Donnelly cut, Lincoln demoted

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The Pirates designated reliever Brendan Donnelly for assignment and optioned Brad Lincoln to Triple-A Indy after today’s 6-3 loss against the Padres.
“I didn’t see this coming,” said Donnelly, who was 3-1 with a 5.58 ERA in 38 outings.
Maybe he should have. By cutting Donnelly now, the Pirates will avoid the possibility of having to pay him up to $1.65 million in performance bonuses.
Donnelly will make $1.35 million in base salary this year. If he clears waivers and the Pirates cannot trade him, Donnelly will not be sent to Triple-A.
Lincoln (1-4, 6.57) had another rocky outing this afternoon. He worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed six runs on eight hits.
“I don’t deserve to be here right now,” Lincoln said.
The Pirates will fill both roster spots before Tuesday’s game in Denver against the Rockies.

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Lincoln struggles again in 6-3 loss

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Rookie right-hander Brad Lincoln had another rocky outing Sunday, as the San Diego Padres batted around in the third inning en route to a 6-3 victory.
The Padres, whose 58-39 record in the best in the National League, completed a three-game series sweep. The Pirates have never won a series against San Diego at PNC Park.
Ronny Cedeno’s two-run homer in the second inning off Wade LeBlanc (5-8) gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
The Padres countered with five runs in the third. Chris Denorfia had a two-run double and Adrian Gonzalez smacked a two-run homer over the Clemente Wall.
Lincoln (1-4) worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed six runs on eight hits, which inflated his ERA to 6.57. He walked two and struck out three.
In his previous outing, Lincoln got just seven outs and nearly blew a 9-0 first-inning lead.
Lincoln has made nine starts since being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s been knocked around in all but one, a 2-0 victory June 30 against the Chicago Cubs.
Before today’s game, general manager Neal Huntington downplayed the possibility of Lincoln being sent back to the minors.
“With any young player, as long as we feel like they’re making progress and they’re capable of competing, they’ll continue to play at the major league level,” Huntington said. “When we feel it’s better for their development to replace them, we’ll make the move. It’s a big-picture viewpoint of growth, development and helping the major league team win vs. just do or die.”
And in Lincoln’s case?
“We are seeing good signs,” Huntington said. “We need to continue to see it.”

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Moss awaiting second chance

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Outfielder Brandon Moss, who’s hitting .262 with 16 homers at Triple-A Indianapolis, would merit an instant promotion to the majors — if only there was a chance to get him frequent playing time. “He’s done everything he can do to deserve an opportunity up here,” GM Neal Huntington said Sunday. “He’s in our minds as we think of things going forward.” Huntington said the Pirates are treating Moss, who lost the right field job in spring training, the way they would a prospect instead of a former major leaguer. “You want to continue his growth and development instead of just sitting him on the bench,” Huntington said.

»»» Top pitching prospect Bryan Morris will pitch again this season, although he is shut down now at Double-A Altoona. Having thrown 103 innings, the right-hander has shown signs of fatigue. Management wants to limit Morris to around 130 innings. “Rather than limil his innings each start … we felt it was good to take a couple starts off, tweak his delivery and then get him back out there,” Huntington said.

»»» Huntington did not indicate how long right-hander Jeff Sues will be suspended at Altoona. Sues is being disciplined for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Does Sues have a future with the organization? Huntington was noncommital. “We were trying to get Jeff back to where he was when we put him on the 40-man roster. We’ll continue to do that as long as he’s in a Pirates uniform,” Huntington said.

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Who closes in post-Dotel era?

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If Octavio Dotel is traded by Saturday’s non-waiver deadline, who would close for the Pirates?

“That’s a great question,” GM Neal Huntington said. “If we move Dotel, we’ve got a great decision to make. It would be answered over the course of time.”

At the outset, at least, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan probably would share the job. “Both guys certainly have the stuff,” Huntington said.

The Pirates had a scout in Philadelphia for last night’s Rockies-Phillies game. The Rockies are known to be hunting bullpen help. Kevin Gregg has been mentioned as a possibility.

»»» After a six-game absence due to a sprained right shoulder, center fielder Andrew McCutchen is back in the starting lineup. He’s gone 4 for 12 with three runs scored and three RBI since the All-Star Break. McCutchen leads the team with 55 runs.

»»»

 

Farm director Kyle Stark said right-hander Dana Eveland will miss at least two starts for Triple-A Indianapolis due to tenderness in his throwing elbow. However, Stark said the injury is not believed to be serious. Last night, righty Jeremy Powell started in Eveland’s place against Charlotte.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Padres (57-39) – 1. Jerry Hairston Jr. 2b, 2. Chris Denofria cf, 3. Adrian Gonzalez 1b, 4. Chase Headley 3b, 5. Yovit Torrealba c, 6. Will Venable rf, 7. Scott Hairston lf, 8. Everth Cabrera ss, 9. Wade LeBlanc (4-8, 3.28) lhp

Pirates (32-61) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Lastings Milledge rf, Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Erk Kratz c, 9. Brad Lincoln (1-3, 6.29) rhp

 

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McCutchen likely available to pinch-hit tonight

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Andrew McCutchen (sprained shoulder) ran sprints on the field this afternoon and plans on taking live batting practice before the game against the Padres. Manager John Russell said McCutchen probably will be available to pinch-hit tonight likely will be back in the lineup Sunday. “We’ve got our fingers crossed,” Russell said.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Padres (56-39) – 1. Jerry Hairston 2b, 2. Chris Denofria cf, 3. Adrian Gonzalez 1b, 4. Chase Headley 3b, 5. Matt Stairs rf, 6. Will Venable lf, 7. Nick Hundley c, 8. Everth Cabrera ss, 9. Mat Latos (10-4, 2.45) rhp

Pirates (34-62) – 1. Jose Tabata cf, 2. Delwyn Young rf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 9. Jeff Karstens (2-5, 4.84) rhp

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Doumit on 15-day DL; lineups

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The Pirates placed catcher Ryan Doumit on the 15-day disabled list with a concussion and recalled Jason Jaramillo from Triple-A Indianapolis today.

“Ryan didn’t want to go on the disabled list,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He wants to keep catching, he wants to battle through it. It was our decision that in his best interest, the team’s best interest and the organization’s best interest to give Ryan 15 days of rest.”

Doumit, 29, was hit in the mask during Monday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, sat out Tuesday and came back on Wednesday. But Rickie Weeks knocked him over running home in the first inning and Doumit was replaced in the fourth by Erik Kratz. He left the game feeling nauseated and lightheaded and was taken to Allegheny General Hospital for tests.

He saw doctors again on Thursday and is expected to rest for a few days before resuming light activity the beginning of next week.

Jaramillo will likely split time behind the plate with Erik Kratz, who was selected from Indianapolis a week ago and made his Major League debut on Saturday.

Here are tonight’s lineups for the Pirates and Brewers:
Weeks, 2b
Inglett, rf
Braun, lf
Fielder, 1b
Edmonds, cf
Lucroy, c
Counsell, 3b
Escobar, ss
Gallardo, p

Tabata, cf
Young, rf
Walker, 2b
Jones, 1b
Alvarez, 3b
Milledge, lf
Kratz, c
Cedeno, ss
Ohlendorf, p

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No update on Doumit post-game

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Manager John Russell didn’t have any post-game news on catcher Ryan Doumit, who left the game tonight feeling nauseated and light-headed.

“We don’t have any results back yet,” Russell said. “We’ll hope for the best but I can’t really comment because we don’t have all the information. We’ll have to see how he comes through tonight and what he looks like tomorrow.”

Doumit missed a handful of games in 2008 with concussion-like symptoms after he was hit in the mask three times in one game, and he was dinged in the mask again on Monday. That kept him out of Tuesday’s game, although Russell said he could have played if they needed him to. He was examined by doctors and cleared to play tonight, but in the first he was run over by Rickie Weeks running home, struck out in the second in his first at-bat and was replaced by Erik Kratz at the top of the third.

Russell said it wasn’t necessarily the hit by Weeks that caused the symptoms.

“I don’t know, it didn’t look like it really banged him that hard,” Russell said. “Combination of a lot of things, getting hit the other night, humid night, the adrenaline gets going and sometimes it kicks off some symptoms.”

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Wednesday’s lineups

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For the Buccos: Tabata CF, Young RF, Walker 2B, Jones 1B, Alvarez 3B, Milledge LF, Doumit C, Cedeno SS, Duke P

For the Brewers: Weeks 2B, Hart RF, Braun LF, Fielder 1B, McGehee 3B, Gomez CF, Escobar SS, Kottaras C, Wolf P

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Doumit woozy; Red Sox coming in ’11?

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Catcher Ryan Doumit is not in the lineup Tuesday after being hit on the head by a foul tip Monday. “He’s OK, although he’s probably not 100 percent,” said manager John Russell, who added that Doumit does not have a concussion. Doumit did not under go any medical tests and was available last night to pinch hit.

»»» According to a tentative 2011 schedule being reviewed by the 30 clubs, the Pirates will play American League East teams in interleague play. The Boston Red Sox will play a three-game series at PNC Park on June 24-26. The schedule is not yet final and could be altered.

»»» At least five contending teams have inquired about right-handed reliever D.J. Carrasco. The non-waiver trade deadline is in 10 days.

»»» The Pirates signed eight Latin American free agents: catcher Heriberto Figueroa, 21; outfielders Yunior Aquiles, 16, and Miguel De Aza, 17; right-handers Isaac Sanchez, 17, and Yunior Montero, 16; left-handers Melvin Rosario, 18, and Cristian Henriquez, 18; second baseman Rodney Polonia, 17.

Figueroa and Sanchez will play this season for the Dominican Summer League.

Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo’s analysis of Figueroa: “Heriberto has well-above-average overall instincts to play the game and above-average leadership skills. He has solid average major league defensive tools with projection to major league above average (skills) in the future. His release time to second base is between 1.88 (seconds) and 1.93 (seconds). He is a line-drive hitter that uses the whole field. His defense and makeup are his main attributes. He’s a solid addition to our system.”

Gayo’s take on Sanchez: “Isaac is a live athletic right-hander with a power approach to pitch. He has a solid major league average to above-average fastball with an above-average rotation curveball that has power and bite.”

»»» The Venezuelan Summer League Pirates have a league-best 35-16 record and have won nine games in a row. Orlando Castro has a league-best 1.10 ERA. Raul Ruiz leads the league with 13 saves. Jose Ozuna tops the VSL with eight homers.

»»» Outfielder Andrew McCutchen (sprained shoulder) did some running and caught fly balls on the field today, but he is not yet ready to swing a bat or make throws. McCutchen said his shoulder is healing quicker than he thought it would. “I can move it more than I could (Monday),” McCutchen said. “Yesterday, I couldn’t even put my shirt on. Today, I can.”

»»» Triple-A Indianapolis put outfielder Bryan Myrow on the disabled list and activated infielder Brian Friday. Double-A Altoona put infielder Shelby Ford (sprained right ankle) on the DL, but no corresponding move was made.

»»» Short-season A State College infielder Matt Curry was named New York-Penn League player of the week. He has a 16-game on-base streak and hit .571 from July 12-18.

»»» The Pirates and Hiroshima Toyo Carp are ironing out a deal that would allow Indy reliever Vinnie Chulk to join the Japanese Central League club.

»»» Monday, High-A Bradenton outfielder Quincy Latimore homered off Tampa Yankees pitcher John Van Benschoten, who was the Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2001.

»»» On June 24, Double-A Altoona completed a three-game sweep of Portland and surged to 48-24. Since then, the Curve have not won a series. The problem is pitching. Over their past five games, Altoona’s pitching staff has a combined 8.44 ERA and has allowed 55 hits in 42 2/3 innings. In July, the team’s ERA is 5.57, which is more than two points higher than any other month this season. Righty Jared Hughes, who’s lost three in a row, will start tonight against Akron. Jeff Locke, who was dominant last week in his Double-A debut, will pitch on Wednesday.

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Some goals met, others not

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After taking power in late 2007, the new front office team set what GM Neal Huntington called “a series of series of short-, medium- and long-term goals.” By the end of this season, the management crew will reach its third anniversary.

“With the short-term goals, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount,” Huntington said. “It’s below the surface. It’s completely revising how we scout, how we evaluate, how we sign and develop players. That’s gone very, very well.

“With the short term, you could argue that the only thing we’ve missed on is the wins and losses at the major-league level. We didn’t expect this team to be staring at 90 or 100 losses again. I also can’t stand here and tell you I expected us to win 100 games. We set the playoffs as a goal, not a prediction. Have we lost more games than we anticipated? Yeah. How do we overcome that? We need to play good, sound fundamental baseball.”

It’s hard to argue that the minor-league system isn’t better off now than it was three years ago. The depth has improved significantly and it seems the quality of talent brought in via the draft and international signings is much better than before.

But I would argue that wins and losses aren’t the only thing missing at the major-league level. All too often, fundamentals are lacking. Some of that is on the coaches. Some of it’s on the players. And some of it is due to a higher than expected turnover of coaches/instructors in the farm system. (You may recall I wrote in April about Kyle Stark’s disappointment about some of the turnover.)

Too many of the players Huntington imported in his early days — Brandon Moss, Andy LaRoche, Charlie Morton, Jeff Clement — were unable to take advantage when they were handed key, starting roles. If the same thing happens with the latest wave of young players — Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln — the front office will be due for another round of housecleaning.

“We need to make sure that this group capitalizes on those opportunities,” Huntington said. “Wins and losses are an outcome. How we play the game is a process. That’s our focus, the process. If we take care of our process, the results will take care of themselves.”

· Indianapolis reliever Vinnie Chulk likely is headed to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese Central League.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Brewers (43-51) — 1. Rickie Weeks 2b, 2. Corey Hart rf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGahee 3b, 6.Jim Edmonds cf, 7. Alcides Escobar ss, 8. Jonathan Lucroy c, 9. Dave Bush (4-7, 4.07) rhp

Pirates (32-60) — 1. Jose Tabata cf, 2. Delwyn Young rf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, 7. Erik Kratz c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Brad Lincoln (1-3, 5.14) rhp

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