Perry Hill still doesn’t know why he was ejected from Tuesday night’s game after arguing a blown call on Delwyn Young’s grounder in the eighth inning. Young, who was clearly safe on TV replays, was called out. Hill said it was the first time he was ejected from a game in 25 years in pro baseball, including 16 in the majors.

“I didn’t cuss and I didn’t say the word ‘You,’ ” Hill said. “I didn’t say anything disrespectful. … It’s ridiculous. It’s uncalled for. I hope they do fine me because I will appeal it.”

– John Grupp

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Pirates-Braves lineups, Morton to debut

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Here are the starting lineups for tonight’s 7:10 p.m. game at Turner Field, as former Braves pitcher Charlie Morton makes his debut with the Pirates, who are coming off back-to-back one-run losses to the Braves.

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 (2009 debut)

BRAVES – 1. Nate McLouth cf, 2. Yunel Escobar ss, 3. Chipper Jones 3b, 4. Brian McCann c, 5. Garret Anderson lf, 6. Greg Norton 1b, 7. Jeff Francoeur rf, 8. Kerry Johnson 2b, 9. rhp Jair Jurrjens (5-3, 2.84)

— John Grupp

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