Ohlendorf’s sore back puts McCutchen in limbo


SAN FRANCISCO — The Pirates on Monday optioned right-hander Daniel McCutchen to Triple-A, but he might not make it back to Indianapolis.

Last night, McCutchen was in his workout uniform in the Pirates’ clubhouse, as the team prepared to play the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. McCutchen could remain with team and rejoin the rotation Saturday if righty Ross Ohlendorf is placed on the disabled list.

Ohlendorf was supposed to start last night’s game, but was scratched due to lower back spasms. Ohlendorf’s back locked up on him Friday morning, as he bent over to put his shoes on at the team hotel in Arizona.

“I was sitting on the bed,” Ohlendorf said. “It was a pretty soft bed, so I think that’s what did it.”

Manager John Russell said Ohlendorf’s injury is muscle-related, not a disc or other structural problem.

“It locked up on him pretty good,” Russell said. “He’s been back and forth. We’re optimistic he can start (Saturday).”

Ohlendorf is slated to throw a bullpen session Wednesday. If he cannot do that, he’ll likely be placed on the DL.

“I can’t throw right now,” Ohlendorf said. “I’m working toward where I hopefully can throw soon. It’s definitely a lot better than it was the first day.”

Left-hander Brian Burres was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis and started last night’s game. Burres pitched in three games for the Pirates in spring training and put up a 14.73 ERA. In 3 2/3 innings, he allowed four hits and seven walks and gone one strikeout.

“Brian was a little shaky early,” Russell said. “He got better as the spring went along.”

Under MLB rules, a major league team cannot call up a member of its 40-man roster before April 14 unless it puts another player on the DL. That factored heavily into the decision to call up Burres.

To clear a spot on the 40-man for Burres, right-hander Hayden Penn was designated for assignment.


A mortifying record


PHOENIX – The Pirates this afternoon tied a franchise record by allowing 13 runs in the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Pirates went into the bottom of the fourth holding a 4-2 lead. However, the Diamondbacks sent 16 batters to the plate and generated the most single-inning runs in their history.

Right-hander Daniel McCutchen gave up two home runs – a three-run shot by Chris Young and a solo homer by Kelly Johnson. McCutchen was replaced by Hayden Penn, who faced five batters and allowed four runs on one hit and three walks.

The Diamondbacks got team-record eight hits in the inning. Five of them went for extra bases.

It was the Pirates’ worst inning since Aug. 14, 2009, when the Chicago Cubs poured on 10 runs in the second inning of a 17-2 rout at Wrigley Field.

Jack Taschner relieved Penn and served up Chris Snyder’s three-run triple and Edwin Jackson’s two-run home run. It was the first career homer by Jackson, Arizona’s starting pitcher.


Will Pirates open the books?


PHOENIX — I got an e-mail this morning from Michael Ozanian, the Forbes editor who last week blogged that Bob Nutting might try to sell the Pirates this summer. Ozanian took exception to Nutting’s brush-off of his report, as well as the Pirates’ routine dismissal of Forbes’ annual franchise valuation numbers.

“I stand by everything in my blog,” Ozanian said. “I would be very happy to review my data with Nutting’s data in front of a non-biased arbiter like yourself to see who is right and publish the results of the findings in both your publication and Forbes.

“The notion that information in our blogs is less credible than information published in Forbes magazine shows Nutting’s ignorance of Forbes. All of our platforms — blogs, videos, online articles, print articles — are subject to the same standards.”

I’d welcome the chance to compare and contrast Forbes’ valuation figures with data from the Pirates. I’m sure a lot of fans would love to crunch those numbers, too.

Of course, the Pirates refuse to open their books, which is their right. But letting in a little sunlight would put a stop to a lot of speculation about the franchise’s status now and in the future.


Young makes debut @ third base


PHOENIX — Delwyn Young’s eyes got large and his jaw dropped as he took his first look at the lineup card this morning. The surprise wasn’t the fact that he is starting, as it is where he’s playing.

Third base. Today’s game will be his major league debut at the position.

“He’s a utility guy, so he’s going to play all over,” manager John Russell said. “Delwyn should be fine (at third).”

– The entire front office braintrust — GM Neal Huntington, farm director Kyle Stark, scouting director Greg Smith and director of baseball operations Tyrone Brooks — is at Chase Field today. Earlier this morning, they chatted with Russell for about a half hour on the field.

– The Pirates have not begun a season with back-to-back series wins since 2003, when they swept Cincy and took two of three against Philly.

– The Pirates are 6 for 6 in stolen base attempts.

– Octavio Dotel’s 1-2-3 ninth inning last night locked up his 84th career save. It was his first since July 9, 2008 (for the White Sox) and his first in the NL since June 21, 2004 (for the Astros).

– Since being moved atop the lineup at the end of spring training, Aki Iwamura has hit 11 for 38, including two homers, with seven runs scored. In 262 games as a leadoff hitter, Iwamura has a .274 batting average and .347 on-base percentage.

– Joel Hanrahan (elbow) tossed one scoreless inning last night for Class A Bradenton and is ready to come off the DL. We’ll see him tomorrow in San Francisco.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Pirates (3-2) – 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Ryan Church rf, 6. Delwyn Young 3b, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Daniel McCutchen (2010 debut) rhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

Diamondbacks (3-2) – 1. Conor Jackson lf, 2. Stephen Drew ss, 3. Justin Upton rf, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Mark Reynolds 3b, 6. Chris Young cf, 7. Kelly Johnson 2b, 8. Chris Snyder c, 9. Edwin Jackson (0-1, 5.40) rhp


Moss rediscovers his swing


PHOENIX — During the 10 days after he was designated for assignment by the Pirates, outfielder Brandon Moss went home to Loganville, Ga. Frustrated after hitting .081 (3 for 37) during spring training, Moss went back to work with his high school coaches.

“During that (10-day) time, so many things started clicking,” Moss said. “I felt really good with the things my high school coaches and I had worked on and was more confident because I felt like myself again. It was something I had not felt like in two years.”

Moss eventually cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis. Saturday night, he went 3 for 5 and knocked the game-winning homer. Moss hopes getting regular playing time with Indy will help him rediscover his batting stroke.

“Being in Pittsburgh with sporadic playing time, it was really hard for me to keep it up and it got to my head a little bit,” Moss said. “Overall, I feel really confident where my swing is at now. This is where I believe it will be for the rest of the year.”

It could turn out that spending some time in Triple-A rejuvenates Moss’ career.

“No one wants to come to Triple-A but me,” Moss said. “I was looking forward to coming here because I knew I would play a lot and get a lot of at-bats. Hopefully, I will able to get back that confidence I used to have, instead of going up to the plate and questioning everything I do.”


Bullpen bears down


PHOENIX — Zach Duke led tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks with a 6-3 lead. In the eighth, he watched relievers Jack Taschner, Brendan Donnelly and Javier Lopez get through a dicey situation allowing just one run.

Taschner gave up a leadoff double to Kelly Johnson and walked pinch-hitter Rusty Ryal. Donnelly walked Conor Jackson, loading the bases with none out.

Tony Abreu’s sac fly scored Johnson. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen tried to double Ryal off second, but the throw was wide and rolled to the fence near the Pirates’ dugout. Ryan went to third and Jackson to second.

Donnelly struck out Justin Upton, who represented the potential tying run. Lopez came in and fanned Adam LaRoche to end the inning.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Donnelly said. “One guy hands it off to the next guy, until we get to (closer Octavio) Dotel.”

Dotel tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save for the Pirates.

After the back-to-back strikeouts to end the eighth inning, Duke exhaled.

“After it’s over, it’s a lot of fun,” Duke said. “During it, it’s a little stressful. That’s one of the beauties of our team; the guys in the bullpen have a lot of experience. They know what to do in those situations.”

— Ryan Doumit tied his career high with four strikeouts tonight. He’s whiffed six times in 21 at-bats this season, and is hitting .286 with three RBI. Don’t be stunned if Jason Jaramillo is in the lineup Sunday afternoon.

— Right-hander Daniel McCutchen will be optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis after Sunday’s game against Arizona. The Pirates will not need a No. 5 starter again until April 24, when either McCutchen or Kevin Hart will be recalled from Indy. McCutchen’s departure will clear a roster spot for reliever Joel Hanrahan (elbow), who will be activated from the disabled list Monday.

— An unidentified teammate stuck a bubble gum bubble atop Daniel McCutchen’s cap during the game. “I just wanted to get some TV time,” McCutchen said, grinning. He did on the MLB Network, which televised the game. However, McCutchen did not need a TV to discover he was the victim of a practical joke. “I got a bunch of text messages about it,” he said. “A lot of them came from (friends in) Oklahoma. They’re going to put it on my highlight tape.”

— Brandon Moss went 3 for 5, including a game-winning, solo homer in the eighth inning tonight for Triple-A Indy.


Middle of the order ‘interchangeable’


PHOENIX — Manager John Russell tweaked the middle of the lineup, putting Lastings Milledge into the No. 3 position and dropping Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit each down one spot.

“The middle is kind of interchangeable,” Russell said.

Milledge, who has the ability to hit to all fields, has done well hitting behind runners and with situational hitting. Russell hopes to create more scoring opportunities by putting Milledge after table-setters Aki Iwamura and Andrew McCutchen.

The move could pay off for Doumit, who is a bit of a square peg in the round hole of the cleanup spot. He profiles better as a No. 5 hitter, but the power-starved Pirates often have no choice but to put him in the No. 4 spot.

“In the real world, yeah, I think he’s more comfortable (at No. 5) and it’s a better fit for him,” Russell said. “I’m not saying he can’t hit 4, because he’s very capable. You try to tell guys, you’re only the 4 hitter one time through the lineup. Other than that, you’re in a good position to drive in runs, whether you’re 3, 4 or 5, because of the guys in front of you.

“Him being in the 5 hole, there’s not going to be a whole lot of difference, but maybe it will relax him a little bit. Sometimes when guys are in the 4 hole, they think, ‘I’ve got to be the guy.’ I know Jason Bay used to talk about that. In a typical lineup, I think Ryan would fit more in a 5 or 6 spot because he can switch-hit and he’s not the big, huge power hitter. He’s more of a gap-to-gap guy.”

Russell doesn’t expect Jones — who has gone, gasp!, two games without homering — will change his approach in the 4 spot.

“I don’t think they’re going to pitch to him any differently,” Russell said. “With Doumit behind him and McCutchen in front of him this year, I was interested to see if they would change how they pitched to him, and they really didn’t. So I think he’s going to see the same stuff in the 4 hole. He’s going to be the same in the 4 hole as he was in the 3 or as he would be in the 5 or the 6.”

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (2-2) — 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 (1-0, 3.60) lhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss

Diamondbacks (3-1) — 1. Conor Jackson lf, 2. Tony Abreu ss, 3. Justin Upton rf, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Mark Reynolds 3b, 6. Miguel Montero c, 7. Chris Young cf, 8. Kelly Johnson 2b, 9. Dan Haren (1-0, 1.29) rhp


No suspension for Hart


PHOENIX — Right-hander Kevin Hart is not expected to be fined or suspended by the Triple-A International League after being ejected Thursday for throwing behind a batter. The Pirates also plan no further disciplinary action against Hart.

Hart was ejected from Indianapolis’ game against Columbus after whizzing a pitch behind Carlos Santana, one of the Cleveland Indians’ top prospects. Earlier in the game, Indy shortstop Brian Friday was hit once in the back and again on the helmet by Columbus pitcher Carlos Carrasco.

Hart was immediately ejected after throwing one pitch in the bottom of the fourth. Two pitches later, Santana homered off Indy reliever Jeremy Powell.

— A Pirates spokesman this afternoon denied a report in a blog by Forbes.com writer Michael Ozania that owner Bob Nutting plans to sell the team this summer. Last fall, Nutting did not respond to a purchase offer by Penguins owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

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

Diamondbacks (2-1) — 1. Conor Jackson lf, 2. Stephen Drew ss, 3. Justin Upton rf, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Mark Reynolds 3b, 6. Miguel Montero c, 7. Chris Young cf, Kelly Johnson 2b, Rodrigo Lopez rhp

— Joel Hanrahan (elbow) threw one inning (two strikeouts, 11 pitches, nine strikes) Thursday for Class A Bradenton. Hanrahan will pitch again Saturday, and is expected to be activated from the disabled list Monday.

— The other day, the Pirates announced that 12 non-drafted free agents were signed and assigned to the summer league clubs in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Here’s some extra info on two of them, from Pirates international scouting guru Rene Gayo:

Right-hander Yhonatan Herrand (6-feet-6, 205 pounds): From the Dominican Republic … No. 3 starter type … 91-94 mph fastball … Has a good feel to pitch, above average aggressiveness on the mound and a projectable future .. His out pitch is the changeup.

Catcher Yeffrey Jaquez (Bats and throws right, 6-2, 190): From Dominican Republic … Solid defense and above-average bat ability … strong athletic frame with above-average intelligence and baseball instincts … uses the whole field at the plate, with above-average bat-to-ball ability.


Pirates/Dodgers lineup


Here’s today’s Pirates lineup:
Iwamura 4
Mccutchen 8
Jones 3
Doumit 2
Church 7
Young 9
Laroche 5
Maholm 1
Crosby 6

And here’s the lineup for the Dodgers:
Furcal 6
Johnson 7
Kemp 8
Loney 3
Belliard 5
Anderson 9
Carroll 4
Ausmus 2
Billingsley 1

This is assuming the rain holds off. So far, so good, but after a beautiful morning the skies over PNC Park have turned cloudy and it’s looking worse to the west with 90 minutes to go until first pitch.


After rough camp, Ohlendorf makes first ‘real’ start


Ross Ohlendorf had a bumpy ride toward the end of spring training, putting up final stats of 0-3 with a 9.61 ERA in six outings. Over 19 2/3 innings, the righty allowed 34 hits and seven walks.

Ohlendorf gave up five runs in five innings Friday against the Phillies in his final preseason outing. Yet, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan was encouraged by what he saw.

“He threw the hell out of the ball last time,” Kerrigan said. “He was really good. He was a solid 92-93 mph average (with the fastball). He had a good slider, good changeup. I think he’s right on. The last game in Philadelphia, he looked like the Ross we saw in the second half last year.”

Which version will show up tonight, when the Pirates play host to the Dodgers in the first regular-season night game? Last year, Ohlendorf went 8-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 16 starts at PNC Park. He’s won his past five decisions at home.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Dodgers (0-1) – 1. Rafael Furcal ss, 2. Matt Kemp cf, 3. Andre Ethier rf, 4. Manny Ramirez lf, 5. James Loney 1b, 6. Casey Blake 3b, 7. Blake DeWitt 2b, 8. Russell Martin c, Clayton Kershaw lhp

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