Scheduling snafu


LOS ANGELES — The Pirates will make four separate trips to California next season to play the Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Athletics. It’s an annoying travel snafu that has plagued the Pirates often in recent years. “Every time we did it when I played, we always hit at least two (California) cities on a trip,” manager John Russell said. “It would’ve been nice to do San Diego-L.A. and San Francisco-Oakland.”

– Russell said second baseman Delwyn Young likely is out until Friday, at the earliest. Young’s lower back was stiff and sore again today, making it doubtful he’ll be available even as a pinch-hitter.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES (55-86)

  1. Andrew McCutchen cf
  2. Andy Laroche 3b
  3. Garrett Jones 1b
  4. Ryan Doumit c
  5. Brandon Moss rf
  6. Lastings Milledge lf
  7. Ronny Cedeno ss
  8. Luis Cruz 2b
  9. Zach Duke (10-14, 4.02) lhp

DODGERS (86-59)

  1. Rafael Furcal ss
  2. Russell Martin c
  3. Andre Ethier rf
  4. Manny Ramirez lf
  5. Matt Kemp cf
  6. Casey Blake 3b
  7. Mark Loretta 1b
  8. Orlando Hudson 2b
  9. Randy Wolfe (10-6, 3.22) lhp


Sore back sours Young’s homecoming


Delwyn Young was exactly where he’d always wanted to be … sort of.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been in the (visitor’s) dugout at Dodger Stadium,” he said Monday afternoon.
Young is a SoCal native, from his laid-back attitude to his rabid fandom for USC — Yeah, he made sure to remind me about the whipping his Trojans put on my Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl.
Young grew up in Los Angeles and lives nearby in the offseason. So, even if the Dodgers had not drafted him in the fourth round in 2002, he would still bleed Dodgers blue.
“It’s home,” Young said. “I’ll always root for the Dodgers.”
As a kid, Young hung out in “bleacher beach” at Chavez Ravine.
“There’s three ways I’ve seen a beachball at Dodger Stadium — as a fan, as a Dodger and now, as an opponent,” he said.
Beachballs were bouncing in the stands tonight, but Young was watching from the bench with a sore lower back. It made for a sour start to his first trip back to Dodger Stadium since being traded to the Pirates in April.
Young admits it took a little while to adjust to his new East Coast environment.
“It took a week or two to get used to wearing black,” he said. “Once I got used to looking down and seeing black shoes, it was OK.”
Young gobbled up tickets for 25 family and friends for tonight’s game. His cranky back makes his status iffy for the rest of this series, but he hopes to at least play in Wednesday’s game.
“It’s my grandmother’s birthday,” he said. “That would be a nice present.”


Doug says thanks to Pittsburgh


Doug Mientkiewicz remembers the support he got from folks in Pittsburgh last season, when his wife Jodi battled a life-threatening heart ailment.

“I had people pull me over in my car and say, ‘If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.’ That means a lot,” Mientkiewicz said before tonight’s Pirates-Dodgers game. “It has nothing to do with baseball. We enjoyed our year there. I hope for the fans’ sake that franchise gets back to where it should be. I’m looking forward to seeing some people when I get back.”

Mientkiewicz was not in the lineup tonight. He came off the 60-day DL Sept. 2 after recovering from shoulder surgery and is primarily a pinch-hitter for the division-leading Dodgers.

Mientkiewicz told me he’d hoped to re-sign with the Pirates this year.
“I had pretty much agreed to go back to Pittsburgh. At the last second, things kind of fell through.”
Management instead opted to bring aboard Eric Hinske — who flopped, sulked and eventually was shipped to the Yankees.

“I had my heart (set) on going back (to Pittsburgh),” Mientkiewicz said. “I felt an attachment to the city, to the people there, to the front office and the core guys who were there. I think the world of Eric and it’s a shame it didn’t work out for him there. I felt like with what I was dealt last year, I did the best I could. Up until Jodi had her heart problem, I was at .300. The power wasn’t where I wanted it to be. But I kind of (gave up on) that to be as productive as I could be. I feel like I did my job.”

· Pirates fans will get a chance to show their appreciation Sept. 25, when Mientkiewicz and the Dodgers visit PNC Park. Trib readers will get a chance to find out a bit more of what Mientkiewicz had to say in Wednesday’s edition of the paper.


Sore back sends Young to bench


Delwyn Young is out tonight due to lower back spasms and tightness.  He first felt it in the ninth inning last night in Houston, when he grounded out as a pinch hitter.

“It just locked up on me,” Young said. “Everything was fine, but then the closer I got to first base, the harder it got to move.”

Young did not participate today in the team stretch or batting practice.

Young laughed when I suggested perhaps he slept in a lumpy bed at the team hotel in Houston and that caused his back to act up. He won’t have to worry about that the next two nights, however. Young grew up in the Los Angeles and makes his offseason home in nearby Hacienda Heights, Calif.

“I’ll get to sleep in a good bed tonight,” he said, grinning.

· Ross Ohlendorf will start Saturday against the Padres at PNC Park. It will almost certainly be the final start of the season for Ohlendorf, who is nearing the innings pitched limit imposed by management.

· Pedro Ascanio (shoulder tendinitis) did some light throwing today. The plan is for him to face live hitters during this homestand and be ready to pitch in a game by the time the Pirates begin their season-ending final road trip.

· Ryan Doumit is hitting at a torrid rate so far this month, batting .387 (12 for 31) in nine games. Sunday, Doumit went 2 for 4 with a solo homer in the Pirates’ 2-1 win against the Astros. It was Doumit’s seventh career homer while batting righty, and his first since Sept. 17, 2008 against Dodgers lefty Scott Elbert at PNC Park.

· Tuesday, Major League Baseball will release every team’s 2010 regular-season schedules. The Pirates will open the season at home for the first time since 2005. Highlights include interleague road series against the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s and a series at PNC Park against the Cleveland Indians.

· For links to Pirates’ coverage in the Trib, instant updates, daily lineups and more, you can find me on Twitter by searching for “RobBiertempfel.”

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES (55-86): 1. Andrew McCutchen cf; 2. Andy Laroche 3b; 3. Garrett Jones 1b; 4. Ryan Doumit c; 5. Lastings Milledge lf; 6. Brandon Moss rf; 7. Ronny Cedeno ss; 8. Ramon Vazquez 2b; 9. Daniel McCutchen (0-1, 4.85) rhp

DODGERS (85-59): 1. Rafael Furcal ss; Matt Kemp cf; Andre Ethier rf; Manny Ramirez lf; James Loney 1b; Casey Blake 3b; Russell Martin c; Orlando Hudson 2b; Jon Garland (9-11, 4.23) rhp


Enough of the NL Central already!


HOUSTON — This afternoon’s game against the Astros wraps up a stretch of 16 straight games against NL Central teams for the Pirates. So far, they’ve gone 1-14. Tomorrow, the Pirates will play the first of seven against NL West teams when they face Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers are the only NL team the Pirates have not yet faced this season.

Class A Lynchburg will play Wilmington tonight in the decisive fifth game of the Carolina League first-round playoff series.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game

PIRATES (54-85)

1. Andrew McCutchen cf

2. Andy Laroche 3b

3. Garrett Jones 1b

4. Ryan Doumit c

5. Brandon Moss rf

6. Lastings Milledge lf

7. Ronny Cedeno ss

8. Ramon Vazquez 2b

9. Paul Maholm (7-8, 4.72) lhp

ASTROS (69-72)

1. Michael Bourn cf

2. Kazuo Matsui 2b

3. Lance Berkman 1b

4. Carlos Lee lf

5. Miguel Tejada ss

6. Hunter Pence rf

7. Chris Johnson 3b

8. Humbeto Quintero c

9. Felipe Paulino (2-8, 6.34) rhp


Slumping Young benched


HOUSTON — Delwyn Young, hitless in his past 22 at-bats, is not in the starting lineup again. He had two hits Sept. 1, which snapped an 0 for 16 slide. Over the past 16 games, Young’s batting average has dropped 42 points to .269.
“It’s the combination of a lot of things,” manager John Russell said. “Playing more, maybe wearing down a little bit. He’s putting a lot of emphasis on his defense right now. He’s putting in a lot of overtime.”
Before every game at PNC Park, Young spends extra time on the field — fielding grounders, taking tosses from short, making the pivot, positioning for relay throws — with infield coach Perry Hill. They also work out as much as they can on the road.
· Pedro Alvarez went 0 for 4 today in Team USA’s 8-0 rout of China in the World Cup. Alvarez has started all three games for Team USA (1-2) and batted .154 (2 for 13, including a homer) with two RBI. Round 2 begins Sunday.
· After a 2-0 loss last night, Class A Lynchburg is down two games to one in the best-of-five Carolina League North Division Championship series against Wilmington. Right-hander Nate Adcock pitches tonight for Lynchburg.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES (54-85) — 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Andy LaRoche 3b, 3. Garrett Jones 1b, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Lastings Milledge lf, 6. Steve Pearce 1b, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Ramon Vazquez 2b, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (11-9, 3.97) rhp

ASTROS (69-72) — 1. Michael Bourn cf, 2. Kaz Matsui 2b, 3. Lance Berkman 1b, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Miguel Tejada ss, 6. Hunter Pence rf, 7. Jeff Keppinger 3b, 8. Chris Coste c, 9. Brian Moehler (8-10, 5.10)


Two holes in one


HOUSTON — Steve Blass hit two holes-in-one yesterday during the annual Pirates alumni golf outing at Greensburg Country Club. The first ace was hit with an 8-iron at the 154-yard, par-3 15th hole. Blass did it again with a 7-iron on the 175-yard, par-3 seventh hole.

After the second shot went in the hole, Blass threw his club in the air, took off his glasses and rolled — like a little kid — down the hill to the green. “I looked like a big, fat bear rolling down that hill,” Blass said, laughing. “Later on I said, ‘Where’s my car?’ Usually, you get a car for hitting a hole-in-one in a tournament. I should get two.”

  •  For links to Pirates’ coverage in the Trib, instant updates, daily lineups and more, you can find me on Twitter by searching for “RobBiertempfel.”
  • Lineups for tonight’s game:
  • PIRATES (54-84) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, Delwyn Young 2b, Garrett Jones 1b, Lastings Milledge lf, Ryan Doumit c, Brandon Moss rf, Andy Laroche 3b, Cedeno ss, Morton (3-7, 5.43) rhp

ASTROS (68-72) – 1. Michael Bourn cf, 2. Kaz Matsui 2b, 3. Lance Berkman 1b, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Miguel Tejada ss, 6. Hunter Pence rf, 7. Johnson 3b, 8. JR Towles c, 9. Bud Norris (4-3, 6.05) rhp


Bucs tops in well-pitched losses


Here’s another dismal stat in a season that’s been full of ‘em …. According to the folks at (one of the most indespensible sites on the ‘Net), the Pirates have played 19 games – the most in the majors – in which their starting pitcher worked at least six innings, allowed three or fewer runs and was charged with a loss.

The Diamondbacks have played 17 such games, followed by the Royals (15), Cubs (15), Braves (15) and Padres (14).

The two best teams in this department are no surprise: the Yankees (five) and Red Sox (six). The Astros are among four teams that have seven quality-start losses, which is a big reason Houston has done better than most folks expected this season.


Who’ll hit No. 10,000?


CINCINNATI – The Pirates are on the verge of reaching a milestone, the 10,000th home run in franchise history. Garrett Jones bashed No. 9,999 last night.

The first was hit by Fred Carroll on May 2, 1887 off Lady Baldwin of the Detroit Wolverines. On the list, there are a couple of famous names (Kiner clouted No. 3,000 and Maz hit No. 4,000) and some surprises (Ed Ott hit No. 6,000 and Carlos Garcia hit No. 8,000).

• Today, third baseman Neil Walker will make his first major league start.

• Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

PIRATES (53-78) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Neil Walker 3b, 3. Delwyn Young 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Lastings Milledge lf, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Brandon Moss rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Zach Duke (10-12, 3.68) lhp

REDS (59-73) – 1. Drew Stubbs cf, 2. Paul Janish ss, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Brandon Phillips 2b, 5. Jonny Gomes rf, 6. Darnell McDonald lf, 7. Adam Rosales 3b, 8. Corky Miller c, 9. Homer Bailey (4-4, 6.04) rhp



Walker, Vasquez ready to go


CINCINNATI – Neal Walker was caught off guard by his promotion to the majors. “I had no idea until after (Monday) night’s game,” he said this afternoon in the clubhouse at Great American Ball Park.

Walker and Virgil Vasquez were called up from Triple-A Indianapolis today, the first day major league rosters were allowed to expand.

Walker, of Gibsonia, was called up last September, but never got in a game. He hopes things will be different. “I have a different mentality this time around,” Walker said. “I’m really looking forward to getting out there.”

• Vasquez will work out of the bullpen, though he might make a spot start or two down the stretch. The Pirates have a six-man rotation – Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, Zach Duke, Kevin Hart, Ross Ohlendorf and Dan McCutchen – mapped out through at least Sept. 18. “Whatever comes my way, I’ll be happy for it,” Vasquez said. “It’s a different mentality (as a reliever). Your workouts change, your routines change – pretty much everything – but the game’s the same. I know I’ll be fine. As long as the arm feels good, the mind is ready to go. It’s going to be a fun month.”

• The Pirates acquired left-hander Bobby Livingston from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for either cash or a player to be named later. Livingston was assigned to Indianapolis. Livingston was the Mariners’ fourth-round draft pick in 2001. He pitched in three games for the M’s in 2006 and 10 with the Reds in 2007. He played in both Class AAA and AA this season in the Orioles’ and Indians’ organizations.

• R.J. Rodriquez, the closer for Class A Lynchburg, will pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Cup. This past offseason, Rodriguez signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent. He went 6-3 with 27 saves and a 3.08 ERA in 47 outings. He leads the Carolina League in saves.

• There was a flurry of minor-league roster moves today:

… Right-hander Yoslan Herrera was promoted to Indianapolis.

… Right-hander Moises Robles was promoted to Double-A Altoona.

… Right-hander Noah Krol was promoted to Lynchburg.

… Low-A West Virginia put righty Casey Erickson (arm) on the disabled list. Right-handers Alan Knotts and Melkin Laureano were promoted to West Virginia

• Lefty Donnie Veal, who’s on a rehab assignment with Altoona, will replace Herrera and start tonight. Righty Derek Hankins will piggyback the start. The Pirates plan to convert Veal back to a starter during the Arizona Fall League.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES (53-77) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Delwyn Young 2b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Steve Pearce 1b, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Charlie Morton (3-6, 5.00) rhp

REDS (58-73) – 1. Drew Stubbs cf, 2. Paul Janish ss, 3. Brandon Phillips 2b, 4. Kevin Barker 1b, 5. Scott Rolen 3b, 6. Jonny Gomes rf, 7. Wladimir Balentien lf, 8. Craig Tatus c, 9. Justin Lehr (3-1, 4.19) rhp