No timetable for McCutchen’s return

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There’s no timetable for how long Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will be sidelined with a sprained A-C joint.

“I’m sure a majority of it will depend on how I feel,” McCutchen said this afternoon. “I don’t want to try to play when I’m still somewhat hurt. I want to go out there 100 percent (healthy).”

McCutchen is not in the starting lineup for tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. He injured his right shoulder Sunday while making a diving catch.

“I hate that it had to happen, but at least I made the catch,” McCutchen said, grinning.

X-rays on McCutchen’s right shoulder showed no fractures. McCutchen was re-evaluated today by team doctors, who confirmed the initial diagnosis of a mild sprain.

“He feels a little better today, but he’s still sore,” manager John Russell said. “We’ll continue to monitor it day to day and hopefully get him back sooner rather than later. He’s a tough kid. I know he’s going to be anxious to get back out there, but we’ve got to be smart with it and make sure he’s ready to go.”

Russell sustained a similar, but more severe, injury during his playing days, and wound up missing eight weeks.

The injury is to McCutchen’s throwing shoulder, so Russell said the team will take an extra-cautious approach with his rehab.

McCutchen is not wearing a sling. In the clubhouse this afternoon, he sat near Evan Meek’s locker and strummed a guitar for a while.

“I’ve never had an injury like this before,” McCutchen said. It changes the way you do a few things, as far as putting on clothes and sleeping at night.”

One thing that won’t change is McCutchen’s all-out approach when he plays defense. He was injured making a daredevil grab in the eighth inning with the Pirates comfortably ahead of the Houston Astros, 6-0.

“I’m not going to let up,” McCutchen said. “I’m going to try to make the plays that we need to make. I’m going to keep going out there and giving 100 percent.”

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McCutchen not in lineup tonight

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Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is not in the starting lineup tonight against the Brewers. McCutchen sprained his A-C joint while making a diving catch Sunday.

McCutchen was re-evaluated today by team doctors. Depending upon the severity of the injury, he could miss a couple of days or up to a week. I’ll know more in a little while, after the clubhouse opens to the media and I have a chance to talk with JR and McCutchen.

»»» The Pirates have won seven of their past nine games at PNC Park and are 21-21 at home this season.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Brewers (42-51) – 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. Jonathan Lucroy c, 7. 8. Alcides Escobar ss, 9. Chris Capuano (0-1, 4.35) lhp

Pirates (32-59) – 1. Jose Tabata cf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Lastings Milledge lf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Ryan Church rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Jeff Karstens (2-4, 4.87) rhp

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McCutchen out with A-C sprain

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The Pirates got a scare Sunday when star center fielder Andrew McCutchen sustained a shoulder injury while making a tumbling catch.

McCutchen was diagnosed with a mild sprain of his right A-C joint. X-rays showed no fractures and his status is day to day.

“When it happened, I didn’t know what to expect,” McCutchen said. “The X-rays being negative makes me feel a little better. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there.”

The A-C (acromioclavicular) joint is the bony attachment of the arm to the skeleton. It is comprised of the clavicle and shoulder blade, and is supported by three ligaments.

A mild A-C injury often sidelines an athlete for seven to 10 days. Severe sprains involving ligament damage may require surgery.

Team doctors will re-examine McCutchen on Monday.

McCutchen went 2 for 5 with two RBI in yesterday’s 9-0 victory against the Houston Astros.

With one out in the eighth inning, Pedro Feliz hit a blooper into shallow center field. As he caught the ball, McCutchen landed hard on his right shoulder and rolled.

“I didn’t see the ball right off the bat, so it really was a late dive where I couldn’t prepare myself (for impact),” McCutchen said. “I landed on it bad. It kind of snapped my neck back.”

McCutchen got to his feet and immediately began walking off the field.

“I knew I wouldn’t be able to swing a bat,” he said. “I knew something was wrong.”

As he left the field, McCutchen got a standing ovation from the crowd of 16,638 at PNC Park.

“It was a great play,” manager John Russell said. “He left it all out on the field.”

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Penn, Chulk Japan-bound; Moreno suspended

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»»» Triple-A Indianapolis pitcher Hayden Penn is finalizing a deal with Chiba Lotte of the Japanese Pacific League.

“The money is such that he feels it is important for him to be allowed this opportunity,” GM Neal Huntington said. “We reluctantly agreed.”

The Pirates could have vetoed the deal, but figured Penn probably did not figure into their plans at the major league level in 2011.

Reliever Vinnie Chulk also is on the inactive list at Indianapolis as he attempts to work out a deal with a different Japanese team.

»»» At Double-A Altoona, right-hander Diego Moreno was suspended for what Huntington termed “unprofessional conduct.” Huntington did not specify the length of the suspension. Lefty Corey Hamman was sent from Indy to Altoona to fill Moreno’s rotation spot.

»»» With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looming, expect the Pirates to be less active than in the past two years.

“We’ve got some guys we’re not real motivated to move,” Huntington said. “If we get a good baseball trade, then we’ll make it. But we’re beyond the prospect-collection mode and we’re trying to move forward with this group. But we also have some guys who need to show they deserve to be part of this group.”

Among the players who could garner interest are infielders Bobby Crosby and Ronny Cedeno, and pitchers Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, Javier Lopez, D.J. Carrasco and Zach Duke.

»»» Huntington did not rule out a late-season return to game action in the minors for catcher Tony Sanchez (broken jaw). The Pirates want Sanchez to play in Instructional League and possibly also winter ball. “He had such a great first half, we want to keep the momentum going,” Huntington said.

»»» Infielder Brian Friday (sprained ankle) is finishing his rehab stint in Bradenton and could rejoin Indy this week. Outfielder Starling Marte (broken hand) had a slight setback during his rehab, but is expected to be back in action this week.

»»» Outfielder Mel Rojas Jr., the Pirates’ third-round draft pick who signed last week, was assigned to short-season A State College. To clear space, infielder Andy Vazquez was sent to the rookie-ball team in Bradenton.

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Penn signs with Japanese team

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Triple-A Indianapolis is about to lose two pitchers. Hayden Penn has inked a deal with a Japanese team and another pitcher “is close to a deal,” according to a tweet by Indy radio play-by-play guy Scott McCauley. I’ll have more details after our pregame briefing with GM Neal Huntington.

»»» Saturday night, the Pirates had 10 hits with runners in scoring position. It was the first time that’s happened since Aug. 9, 2005, at Colorado.

»»» The Pirates are 6-1 this season when playing before crowds of 30,000-plus at PNC Park.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Astros (37-54) – 1. Jason Bourgeois cf, 2. Jeff Keppinger 2b, 3. Hunter Pence rf, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Pedro Feliz 1b, 6. Chris Johnson 3b, 7. Angel Sanchez ss, 8. Angel Sanchez ss, 9. Roy Oswalt (6-10, 3.08) rhp

Pirates (31-59) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Lastings Milledge rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Paul Maholm (5-7, 4.37) lhp

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Kratz makes first start

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Erik Kratz, who was called up Wednesday from Triple-A Indy, tonight will make his first major league start.

Kratz, 30, spent nine years in the minors, the first seven in the Blue Jays’ system. During most of the offseasons, he worked contruction jobs to support his family.

Kratz is the second player from Eastern Mennonite University to reach the majors. The first was Larry Sheets, who played eight seasons for the Orioles, Tigers and Mariners. Kratz is the all-time NCAA Division III leader with 75 career doubles.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Astros (37-53) – 1. Michael Bourn cf, 2. Jeff Keppinger 2b, 3. Lance Berkman 1b, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Hunter Pence rf, 6. Chris Johnson 3b, 7. Jason Castro c, 8. Angel Sanchez ss, 9. Bud Norris (2-6, 5.97) rhp

Pirates (30-59) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Lastings Milledge rf, 7. Erik Kratz c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (1-7, 4.22) rhp

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Astros make first visit

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The Astros are the only NL Central team that hasn’t played at PNC Park this season. That will change tonight, when the Pirates and Astros open a three-game series. The Astros are 6-0 against the Pirates so far this year.

»»» Javier Lopez has faced just one batter in each of his past three outings. Each time, he’s recorded a strikeout.

»»» Lastings Milledge has homered in his past two games. Manager John Russell has ended the right field platoon between Milledge and Ryan Church (.186 BA, 3 HR), and has given Milledge (.276, 3 HR) the full-time job.

»»» Pitcher Dace Kime, an eighth-round draft pick, has turned down the Pirates and instead will enroll at the University of Louisville. Kime told FoxToledo.com he was turned off by the contract negotiation process.

“It kind of dragged on,” Kime said. “I’m not saying the Pirates (are) a bad organization, but it just took a toll on me and my mind kind of changed.”

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Astros (36-53) – 1. Jason Bourgeois lf, 2. Michael Bourn cf, 3. Jeff Keppinger 2b, 4. Lance Berkman 1b, 5. Hunter Pence rf, 6. Chris Johnson 3b, 7. Angel Sanchez ss, 8. Humberto Quintero c, 9. Brett Myers (6-6, 3.41) rhp

Pirates (30-58) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Lastings Milledge rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Zach Duke (3-8, 5.49) lhp

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Duke will start Friday for Bucs

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MILWAUKEE — Last night, lefty Zach Duke (elbow) made it through his second rehab start without problem (four innings, two hits, one run, one walk). He will be activated from the disabled list and start Friday night against Houston at PNC Park. Brett Myers will start for the Astros.

Righty Ross Ohlendorf and lefty Paul Maholm will start the next two games of the series. Jeff Karstens and Brad Lincoln will round out the rotation going into the second half of the season.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Pirates (30-55) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Lastings Milledge rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Brad Lincoln (5.25) rhp

Brewers (39-49) – 1. Rickie Weeks 2b, 2. Corey Hart rf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGahee 3b, 6. George Kottaras c, 7. Carlos Gomez cf, 7. 8. Alcides Escobar ss, 9. Randy Wolf (6-8, 4.49) lhp

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Hard to get Young in lineup

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MILWAUKEE — Delwyn Young has not started a game since June 26. And, even with the offense struggling to score, manager John Russell faces a problem when he tries to get Young into the lineup.

“With the guys we have now, it’s a little tough to get him in,” Russell said. “It’s a tough mix. But in order to keep his bat going so he can give us that good pinch hit, we need to get him some at-bats at some point.”

Second baseman Neil Walker and third baseman Pedro Alvarez need to play as much as possible. That takes away two of Young’s three position options.

That leaves right field, where Ryan Church and Lastings Milledge are sharing a lefty-righty platoon. Milledge started Friday against lefty Doug Davis and likely will be out there again Sunday against Randy Wolf.

“We need to get (Young) in,” Russell admitted. “I’m trying to get him in. The problem is, we’ve got two left-handers facing us in this series.”

• Until last night, the Pirates were the only team in the National League which had not lost a game this season when leading after eight innings.

• Paul Maholm has watched the bullpen blow a save in five of his 18 starts this season. The Pirates have come back to win three of those five games.

• Andrew McCutchen has hit safely in 16 of his past 18 games against the Brewers. … Lastings Milledge is hitting .449 in his last 12 games at Miller Park.

• Last night was the seventh anniversary of Randall Simon hitting one of the Famous Racing Sausages in the head with a bat during a Pirates-Brewers game at Miller Park. There were no incidents when the Sausages sprinted past the Pirates dugout.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (30-54) — 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Ryan Church rf, 8. Bobby Crosby ss, 9. Jeff Karstens (1-2, 4.65) rhp

Brewers (38-49) — 1. Rickie Weeks 2b, 2. Corey Hart rf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGahee 3b, 6. Craig Counsell ss, 7. Carlos Gomez cf, 7. George Kottaras c, 9. Dave Bush (3-6, 4.23) rhp

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Pitching streaks; d’Arnaud an all-star

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MILWAUKEE — Good pitching news: Joel Hanrahan is riding an 11-inning scoreless streak. It’s the third-longest active streak in the National League (Roy Oswalt 16 ip) and the sixth-longest in the majors (J.J. Putz, 22 ip).

Bad pitching news: The Pirates have allowed at least one run in the first inning in three straight games and four of their past five games. Of the 31 runs the Pirates have allowed over the past five games, 20 have been scored in the opening inning.

• Altoona infielder Chase d’Arnaud was named to the Double-A Eastern League all-star team as an injury replacement. The Curve have six players on the all-star roster, which is tied for the most in franchise history.

• The Pirates signed three draft picks, all right-handed pitchers: Kevin Kleis (27th round) of Grossmont College and high schoolers Bryton Trepagnier (41st) and Logan Penvy (49th).

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (30-53) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Lastings Milledge rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno, 9. Paul Maholm (5-7, 4.50) lhp

Brewers (37-49) – 1. Rickie Weeks 2b, 2. Corey Hart rf, 3. Prince Fielder 1b, 4. Ryan Braun lf, 5. Casey McGahee 3b, 6. Carlos Gomez cf, 7. George Kottaras c, 8. Alcides Escobar ss, 9. Doug Davis (1-4, 7.56) lhp

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