Jaku to start Saturday?

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HOUSTON — Reports that Kevin Hart would start Saturday against the Astros were premature. Hart started and pitched five innings tonight for Triple-A Indianapolis, taking him out of the mix for tomorrow.

The Pirates have played cloak-and-dagger with their pitching plans, saying only that righty Chris Jakubauskas, who today was called up from Indy, was “an option” to make a spot start tomorrow. Perhaps they wanted to make sure Jaku wasn’t needed in long relief tonight — you never can tell, given the recent rash of quick, ugly outings by Pirates starters — before tabbing him for Saturday’s game.

Even after tonight’s 4-3 loss, Pirates manager John Russell declined to name his starter.

“We’ll decide early tomorrow morning,” Russell said.

Jaku went 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts for Indy. He was sent out midway through spring training to focus on being more efficient.

“I’ve gotten more consistent and gotten back in the (strike) zone,” he said.

— Hart, by the way, was the winning pitcher in Indy’s 6-1 win against Louisville. He gave up one run on five hits, walked one and struck out five.

— To clear a spot for Jakubauskas on the active roster, infielder Argenis Diaz was optioned to Indy. Diaz became expendable when Bobby Crosby made a fast recovery from a shoulder injury. Third baseman Andy LaRoche (back spasms) was out of action tonight, but might be able to pinch-hit Saturday and perhaps start on Sunday. Then again, the Pirates have been saying almost every day since Saturday that LaRoche “should” be able to play the next day, so stay tuned …

— Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf (back spasms) is scheduled to pitch off a mound Saturday. He’ll make at least one rehab start in the minors before coming off the disabled list.

— There was a closed-door, players-only meeting this afternoon. A few players spoke up to clear the air after Thursday’s 20-0 debacle against the Milwaukee Brewers.

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The day after

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See, the sun did come up today. Many of you probably saw it on your way home from Mellon Arena in the wee hours.

I got two types of email/texts/Facebook messages in the wake of yesterday’s 20-0 debacle against the Brewers. The overwhelming majority (OK, it was all of them except one) echoed this message from Pirates fan Bruce Decker:  “The Pirates organization stinks so badly that my season tickets look like a bad investment, but I did it again.  I am as stupid as people who think the Feds will protect our currency.”

Here’s another point of view from Internet reader Larry Berg, of New Berlin, Wisc.:  “As a Brewers fan with a soft spot for the Pirates and who remembers Pirates greatness, I wish it had been any other team than yours. I especially wish it was the Cubs. Pittsburgh is long overdue for a playoff ball club. Don’t give up. Support your team, Pirates fans. I wish you all the luck, except against the Brewers. I’m sure you understand.”

— Right-hander Chris Jakubauskas is here to shore up the bullpen. Righty Kevin Hart also will be called up from Indy to start Saturday. Will there be more of a shakeup? Not likely. The Pirates are willing to wait out Ross Ohlendorf’s back injury, are willing to be patient with Charlie “Best Stuff on the Team” Morton, and really don’t have a lot of bona fide options at Triple-A.

— Imagine how much worse things might be if the Pirates had found a taker for Zach Duke this past offseason.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (7-8) – 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Ryan Church lf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Delwyn Young 3b, 8. Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.58) rhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

Astros (5-10) – 1. Michael Bourn cf, 2. Jeff Keppinger 2b, 3. Lance Berkman 1b, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Hunter Pence rf, 6. Pedro Feliz 3b, 7. J.R. Towles c, 8. T Manzella ss, 9. Roy Oswalt (1-2, 2.37) rhp

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Thursday lineups

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Here’s today’s lineup for the Pirates:
Iwamura 4
A mccutchen 8
Milledge 7
Jones 3
Church 9
Doumit 2
Young 5
D. Mccutchen 1
Cedeno 6

And here’s the Brewers:
Weeks 4
Gomez 8
Braun 7
Fielder 3
McGehee 5
Edmonds 9
Kottaras 2
Escobar 6
Wolf 1

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Crosby scratched; DY at third

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Minutes ago, Bobby Crosby was scratched from tonight’s lineup due to left shoulder stiffness. Although Andy LaRoche indicated he’s ready to play, Delwyn Young will get the start at third base tonight against the Brewers.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Brewers (5-7) — TBA Dave Bush (0-0, 3.86) rhp

Pirates (7-5) — 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Delwyn Young 3b, 8. Charlie Morton (0-2, 13.50) rhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

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One back healthy, one still sore

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Andy LaRoche and Ross Ohlendorf tested each other’s sore backs this afternoon, playing catch on the field behind third base.

“I’m ready to play right now,” LaRoche said after the workout. “I’m trying to talk them into putting me in (the lineup) tonight.”

It didn’t work. Bobby Crosby will start at third base, giving LaRoche, who left Friday’s game due to back spasms, more time to rest. But manager John Russell said he would not hesitate to use LaRoche as a pinch-hitter tonight, if necessary. Expect LaRoche to be back in the starting lineup Wednesday.

— Ohlendorf still is not throwing off a mound and Russell offered no timetable for his return from the DL. “He’s still going through the process,” Russell said.

— Catcher Tony Sanchez, last year’s first-round draft pick, is hampered by shoulder soreness at Class A Bradenton. Sanchez has been used as a DH the past few days, but is expected to be back behind the plate by this weekend.

— The Pirates will play 42 games over the next 44 days, which could be a good test of the bullpen’s durability.

— If you were wandering around the North Shore about a half-hour ago and heard the f-bomb echoing out of PNC Park, that was one of the … um, musical selections blaring out of the public address system during batting practice. So much for the Pirates creating a family-friendly atmosphere, eh?

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Brewers (5-7) — TBA Dave Bush (0-0, 3.86) rhp

Pirates (7-5) — 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Bobby Crosby 3b, 8. Charlie Morton (0-2, 13.50) rhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

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Milledge, Jones produce with patience

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Outstanding at-bats by Lastings Milledge and Garrett Jones produced a walk and a single in the ninth inning tonight. That boosted the Pirates past the Reds, 5-4, for their second straight walk-off victory.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Milledge faced closer Francisco Cordero, owner of 254 career saves. When the count went full, Milledge stepped out to collect his thoughts.

“I told myself, ‘He’s got to come to me. He’s in trouble. I’m not in trouble,’ ” Milledge said. “I was looking for a ball right down the middle. If it wasn’t there, I wasn’t going to swing. He didn’t give it to me.”

The bases-loaded walk forced in Church to make it 4-4.

Jones, hitless in his first three at-bats, fell behind 0-2 against Cordero. Jones took three balls, then fouled off — barely — an inside fastball.

“I just got enough to foul it off,” Jones said. “I really had to concentrate, see the ball deep and stay focused. Nice, short swing.”

The next pitch was another fastball, and Jones mashed it off the right-center field wall. It went down as a single, which is all the Pirates needed.

— Starter Daniel McCutchen worked four innings, allowed three runs on four hits and walked three. He was recalled yesterday from Triple-A Indianapolis when right-hander Ross Ohlendorf (back spasms) went on the 15-day disabled list.

Ohlendorf’s DL move was back-dated, so he could be activated as early as April 27. The Pirates will use a four-man rotation until April 24, when they again will need a fifth starter. Manager John Russell said righty Brian Burres, who filled in for Ohlendorf last Monday, will remain with the team as a long reliever.

— Andy LaRoche, who’s day-to-day due to back spasms, was rested and will be out again Sunday.

— Right-hander Hayden Penn cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis. Penn has until Monday to either accept the assignment or become a free agent.

— Andrew McCutchen was caught stealing in the seventh inning. It was his first time caught in seven attempts, and the Pirates’ first in 12 attempts.

— Hitting coach Don Long changed his uniform number to 5.

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Ohlendorf goes on DL

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Ross Ohlendorf (back spasms) was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 12. Righty Daniel McCutchen was recalled from Triple-A Indy and will start tonight against the Reds.

Andy LaRoche, who left last night’s game with back spasms, is not in the lineup. Delwyn Young will make his second career start at third base. Delwyn is on the field right now, fielding balls rolled to him by a coach. The drill focuses on Young’s footwork and positioning to make throws.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Reds (5-6) — TBA. Johnny Cueto (0-0, 4.91) rhp

Pirates (5-5) — 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Delwyn Young 3b, 8. Daniel McCutchen (0-1, 24.30) rhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

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Out at second

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The Pirates had two runners thrown out at second base in the first inning of tonight’s 4-3 victory against the Reds. Manager John Russell said one play was excusable, the other was a teaching moment.

The first gaffe was when Lastings Milledge was thrown out trying to advance on a sacrifice fly. Andrew McCutchen scored from third on the play without drawing a throw, as the Reds’ cutoff man fired to second base.

“With the speed of McCutchen, next time Lastings will know to shut it down,” manager John Russell said. “It’s something he’ll learn from, that he doesn’t have to push it right there.”

Ryan Doumit followed with a hard-hit single into right field. He tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out by Jay Bruce.

“With two outs, you can’t blame Doumit for trying to stretch it,” Russell said. “The guy had to make a perfect throw, which he did. I really liked Ryan’s aggressiveness.”

Tuesday in San Francisco, Doumit also was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

— Third baseman Andy LaRoche left the game in the second due to back spasms.

After scooting back to first base on a pickoff attempt, LaRoche immediately signaled to first base coach Carlos Garcia. LaRoche was examined briefly by a trainer, then walked off the field.

After the game, Russell indicated the severity of the injury was still be determined.

“Hopefully, it’s not too (serious),” Russell said.

— Reds starter Mike Leake made just his second start in the majors. He allowed at least two baserunners in five of the seven innings he pitched, but never let the game spin out of control.

Leake was the Reds’ first-round draft pick (eighth overall) last year. He’s the 21st player since the inception of the draft in 1965 to reach the majors without playing a game in the minor leagues.

Among the other players to go straight to the bigs are two with Pittsburgh ties: former Pirates outfielder Xavier Nady (San Diego Padres, 2000) and Gateway High School graduate Tim Conroy (Oakland A’s, 1978).

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No decision yet on Ohlendorf

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The tarp is out at PNC Park, but the Pirates hope to get enough of a fair-weather window tonight to play the game against the Reds.

– Ross Ohlendorf will not pitch tomorrow due to his cranky lower back. The Pirates have not yet named a fill-in starter, though Daniel McCutchen and Brian Burres — both of whom are in the clubhouse today — are candidates. My guess is McCutchen will get the call. If that happens, the Pirates have two options: put Ohlendorf on the DL or keep Ohlendorf active and simply return Burres to Triple-A Indy to clear a roster spot for McCutchen.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Reds (5-5) – 1. Drew Stubbs cf, 2. Orlando Cabrera ss, 3. Brandon Phillips 2b, 4. Jonny Gomes lf, 5. Miguel Cairo 1b, 6. Jay Bruce rf, 7. Ryan Hanigan c, Paul Janish 3b, 9. Mike Leake (0-0, 1.35) rhp

Pirates (4-5) – 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Zach Duke (2-0, 3.00) rhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

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Ohlendorf “unlikely” for Saturday

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SAN FRANCISCO — It is “unlikely” that righty Ross Ohlendorf will make his next scheduled start Saturday against the Reds, according to manager John Russell.

This morning, Ohlendorf played catch instead of attempting a bullpen session. “He felt good, but it’s pretty unlikely he’ll pitch Saturday,” Russell said. The main issue is Ohlendorf’s lower back, which locked up on him Friday in Arizona. But remember also that he is building up some rust on his arm: Ohlendorf has not pitched since going five innings April 7 in a no-decision against the Dodgers at PNC Park.

Even if Ohlendorf cannot go Saturday, Russell was not ready to commit to a stint on the disabled list. Brian Burres, who started and went four innings Monday against the Giants, is still with the team and could make another spot start Saturday. Another possibility is Daniel McCutchen, who Monday was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Pirates (4-4) – 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Bobby Crosby 1b, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Charlie Morton (0-1, 21.60) rhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

Giants (6-2) – TBA. Jonathan Sanchez (0-0, 6.23) lhp

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