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Pirates-Brewers pre-game notes

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· Just spoke with Matt Capps about his recent struggles and he stressed he is perfectly healthy. Based on speaking with the higher-ups, there seems to be no doubt he will remain the team’s closer for the balance of the year.

“My arm feels good,” Capps said. “I’m throwing 94-95. I’ve had some bad luck and made some not smart decisions with pitch selection. But as far as health, I feel pretty good.”

More about Capps in Tuesday’s coverage.

· Manager John Russell bristled at the weekend column — mentioning, in particular, one in Sunday’s paper — that opined the Pirates would be better served to lose games, finish dead last and snag Las Vegas high schooler Bryce Harper in the 2010 draft.

“We don’t want to lose,” Russell said. “I hate losing. I don’t think I’ve slept in four weeks. I don’t think many of our players have slept. It’s not a good feeling. Until we turn around, people are going to say a lot of different things about us.

“(But) it’s very frustrating. I hate losing. I’ve always hated losing. People say he’s stoic, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t say anything. That’s their opinion. But it’s not fun. I can tell you right now, I hate it. We are going to do everything we possibly can to make this a winning organization. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

· With the signing deadline for the 2009 draft at midnight tonight, the Pirates have inked each of their top 14 picks (through 13 rounds). “I don’t think I’ve seen much like it,” Russell said. “I’ve got to tip my hat to (the front office). Everyone talks about not spending money, but I think that’s a testament that they are going to do what it takes to make this a winning organization.”

· Brewers manager Ken Macha, the Murrysville native, will bat pitcher Carlos Villanueva in the No. 8 spot, and heralded rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar, recalled last week, in the No. 9 hole. It is the fifth time this year the Brewers batted their pitcher in the No. 8 spot.

· Russell didn’t come out and criticize the way the Cubs handled Sunday’s rainout after a nearly four-hour delay, but he sure wished Ross Ohlendorf could have made his scheduled start.

Ohlendorf has fared well in sold-out hostile environments like Wrigley Field. Ohlendorf (10-8, 4.30 ERA), who already has more wins this season than any Pirates starter for all of 2008, will pitch Tuesday. “Ross has been throwing really well and I would have liked to seen him pitch,” Russell said. “I wasn’t really looking forward to a day off.”

· Utilityman Brian Bixler will have to wait to make his first start since being recalled Saturday from Triple-A Indianapolis. He is not in the lineup. Where he will play remains unsure. He played mainly second base at Indy in recent weeks, but also saw action in center field and short. All 39 of his big-league games have been at short.

“He will be playing all over,” Russell said.

· Leftfielder Lastings Milledge, stuck in an 0-for-10 slump, will bat seventh for the first time this season. He is the 10th different Pirates player to bat seventh this year.

— By John Grupp

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