LaRoche starts at second base


CHICAGO — Starting tonight at second base for your Pittsburgh Pirates … Andy LaRoche?

Indeed. The Pirates are low on infielders — Neil Walker is nursing a concussion back in Pittsburgh and Bobby Crosby in not available to play tonight — after a pair of on-field collisions with outfielders. The Cubs are starting lefty Ted Lilly tonight, so manager John Russell did not want to put Delwyn Young at second base.

“Is (LaRoche) 100 percent ready? He’s close,” Russell said.

Close enough, it seems.

“I’m excited,” LaRoche said. “I played a little bit of second base with the Dodgers’ Triple-A team, and I (played second) in one game in the big leagues. I played second all through high school, too.”

LaRoche has been doing a lot of early work at second base and also has fielded grounders there during batting practice.

“I’m starting to feel comfortable,” he said. “The only thing I’m kind of concerned about is knowing where to go on cutoffs and stuff like that.”

»»» Walker was examined today by a specialist, but the Pirates have not revealed any specifics about what might have been discovered. Russell said the next two or three days will determine whether or not Walker will go on the disabled list.

Walker still is experiencing concussion symptoms. Until those go away, he cannot be cleared to resume baseball activities.

»»» Crosby, who on Monday collided with right fielder Lastings Milledge, might be able to return to action Wednesday. Crosby was woken up every couple of hours last night as a precaution against a concussion, but has not had either a CT or MRI exam.

»»» Zach Duke is making good progress in his recovery from a left elbow flexor pronator strain. But he almost certainly will not be ready to rejoin the Pirates until after the All-Star break.

»»» Last night, Ronny Cedeno swiped his seventh base of the season. His career high is eight, set in 2006 while playing for the Cubs.

»»» Of Octavio Dotel’s 15 saves this year, six have come against the Cubs.

»»» Double-A Altoona will send five players — pitchers Rudy Owens and Derek Hankins, infielder Josh Harrison, first baseman Matt Hague and catcher Hector Gimenez — to the Eastern League all-star game. It’s the most Curve players selected since 2008. The game will be played July 14 in Harrisburg.

»»» Right-hander Duke Welker was promoted to High-A Bradenton. Welker was a second-round pick in 2007. Left-hander Eliecer Navarro was moved up to Low-A West Virginia. Righties Casey Sandler and Jason Townsend, two draft picks who this week signed contracts, were sent to short-season State College.

»»» Monday, Altoona gave up six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning and lost, 7-6, against Binghamton. It was the first time in 43 games this season the Curve lost when leading after eight innings.

»»» Infielder Ramon Vazquez signed a minor league contract with the Astros. The Pirates cut Vazquez the day before the season opener and he signed with the Mariners. But Vazquez was cut again last week by Seattle after hitting .216 in 35 games with Triple-A Tacoma.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (26-50) – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Andy LaRoche 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Lastings Milledge rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss. 9. Jeff Karstens (2-2, 4.60) rhp

Cubs (33-43) – 1. Kosuke Fukudome rf, 2. Ryan Theriot 2b, 3. Derrek Lee 1b, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Tyler Colvin cf, 6. Alfonso Sorriano lf, 7. Koyie Hill c, 8. Starlin Castro ss, 9. Ted Lilly (2-6, 3.28) lhp