“Us against the world”


The question made Brendan Donnelly laugh, but only for a moment. Was today’s 11-5 rout of the Dodgers this afternoon a fine way to shout down the critics who expect the Pirates to fail for the 18th season in a row?

“Well, I don’t know about … ” Donnelly began, then paused to reconsider.

“You know what? We do. We do have that attitude. We know the history and we’re tired of hearing it. It’s up to us to change it.”

Third baseman Andy LaRoche agreed: “It’s us against the world right now. We know we’re not expected to do anything this year. Everybody ‘s picking us to come in last. We’ve got to have a little chip on our shoulder to prove everybody wrong.”

– Garrett Jones homered in his first two at-bats. In the first inning, Jones hit a 456-foot, two-run blast over the right field wall and into the Allegheny River. In the third, he hit an opposite-field, solo shot which hugged the foul line in left. Jones is the sixth Pirate to homer twice on Opening Day. He joined Xavier Nady (2008), Andy Van Slyke (1990), Willie Stargell (1975), Richie Hebner (1974) and Dale Long (1956).

Jones also has heard his share of criticism from pundits who say his 21-homer output in 82 games last year was a fluke. Did he shut them up with his first two at-bats?

“I don’t think so,” Jones said, grinning. “I’ve got a lot more to do. People are going to say what they want. I’m just going to do what I can to help the team win.”

– The Pirates have won four straight openers first the first time since taking six in a row from 1935-40.

– Reliever Joel Hanrahan (elbow) likely will be activated from the disabled list on April 12. “We’re going to err on the side of caution,” manager John Russell said. Hanrahan is rehabbing in Florida, but will pitch in a rehab stint with Triple-A Indianapolis if the weather cooperates. “He can’t afford to miss any (outings),” Russell said.

– Stymied in their attempts to trade Brandon Moss, the Pirates today sent him to Triple-A Indianapolis after Moss cleared waivers.

– Jamie and Ali McMutrie, the Ben Avon sisters who catapulted into the spotlight after their efforts to relocate Haitian orphans to the U.S. following the earthquake, threw out the first pitch.

“This is great; this is huge, but we’re both really nervous,” said Jamie McMutrie, 30, whose throw was short and a bit wide. Ali, 22 caught the pitch. “We’re baseball fans, we’re not baseball players.”

The sisters, who have been back and forth to Haiti since the earthquake, plan to return on April 20.


The first step


Opening Day. The sun is shining over PNC Park. ‘Nuff said.

Here we go …

Lineups for today’s season opener:

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

Pirates (0-0) — 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. Zach Duke lhp, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss


Vasquez traded to Tampa Bay


The Pirates traded right-hander Virgil Vasquez to the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be named later. That clears a spot in the starting rotation at Triple-A Indianapolis — creating at least the possibility that both Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen eventually could pitch at Indy and give recent acquisition Hayden Penn a chance to work out of the Pirates’ rotation.

The Pirates still must make a handful of roster moves by 3 p.m. Sunday. Infielder Ramon Vazquez remains a trade candidate. The Pirates also must clear space on the 40-man roster for relievers D.J. Carrasco and Jack Taschner.


McCutchen makes his move


CLEARWATER, Fla. — Daniel McCutchen faced what it arguably the best lineup in the NL, and turned in a pretty good start in today’s 4-2 loss to the Phillies. McCutchen worked 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits. He walked two, struck out three and hit one batter.

“My fastball command was pretty bad, but luckily I had my slider,” McCutchen said. “Five weeks ago, I came into camp wondering if I was going to find my breaking ball. Today, it was my best pitch. From where I was a month ago, I think I’ve taken a big step forward.”

McCutchen expects his fastball to improve over the next couple of weeks as his arm gains strength. His first two outings this spring came in relief, so he’s probably still not quite where he’d like to be.

Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco played the first three innings. Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino came out after four.

“I didn’t breeze through the lineup,” McCutchen said. “From my first inning to the last, it was a battle. But I stayed within myself and got some outs.”

– McCutchen is flying to Philly tonight with the team, but expects to return after that to Florida to pitch in a minor league game. He’ll make his first start April 11 in Arizona. “I’ve got a long 10 days to work to have my good stuff for when it matters,” he said. “I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m not going to sit here and get comfortable in my position. I know I have to battle every day to stay here (in the majors). Today was a good start for me.”

– Right-hander Hayden Penn made his Pirates’ debut, pitching 1 2/3 innings. He allowed two hits and struck out two. Penn also threw two days ago in a minor league game. “The velocity’s there, like we thought,” manager John Russell said. “He has a nice, little two-seamer. When he catches his curveball, it runs pretty good.”

– Octavio Dotel tossed one inning, and allowed a first-pitch, leadoff homer to Dewayne Wise.


Penn under microscope


CLEARWATER, Fla. — This afternoon, Hayden Penn will pitch in his first major league spring game for the Pirates. Two days ago, as manager John Russell looked on, Penn tossed one quick inning against minor leaguers at Pirate City.

“It was a short look because he got through it pretty easy,” Russell said. “The velocity’s there, like we thought. He has a nice, little two-seamer. When he catches his curveball, it runs pretty good. It was a good outing, just for him to get his feet on the ground. It’s not so much (about) the results; it’s what we see with his pitches. Can what we see help us in April, May, June? Are there situations we might be able to use him? It’s a short evaluation, but it’s what we have to do.”

Penn will go at least one inning today against the Phillies. If it’s another quickie, Russell will send him out for a second inning.

Lineups for this afternoon’s Florida finale:

Pirates (7-18-1) — 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Andrew McCutchen cf, 3. Ryan Church rf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Lastings Milledge lf, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Daniel McCutchen rhp 9. Ronny Cedeno ss.

Phillies (12-12-1) — 1. Jimmy Rollins ss, 2. Placido Polanco 3b, 3. Chase Utley 2b, 4. Ryan Howard 1b, 5. Jayson Werth rf, 6. Raul Ibanez lf, 7. Shane Victorino cf, 8. Carlos Ruiz c, Jamie Moyer lhp.