Alvarez gets night off

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MILWAUKEE — For the first time in 23 games, Pedro Alvarez is not in the starting lineup. Andy LaRoche will start at third base tonight against the Brewers.

“It’s not so much Pedro needs a rest,” manager John Russell said. “It’s more about getting Andy in there for a game.”

LaRoche last started a game Aug. 10. Since then, he is 1 for 10 as a pinch-hitter. Since his last multi-hit game (June 4 against the Giants), LaRoche has gone 11 for 77 (.143).

Alvarez is batting .233 with 10 homers and 35 RBI, and has appeared in 62 games. He ranks third among NL rookies with 10 homers since he was called up June 16.

Although he has 14 RBI this month, Alvarez has not driven in a run since Aug. 16, when he notched three RBI in a game against the Marlins. Over the past eight games, Alvarez is 2 for 27.

»»» Right-hander Jeff Karstens (arm fatigue) threw a side today and checked out fine. He’s in line to make his next start Tuesday.

»»» Starting pitchers have claimed five of the Pirates’ seven victories this month. Tonight, James McDonald goes for his third in that span. McDonald also leads the team this month with 24 strikeouts.

»»» Four of the Pirates’ previous six games at Miller Park this year have been decided in the final inning.

»»» Altoona catcher Hector Gimenez and left-hander Rudy Owens were named to the Double-A Eastern League end-of-season all-star team. It’s the first time since 2006 there are two Curve players on the list. Gimenez has notched career highs in homes (16) and RBI (67). Last night, Owens picked up his 11th win of the year and is second in the league with a 2.56 ERA. He ranks third in the EL in wins and strikeouts (123).

»»» According to a Brewers press release, tonight will mark the team’s “first sponsored, full fireworks show at Miller Park since 2003.” Seven years without fireworks? That’ll never happen in Pittsburgh.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (43-84) — 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Lastings Milledge rf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Chris Snyder c, 9. James McDonald (2-3, 5.04) rhp

Brewers (59-68) — 1. Rickie Weeks 2b, 2. Corey Hart rf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGehee 3b, 6. Chris Dickerson cf, 7. Alcides Escobar ss, 8. Jonathan Lucroy c, 9. Chris Narveson (9-7, 5.69) lhp

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Dilson Herrera deal done

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The Pirates have finalized their deal with Columbian shortstop Dilson Herrera, and are expected to announce the signing today.

Herrera, 16, will get a $220,000 bonus, the third-largest the Pirates have paid out this year for an international signing. They have spent a bit less than $4 million this year to sign international amateurs.

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Karstens scratched for Wednesday

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After tonight’s 4-3 victory against the Cardinals, the Pirates announced a pitching change for Wednesday’s game.

Right-hander Jeff Karstens is scratched due to what manager John Russell said was “arm fatigue.” Righty Daniel McCutchen (1-5, 6.65) will make his eighth start of the season.

Karstens (2-10, 4.98) is expected to be back in the rotation in time to make his next scheduled start Tuesday in Milwaukee. Karstens is 0-8 in his past 11 starts.

The Pirates have not yet officially placed righty Ross Ohlendorf (shoulder muscle stain) on the disabled list. They will do so tommorrow, and will call up a reliever from Triple-A Indy. Sunday, it’s like that Charlie Morton will be recalled to fill Ohlendorf’s spot in the rotation.

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Ohlendorf could be done for season

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The good news on right-hander Ross Ohlendorf is he will not need surgery to repair his sore upper back. The bad news is, he’s likely done for the season.

“I’ll definitely be ready by next year,” Ohlendorf said. “We don’t know about this season. They don’t know how quickly I’ll get better. I’m hoping I’ll make it back (this season), but there’s not much time left.”

An MRI exam today showed a strain to the latissimus dorsi/teres major muscles (in other words, the back of his shoulder).

“I’m very relieved with the diagnosis,” Ohlendorf said. “I was afraid it might be worse. It’s not a rotator cuff muscle and it’s not a tendon. To know I’m going to make a full recovery is very encouraging.”

The Pirates have not yet officially placed Ohlendorf on the disabled list, but that seems only a formality. The most likely candidate to join the rotation is righty Charlie Morton, who pitched last night for Triple-A Indianapolis.

Ohlendorf felt discomfort in his shoulder Monday during pregame warmups and it got worse quickly once his ramped up to full speed. He took himself out of the game against the Cardinals after facing just two batters.

“I was a little bit sorer than normal the past few days,” Ohlendorf said. “I was hoping it would go away once I warmed up. It started getting worse as I tried to pitch.”

Ohlendorf has no clue what caused the injury. It’s possible he slept on it wrong or made some awkward motion on or off the field.

It’s been a rough year for Ohlendorf, who’s suffered injuries to his lower back (which put him on the DL) and leg and also was struck in the head by a line drive.

“It’s definitely been the worst,” Ohlendorf said. “I’ve never been put on the DL twice in one season before.”

»»» The Pirates today officially signed 16-year-old pitcher Luis Heredia. GM Neal Huntington, Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo and scout Chino Valdez attended the ceremony in Mazatlan, Mexico. Heredia is expected to attend minor league spring training camp next and eventually begin his pro career with the rookie ball team in Bradenton, Fla.

»»» Daniel Moskos notched his 20th save Monday, becoming the first Double-A Altoona reliever to reach that mark since Matt Peterson got 29 saves in 2007.

»»» Chase d’Arnaud stole his 30th base Monday, becoming the first Altoona player to do that since Rajai Davis and Rich Thompson swiped 45 bats apiece in 2005.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Cardinals (68-54) – 1. Brendan Ryan ss, 2. Jon Jay cf, 3. Albert Pujols 1b, 4. Matt Holliday lf, 5. Felipe Lopez 2b, 6. Yadier Molina c, 7. Pedro Feliz 3b, 8. Allen Craig rf, 9. Adam Wainwright (17-7, 2.06)

Pirates (41-84) – 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 (7-12, 4.92) lhp

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No surgery for Ohlendorf

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The MRI on right-hander Ross Ohlendorf today showed a strain to the latissimus dorsi/teres major muscles (in other words, the back of his shoulder). According to the Pirates, surgery is not necessary. There was no immediate word on how long Ohlendorf will be out of action. Ohlendorf took himself out of last night’s game after facing just two batters.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Cardinals (68-54) – TBA. Adam Wainwright (17-7, 2.06)

Pirates (41-84) – 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 (7-12, 4.92) lhp

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Clement goes on DL

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The Pirates put Jeff Clement on the disabled list today, hoping the time off will help his irritated left knee. Clement started at first base on Friday, going 0-for-4, and was 5-for-17 (.294) with two home runs in eight games since being recalled from Indianapolis on July 31. Manager John Russell said he didn’t have a sense of serious it may be (Clement had season-ending surgery on his left knee nearly two years ago when he was playing for the Mariners) but said an MRI done last week was OK.

Taking his place is left-handed pitcher Justin Thomas, back up for his third stay with the Pirates. He is expected to be in uniform tonight.

The only other item of note on tonight’s roster is that Ryan Doumit will be back behind the plate for the second game in a row. Russell said that Chris Snyder is healthy, despite this being the first time he’s had back-to-back days off since making his Pirates debut on Aug. 2. Before Sunday, Snyder had made all but four starts at catcher.

Here are tonight’s lineups:
For the Pirates:
McCutchen 8, Tabata 7, Walker 4, Jones 3, Alvarez 5, Doumit 2, Milledge 9, Cedeno 6, Ohlendorf 1

For the Cardinals:
Schumaker 4, Jay 8, Pujols 3, Holliday 7, Lopez 6, Molina 2, Feliz 5, Craig 9, Lohse 1

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Hollywood at PNC Park

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The press box is more crowded than usual today. The Mets always bring a good-sized crew of beat writers and such. But there also is a movie crew setting up in the tippy-top of PNC Park and other spots throughout the stadium to film scenes for the Taylor Lautner flick “Abduction.” I’m not a “Twilight” fan, so I wouldn’t recognize Lautner if we passed in the stadium tunnels.

»»» Ken Burns, who produced the outstanding “The Civil War” documentary series for PBS back in the ’90s, also is at the ballpark today. Burns is promoting “The 10th Inning,” an updated episode to his “Baseball” series, which aired a few years ago. Burns will throw out the first pitch.

»»» Jason Jaramillo and Sean Gallagher have opted to play winter ball. GM Neal Huntington was disappointed last year that fewer players than he’d hoped chose to go that route. This year, according to manager John Russell, the Pirates have a longer list of minor league prospects than major leaguers who they’d like to go to Mexico or Venezuela.

»»» At Triple-A Indy, outfielder Jonathan Van Every went on the DL with a pulled muscle. Brian Myrow, who’d been on the DL since July 20, was activated.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Mets (62-61) – 1. Jose Reyes ss, 2. Angel Pagan lf, 3. Carlos Beltran cf, 4. David Wright 3b, 5. Jeff Francoeur rf, 6. Ike Davis 1b, 7. Henry Blanco c, 8. Rueben Tejada 2b, 9. Johan Santana (10-7, 2.97) lhp

Pirates (40-83) – 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 (5-12, 5.33) lhp

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State College contract extended

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The Pirates have finalized a two-year contract extension with short-season Class A State College. Team prez Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington will be at Medlar Field to make the announcement before tonight’s 7:05 p.m. first pitch.

»»» The Pirates’ farm system has a combined ..531 winning percentage, which is tied for seventh-best in the minors. Seattle’s system is tops with a .549 winning percentage.

»»» Former Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino, now with the Marlins, was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Paulino played for the Pirates from 2005-08 and hit 26 homers in 304 games. He batted .259 with four homers in 91 games this season for Florida.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Mets (60-61) – 1. Jose Reyes ss, 2. Angel Pagan lf, 3. Carlos Beltran cf, 4. Chris Carter rf, 5. David Wright 3b, 6. Ike Davis 1b, 7. Josh Thole c, 8. Rueben Tejada 2b, 9. Mike Pelfry (11-7, 3.95) rhp

Pirates (40-81) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 5. Ryan Doumit rf, 6. Jeff Clement 1b, 7. Chris Snyder c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Jeff Karstens (2-9, 4.57) rhp

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Heredia deal announced; Sanchez to AFL?

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The Pirates have paid $2.6 million to buy the rights to 16-year-old pitcher Luis Heredia from Veracruz of the Mexican League.

That shatters the franchise’s international signing bonus record of $400,000, which went to Venezuelan outfielder Exicardo Cayones in 2008.

Baseball America ranked Heredia, a right-hander, the top international pitching prospect for 2010.

“Luis has a very natural feel to pitching with above-average movement on his ball,” director of international scouting Rene Gayo said. “It’s very rare to see a young man with this type of character, athletic ability and pitching potential.”

Heredia has not pitched in organized, pro league games in Mexico, but has stayed on a routine. This month, he pitched in the Japan Boys Tournament in Mazatlan, Mexico, and racked up eight strikeouts in five innings with a 94 mph fastball.

“It was the first time he’d faced (players in) his age group in a long time,” GM Neal Huntington said. “He’s been pitching against older players, although the competition level hasn’t been great.”

»»» The Pirates might use one of their two Class A exemptions for the Arizona Fall League on catcher Tony Sanchez.

Sanchez, a first-round draft pick last year, is recovering a bit slower than expected from a broken jaw. After a recent exam, a doctor did not clear Sanchez for game activity because his jaw remains too unstable and could not be adequately protected with a facemask.

Still, Huntington did not rule out the possibility of Sanchez playing again for High-A Bradenton before this summer is over.

“We’re hoping they make the playoffs,” Huntington said. “If they extend their season, there’s still a chance.”

»»» The Pirates hope to finalize their AFL roster within the next few days, but would be able to make changes over the next four weeks. A few prospects already are on the “must-go” list, but farm director Kyle Stark declined to identify them.

»»» First base coach Carlos Garcia and bullpen coach Luis Dorante will manage in the Venezuelan Winter League. Pitching coach Ray Searge will be on Garcia’s staff.

Huntington hopes the presence of his coaches will encourage more Pirates players — especially those at the major league level — to play winter ball this year. “It’s an environment that we cannot recreate in the minor leagues,” Huntington said. “It’s play well or go home. It’s big, energetic crowds. It’s close to the major league environment.”

»»» Principal owner Bob Nutting attended Jameson Taillon’s press conference this afternoon at PNC Park, but did not stick around to talk with reporters. He and team president Frank Coonelly addressed a pregame Q&A session with season ticket-holders.

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Taillon, Heredia in the fold

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First-round pick Jameson Taillon met with reporters this afternoon at PNC Park and said he was happy the post-draft contract negotiations — he smiled and called it “an interesting process” — are over.

“There was never a doubt in my mind,” Taillon said. “I knew we’d get something done.”

Taillon will be sent to short-season Class A State College as an observer and then will pitch in Instructional League in Florida. He probably will begin his pro career next season at Low-A West Virginia.

“I have two breaking balls I consider advanced,” Taillon said. “Right now, I have a curveball that’s a 12-6 break and a slider. I’m trying to eliminate the bigger break from the slider and maybe make it more of a cutter, get the velocity up and break some bats now that it’s wood bat.”

About a year ago, Taillon first met Stetson Allie, the Pirates’ second-round pick. The two power right-handers could form a 1-2 punch in rotations the next few seasons as they rise toward the majors.

“It will be fun to go through the Pirates’ system with him,” Taillon said. “There’ll be some friendly competition.”

»»» The Pirates have not yet officially announced the signing of 16-year-old Mexican pitcher Luis Heredia, but team sources have confirmed that a deal is in place. The Pirates will pay a $2.6 million bonus for Heredia, with the bulk of that money going to Veracruz of the Mexican League, which owned his rights.

Heredia’s bonus shattered the franchise record for an international player of $400,000 given to outfielder Exicardo Cayones in 2008.

The Pirates were among the top half-dozen teams, in terms Heredia has not been been pitching in organized pro games in Mexico, but has stayed on a routine. Recently, he pitched in an international tournament against Japan.

“It was the first time he’d faced (players in) his age group in a long time,” GM Neal Huntington said. “He’s been pitching against older players, although the competition level hasn’t been great.

“It will be great to get him back into facing players who are older than him. But now it will be professionals that are two, three or four years older than he is. We believe he will be able to hold his own, but we’ve got to put him in position to develop properly.”

The Pirates will send him to the Florida Instructional League this fall and then to an instructional league in the Dominican Republic.

Because of his age, Heredia is not eligible to pitch until next summer. Heredia is expected to attend minor league spring training camp in 2011, then get more tutoring in extended spring training. When he’s old enough to play, Heredia could begin his career in rookie ball in Bradenton, Fla.

Huntington has not seen Heredia pitch in person.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Marlins (59-60) – 1. Emilio Bonifacio ss, 2. Logan Morrison lf, 3. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 4. Dan Uggla 2b, 5. Mike Stanton rf, 6. Cody Ross cf, 7. Wes Helms 3b, 8. Ronny Paulino c, 9. Alex Sanabia (1-1,4.63) rhp

Pirates (40-80) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Garrett Jones 1b, 4. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 5. Ryan Doumit rf, 6. Chris Snyder c, 8. Argenis Diaz ss, 9. Paul Maholm (7-11, 4.86) lhp

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