“Heated discussion” in the dugout


ARLINGTON, Texas — Tempers flared in the Pirates dugout Thursday between outfielder Lastings Milledge and bench coach Gary Varsho. Players had to step in between the two as they shouted at each other in the top of the sixth inning.

“A heated discussion, that’s all,” manager John Russell said. “It happens. Guys are trying hard. Lastings and Gary have a good relationship and they’ll be back out there, working together, tomorrow.”

As he went out for the bottom of the inning, Milledge also had an animated chat on the field with Crosby, who said little as he fielded grounders.

Milledge came up short on two plays in the outfield. In the fourth inning, he futilely chased Josh Hamilton’s double, which caromed off the wall in left-center. Milledge got to the wall about five feet from where the ball hit.

In the seventh, he tried to make a diving catch of Michael Young’s blooper near the right field line. The ball dropped a bit behind Milledge, landing fair by inches, and went for an RBI triple. Young later scored the tying run.

After the game, Milledge spent a good deal of time reviewing video of the game, then quickly showed and caught the team bus for the flight to Oakland.

»»» The Pirates came into the game having dropped two in a row. It was up to Jeff Karstens to halt the skid before it began to spin out of control.

Normally, that stopper role would fall to Zach Duke or Paul Maholm. But Duke is on the disabled list with a sore elbow and Maholm was stomped Wednesday by the Rangers.

How badly was Maholm battered? He became the first pitcher in Pirates history to allow 11 baserunners while getting three or fewer outs. The lefty gave up seven hits and walked four in one-plus inning.

»»» Keep an eye out for Charlie Morton. The right-hander was impressive tonight in Triple-A Indy’s 9-1 rout of Durham, and might be making a case for a return to Pittsburgh.

Morton tossed a complete game and allowed one run on two hits. He struck out four and walked one. “I felt pretty good,” Morton said. “That’s a good-hitting team and I was just trying to throw strikes. It went well.”

Before the game, GM Neal Huntington said Morton could force his way back into consideration for at least a spot start with the Pirates if he ramped up his performance. Morton, whose shoulder fatigue no longer is a factor, is nearing the end of his rehab stint with Indy.

Morton is not a lock to rejoin the Pirates once he’s ready to come off the DL. He has minor league options remaining, and management could decide that’s the best place for him to regain his confidence.