CHICAGO — Second baseman Aki Iwamura said he expects to miss “just a couple of days” due to a strained right hamstring.
He sustained the injury Saturday when he grounded into a double play in the seventh inning. Iwamura will rest, but is not expected to go on the disabled list.
“The good thing is, I was able to stop (running) before I made it worse,” Iwamura said. “I’m very fortunate. Otherwise, I’d probably have to go on the DL.”
Iwamura went 0 for 2 in the game, but also walked twice. In the second inning, he made solid contact and drove right fielder Xavier Nady to the wall for a long out. He is batting .159, and is hitless in his past 26 at-bats.
“With the numbers I have, I don’t have time to sit down and not play,” Iwamura said. “Yesterday, when I got the walks, I started to feel like I was doing my job as the leadoff hitter better. The timing is bad to have this type of injury. It’s frustrating.”
At first, hitting coach Don Long gave Iwamura the time and space to try to figure out what he’s doing wrong at the plate. Over the past few days, however, Long has stepped in for more intense, hands-on sessions with Iwamura.
“He’s played a long time, but I don’t think he’s ever been through a tough a stretch as this,” Long said. “The last couple days, the premise is he’s got to see the ball longer — he’s got to keep his eyes with the bat head longer — to give himself a chance to stay on the ball.”
Opposing pitchers have stymied Iwamura by consistently throwing him fastballs away and soft stuff down in the zone.
“The better his eyes work with the barrel of the bat, the more he can shorten his path to the ball, the more consistent and harder contact he’ll make,” Long said.
– The Pirates have a real problem with the leadoff spot. With Iwamura on the bench, manager John Russell doesn’t have a ton of options to fill the top spot in the batting order.
Andrew McCutchen has the speed and the on-base-ability to do the job, but he has really blossomed in the No. 3 spot. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to take him out now.
Ronny Cedeno? He has some speed, but doesn’t get on base a lot (.267 on-base percentage).
Today, Lastings Milledge is in the role. Milledge has batted leadoff seven times in his career, and has hit .172 (5 for 29) with a .250 OBP.
“It’s not easy to plug a guy into the leadoff spot,” Russell said. “There’s just not too many of those guys around. You look at what you have and try to balance it as best you can.”
Lineups for this afternoon’s game:
Pirates (16-20) –i 1. Lastings Milledge lf, 2. Andy LaRoche 3b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Church rf, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Steve Pearce 1b, 7. Bobby Crosby 2b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00) rhp
Cubs (15-22) – 1. Kosuke Fukudome rf, 2. Starlin Castro ss, 3. Derrek Lee 1b, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Marlon Byrd cf, 6. Alfonso Soriano lf, 7. Mike Fontenot 2b, 5. 8. Geovany Soto c, 9. Ted Lilly (1-3, 4.88) lhp